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Over the past 30 years, numerous reforms have reshaped the structure of French institutions at a sustained pace not seen since the First Empire. As a result, local authorities find themselves confronted with profound changes, marked by the reform and modernization of public management. This accelerated decentralization establishes new expectations in terms of public management strategy. It is characterized, in particular, by the shift from a traditional management mode to a participatory, transversal management mode, coming together in a complex architecture called New Public Management (NPM) and post-NPM (Christensen & Laegreid, 2011). This challenge requires public managers to take on new roles highlighted by the Pêcheur Report (2013) which can raise a legitimate and understandable concern about the impact on people and their work activities. Civil servants “must no longer be content to ‘operate’ in a bureaucracy in which all of their actions are predefined, but must invest in appropriate responses to achieve the purpose of the action” (Jeannot, 2008, p. 123). In this context, the public manager plays a pivotal role in the modernization of local authorities (Bonnenfant & Berardi, 2012), which can be exercised through the activities of ‘interpretation, adaptation and hybridization’ bringing together a wide range of actions (Mazouz et al., 2015). This can mobilize ‘facilitation and advisory skills in the management of externalities’ (Carassus et al., 2017; Dufour & Saba, 2009; Noguera, 2010), which contribute to the needs and expectations of an administrative ecosystem undergoing change…


This research focuses on the role of concertation spaces as a lever for the adoption of change projects in a public context. The numerous reforms that have reshaped public action over the past 30 years have given public managers a decisive role in the modernization of local authorities. In this article, we question the capacity of concertation as a relevant lever for regulating the public action paradoxes that arise during change projects. To do so, we carried out a 36-month research initiative at the CCAS (Municipal Center for Social Action) of a local authority. The object of the concertation was to evaluate professional practices related to the admission of residents into care homes for the elderly.
Our results highlight several organizational paradoxes that impact the management of the care home: the paradox of the organizer, the paradox of learning, the paradox of identity and the paradox of practice. On the theoretical level, our research enriches the literature on organizational paradoxes by emphasizing the role that concertation can play in their regulation. On the empirical level, our results underline the role of concertation spaces in the context of a local authority as a vector for the construction of meaning, a place for questioning prescription, a place to produce identity, and a space for interorganizational learning. The limitation of this work is that concertation is essentially considered here in the context of imposed changes and not emerging changes. Lastly, the discussion outlines a number of avenues for engineering of concertation spaces that could be explored in future research.

  • organizational paradoxes
  • concertation
  • change management
  • intervention research
  • local authorities

Les espaces de concertation comme levier de prise en charge des paradoxes de l’action publique en contexte de projet

Cette recherche s’intéresse au rôle des espaces de concertation comme levier d’appropriation des projets de changement en contexte public. Les nombreuses réformes qui ont remodelé depuis 30 ans l’action publique ont attribué aux managers publics un rôle décisif dans la modernisation des collectivités territoriales. Nous questionnons dans cet article la capacité de la concertation à s’affirmer comme un levier pertinent de régulation des paradoxes de l’action publique qui s’expriment à l’occasion de projets de changement. Nous mobilisons dans cette optique une recherche-intervention de 36 mois au sein du CCAS (Centre Communal d’Action Sociale) d’une collectivité locale. L’objet de concertation concerne l’évaluation des pratiques professionnelles liées à l’admission d’un résident en EPHAD. Nos résultats mettent en relief plusieurs paradoxes organisationnels auxquels s’expose la direction du pôle seniors : le paradoxe de l’organisant, le paradoxe de l’apprentissage, le paradoxe identitaire et le paradoxe de la pratique. Sur le plan théorique, notre recherche enrichit la littérature sur les paradoxes organisationnels en soulignant le rôle de la concertation dans leur régulation. Sur le plan empirique, nos résultats soulignent dans le contexte des collectivités locales le rôle des espaces de concertation comme vecteur de construction du sens, lieu de questionnement de la prescription, lieu de production identitaire et espace d’apprentissage inter-organisationnel. Les limites de ce travail tiennent à ce que la concertation est ici envisagée essentiellement dans le cadre de changements imposés et non émergents. Enfin, la discussion esquisse quelques pistes sur l’ingénierie des espaces de concertation qui pourront probablement être approfondies dans le cadre de recherches futures.

  • paradoxes organisationnels
  • concertation
  • conduite du changement
  • recherche-intervention
  • collectivités locales
Philippe Anton
Philippe ANTON has a doctorate in management science and is an occupational psychologist and an ergonomist. He is also in charge of the general services department at a French local authority. He is developing his research in three areas: health management (magnetic hospitals and quality of life at work as well as analyzing the construction of emerging professions within health networks), project management (foundations and role of concertation spaces in the implementation of innovative projects), and risk management (psychology of risk and study of prevention behaviors).
Amaury Grimand
LEMNa-IaE Nantes Economics & Management
Amaury GRIMAND is a university professor at the IAE in Nantes, where he teaches human resource strategy and management. He is also deputy director of LEMNA, a research laboratory in economics and management in Nantes-Atlantique. His main research topics are the adoption of management tools, the dynamics of change processes, and the management of organizational paradoxes.
Stéphane Bellini
CEREGE-IaE Poitiers
Stéphane BELLINI is a senior lecturer in management sciences. His research work focuses on the place of cooperation in the workplace, the role of managers, and the Gestion Prévisionnelle des Emplois et Compétences. They have in common that they were triggered by a request from the field or a research contract, which reinforces the concordance between research and social demand.
Audrey Becuwe
CREoP Ea-4332 and associate member of CeReS Limoges
Audrey BECUWE is a senior lecturer in management sciences. Her research topics are the systemic approach of the Palo Alto school, the development of competencies, and organizational behaviors.
Magali Boespflug
CEREGE Poitiers
Magali BOESPFLUG is a lecturer in management sciences at the University of Poitiers. Her research activities are mainly based on cooperation, involving themes such as the versatility of employees, cooperation within concertation spaces, and the study of cooperative organizations.
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