Adapting to Resemble Others in a Competitive Arena?: The Federal Executive Institute 1993-2013
Moynihan, Amy, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Pusser, Brian, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
This study uses the theoretical framework of institutional isomorphism to examine the organizational change of a unique organization, the Federal Executive Institute (FEI). As a government institution in a training arena in which the majority of its peers are not governmental institutions, FEI operates under a different set of assumptions, regulations, and market conditions than its peers, and is a unique organization within its field. Specifically, this research examines if this distinctive institution has adapted over time in ways that align with the understandings of institutional isomorphism by adapting towards the leaders in the field. Throughout this research, topics such as the expansion of the leadership development field, the theory of institutional isomorphism, and research on adaptation in higher education are examined to provide a framework in which to examine the Federal Executive Institute and the ways in which this unique organization does or does not adapt in ways that align with understandings of institutional isomorphism.
The following research questions are addressed: 1) Has FEI altered its goal of developing leaders for government service throughout the past 20 years? If so, in what ways? 2) How do FEI faculty and staff describe the cultural norms of the organization that have shaped the goal of developing leaders for government service throughout the past 20 years? 3) How do FEI faculty and staff describe the ways that competition from industry-leading providers of executive education and training has affected the management of FEI throughout the past 20 years? 4) What patterns of similarity and difference do FEI faculty and staff identify between industry-leading executive education and training competitors and FEI? 5) Has pressure from the Office of Personnel Management induced FEI to adapt over the past 20 years? If so, in what ways?
The findings from interviews and document analysis suggest that FEI has benchmarked its activities and success against those of its peers. However, being a government institution in a training arena in which the majority of its peers are not government institutions, FEI operates under a different set of assumptions, regulations, and market conditions than its peers. Results of this research do not demonstrate that FEI focused on adapting to competitive peers, though some aspects of FEI’s actions throughout its history are guided by and highly influenced by its peers and competitors. This analysis is supported by the findings that while FEI has made changes, these were not as dramatic as the overall changes in the field. FEI has remained an outlier and unique in its field, rather than fully adapting to resemble leading institutions, through its organization, student cohort, courses offered, or focus of the institution.
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
leadership development, executive education, federal government, institutional isomorphism
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