Municipal benchmarking
: organisational learning and network performance in the public sector

  • Marike Noordhoek

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The main purpose of this dissertation is to assess the relation between municipal benchmarking and organisational learning with a specific emphasis on benchlearning and performance within municipalities and between groups of municipalities in the building
and housing sector in the Netherlands. The first and main conclusion is that this relation
exists, but that the relative success of different approaches to dimensions of change and
organisational learning are a key explanatory factor for differences in the success of benchlearning. Seven other important conclusions could be derived from the empirical
research. First, a combination of interpretative approaches at the group level with a mixture of hierarchical and network strategies, positively influences benchlearning.
Second, interaction among professionals at the inter-organisational level strengthens
benchlearning. Third, stimulating supporting factors can be seen as a more important strategy to strengthen benchlearning than pulling down barriers. Fourth, in order to facilitate benchlearning, intrinsic motivation and communication skills matter, and are supported by a high level of cooperation (i.e., team work), a flat organisational structure and interactions between individuals. Fifth, benchlearning is facilitated by a strategy that is based on a balanced use of episodic (emergent) and systemic (deliberate) forms of power. Sixth, high levels of benchlearning will be facilitated by an analyser or prospector strategic stance. Prospectors and analysers reach a different learning outcome than
defenders and reactors. Whereas analysers and prospectors are willing to change policies
when it is perceived as necessary, the strategic stances of defenders and reactors result in
narrow process improvements (i.e., single-loop learning). Seventh, performance improvement is influenced by functional perceptions towards performance, and these perceptions ultimately influence the elements adopted.
This research shows that efforts aimed at benchlearning and ultimately improved service
delivery, should be directed to a multi-level and multi-dimensional approach addressing the context, content and process of dimensions of change and organisational learning.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTerry J Brignall (Supervisor) & Melina M Manochin (Supervisor)


  • local government
  • municipal performance management
  • organisational change
  • performance measurement
  • power

Cite this