Macquarie University
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A critical analysis of the Service NSW ‘DNA’ culture

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posted on 2022-03-30, 04:39 authored by Theaanna Kiaos
This thesis critically analysed a large New South Wales public sector organisation, Service NSW, its espoused culture as well as various subcultures that emerged during and after a time of immense structural change that occurred concurrently with the COVID-19 pandemic. The structural changes responded to the decision by NSW Treasury in 2018-19 to produce a budget saving of $5.373 million (35% reduction), which resulted in the reorganisation of several NSW government agencies and their incorporation into the Department of Customer Service, as well as the introduction of the Shared Corporate Services cluster model, including Service NSW.
To investigate the impact of these changes, this thesis developed an interpretative conceptual framework and adopted an ethnographic case study and qualitative methods approach for the collection and analysis of empirical data on the Service NSW ‘DNA’ culture, its various subcultures, forms of normative control and how staff members across the occupational community performed their work during times of change. In this way, the thesis addressed a gap in the literature on the impact of neoliberal ideology on Post New Public Management practice and public sector organisational culture from the perspective of the employee experience.
In order to understand the organisation’s employees from their point of view, this critical analysis drew on fieldnotes taken during the course of 2020 and 74 semi-structured interviews with participants from the Department of Customer Service and Service NSW. To provide additional research context, this critical analysis incorporates auxiliary data as captured through annual reports, various organisational publications and website resources. The findings of this ethnographic and qualitative methods study advances knowledge on Post New Public Management practice during a period of immense change in policy, public sector resourcing, machinery of government changes as well as the impact to employees arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study found that the combined effect of these changes placed enormous, uncommon demands upon staff members across the organisation's occupational units, which were experienced in different ways and to varying degrees of severity. Accordingly, the thesis highlights the nuances of these changes, not only in relation to the impact upon Service NSW’s operational activities, but also, the subjective experience of employees across the organisation’s various membership groups. This thesis, therefore, argues that Post New Public Management theory and practice must consider the implications for public service employees in relation to work pressures which impact their subjective experience when operating in alignment with a customer centric model of culture in an effort to achieve goals that are underpinned by public policy.


Table of Contents

Chapter One: An Introduction to a Critical Analysis of the Service NSW ‘DNA’ Culture -- Chapter Two: A Review of the Literature: Organisational Culture, Cultural Control and The Self -- Chapter Three: An Interpretative Conceptual Framework for Analysing Organisational Culture, Normative Control and The Self -- Chapter Four: Methodology -- Chapter Five: Research Context, Post New Public Management, The Department of Customer Service and Service NSW -- Chapter Six: Sources of Ideological Influence -- Chapter Seven: The Organisational Setting -- Chapter Eight: Service NSW Organisational Membership Groups -- Chapter Nine: Ideology, Normative Control, the Integrationist Perspective of the Service NSW ‘DNA’ Culture and Front Stage Sites of Enactment -- Chapter Ten: Subcultures of the Service NSW ‘DNA’ Culture -- Chapter Eleven: Ambiguity within the Service NSW ‘DNA’ Culture -- Chapter Twelve: Discussion -- Conclusion to Thesis -- Appendices

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Macquarie University Business School, Department of Management

Department, Centre or School

Department of Management

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Vito Mollica


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Theaanna Kiaos 2021




(1 online resource) xv, 385 pages

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