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Prestigious award for article on qualitative interviews

How do public managers work with change communication in digital transformation projects?

Professor Jeppe Agger Nielsen, associate professor Kasper Elmholdt and associate professor Mette Strange Noesgaard made a four-year research study 'Leading Digital Transformation' They have just had the article published in the recognized journal Public Administration Review (PAR)

Last modified: 29.09.2023

Text: Zenia Dietz Ørskov, communications officer 
Photo: Screenshot of the journal Public Administration Review (PAR)

Change communication is a critical dimension for public managers leading digital transformation. While existing literature in this field largely theorizes change communication as part of the earliest stages of the transformation there is a lack of research into its development over time.  

Jeppe, Kasper, and Mette address this shortcoming through a four-year study of a digital transformation initiative in a local government's health care department. In the newly released article 'Leading Digital Transformation' published in the recognized journal; Public Administration Review (PAR). You can read their study of how public managers worked with change communication in connection with a digital transformation project within the healthcare system.

A contribute to literature

The study examines how public managers in a local government health care department in Denmark used narratives to ascribe meaning to a digital transformation initiative. It reveals how managers leveraged narrative resources that entangled with aspirations, engaged setbacks, and encouraged persistence as they seized new opportunities (a digital platform), handled unexpected events (postponements), and coped with frustrated frontline workers (unfulfilled expectations). All of which stipulated a need to change the narrative over time.

The article contributes to the literature on how managers produce narratives, navigate existing ones, and tailor them to emerging concerns, when leading digital transformation in the public sector. Drawing on a narrative perspective, the authors offer a processual account and describe the ongoing communicative work of public managers as they attempt to shape frontline workers' expectations of digital transformation.

Reveals three narrative types

They theorize three narrative types—aspirational, setback, and persistence—that work as communicative resources in dealing with hopes, delays, and emerging concerns.


FIGURE 2: Empirical grounded model of narrative types and their temporal development in the process of leading digital transformation in the public sector.

By revealing different narrative types and their development over time, the study advances the understanding of leading digital transformation in public sector organizations. While the current literature on change management stresses the importance of change communication, it often focuses on visionary, urgency-oriented communication in the earliest stages of the digital transformation process and therefore downplays how managers adapt their communication over time. Against this backdrop, Jeppe, Kasper and Mette made a narrative inquiry and illuminated various types of narratives and stories and their temporal development as managers continually ascribe meaning to digital transformation. The study indicates that an aspirational narrative or appealing vision in the early stages of a digital transformation process is not enough to create a unified direction and commitment among frontline workers over time.


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