Gå til indhold

Resumé af Karl-Peter Kristensens speciale

Specialetitel: NEW ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICES IN GREENLANDIC MUNICIPALITIES - A case study on the effects of Municipality Qeqertalik's organizational change.

New organizational practices in the Greenlandic municipal sector

This Master thesis focuses on the new ways of organizing the municipalities in Greenland and how structural change has impact on collaborative practices in a municipal administration. The developed knowledge in this thesis is primarily relevant to Greenland, because the public sector, including the municipal sector in Greenland, is facing future economic challenges, which according to economists should be solved through streamlining. Furthermore, it has relevance for the rest of the Kingdom of Denmark, because municipalities and organizations constantly has focus to streamline and improve their public service, so knowledge documented in this master thesis can be used as inspiration for municipalities, both in the Faroe Islands and in Denmark.

When Municipality of Qeqertalik was to be established on January 1st, 2018, an opportunity arose to think differently and change the organizational structure. The new municipal council announced to the media in Greenland they want to break with the traditional way of organizing the municipalities in Greenland; that it is time to think differently, not at least to implement a structure that suits Greenland. Some of the initiatives in the restructuring phase were to remove the functional managers and reduce the administrative directors from six to two directors. Instead of these respected and powerful leadership positions, the municipality established four new positions, called the City Managers. The City Managers were each lead the municipality's four cities and eight settlements, using the new decentralized organization. It was a radical change for employees who have experienced centralization in the last decade. The new organizational structure naturally offered challenges for the employees. But the new organization structure also gave opportunities to create new collaboration practices, which makes Municipality of Qeqertalik exciting as a case, to develop knowledge on how collaboration practices are affected by structural changes. Therefore, this leads to the research question:

How does the new organizational structure affect the local collaboration practices in the Municipality of Qeqertalik?


Methodological and theoretical basis

The research method has been proactive. An abductive approach, where the purpose is to get behind the phenomenon, where empirical data and theory are together foundation for the discussion and conclusion. Through this case study and with empirical research, the purpose has been to gain an understanding of how structures are interpreted by employees and how collaborative practices develop in the organization. In the exploratory phase of the research, the municipality was visited before the writing process formally started. This part was important to align expectations for collaboration with the organization. Not least it gives a good opportunity to meet and talk with different employees and it gives an impression about the organization. Observation was also part of the empirical research, where municipality of Qeqertalik made an office available for this process. This gave an valuable opportunity to reshape the interview questions and developing more knowledge to the research. The main data of this thesis contains primarily of qualitative data:

  • 13 semi-structured interviews were conducted.
  • About ten hours of interview footage were converted into a total of
  • 120 pages of transcripts that formed the basis of the analysis.
  • 14 days of observation in municipality of Qeqertalik´s administration building


The main theories in this master thesis are process theory by Tor Hernes (2017) and complex responsive process perspective by Stacey (2016). In the theory of process perspective, it is believed that there is potentiality in all processes. It means there are different potentialities in organization's internal and external environment that can influence the organization in different directions (Hernes, 2017). From a process perspective, organizations are considered as processes in constant creation and moving, rather than seeing the organization as static entities (Langley and Tsoukas, 2011). Complex responsive process perspective sees an organization as interaction processes where individuals affect each other to constantly create and develop the organization. From this theory the organization structure is simply a blueprint, which cannot show the underlying processes. It means that organizations are complex and constantly moving (Stacey, 2016). From social constructivism, which is another theory of the master thesis, it is believed people have different interpretations of the reality, and these interpretations together create and shape the organization (Rasborg, 2014). This theory has a change perspective and argues that organizations and the societal phenomena are constantly shifting, and new phenomena are constantly shaped in society as well as in organizations.


Analysis, results and conclusion

The thesis develops an analysis of how collaborative practices can be affected by changing a municipal structure. The empirical evidence show that the organizational structure can be interpreted and understood differently by employees. The analysis clearly shows how employees have different interpretations and understandings of the new structure. The empirical evidence also shows that the municipality does not follow a written plan. This means that various processes and management's initiatives are emerging, without following an exact plan. And these processes had led to a confusion about where the responsibilities are located, because the implementation of the structure has changed roles of the employees.

The empirical evidence shows that the management's various initiatives in connection to structural change have had different consequences for the employees. One of the key initiatives in this structural change, which is the implementation of open office landscapes in every city, has both positive and negative consequences for the employees. The positive consequence is that employees feel that they have a closer working relationship with their colleagues. Establishment of open office landscapes in the municipality has resulted in a more open and transparent workplace. The analysis also shows that city managers include their employees more in the process of decision-making. The management's initiatives in process of structural change have a positive effect on the employees' cooperation. The character of collaborative practices has changed and created a greater focus on collaboration in the organization.

Conversely, the analysis shows certain initiatives have less effect for some departments, it means the implementations and initiatives develop differently in every city. The critique arguments from some of the departments are that organizational design has changed on the paper, while the way the tasks are solved has remained unchanged in some departments. It means that the management's initiatives in the process of structural change have different effects, depending on which city or department it deals with. However, empirical evidence shows that these initiatives are still developing in this organization that started almost three years ago, and the leadership expect that implementation will take years and it is a big process for the whole organization.



The conclusion is that collaborative practices have changed character in the municipality after the structure had changed. This became clear through the narratives of the informants who constantly compare the old municipality with the new municipality. However, it is important to emphasize the effects of structural change have been experienced differently in Municipality of Qeqertalik. As mentioned before, the effects have unfolded and developed differently depending on the city and department. Based on the theoretical background, it is natural that people have different perceptions and understandings (Rasborg, 2014).

Another conclusion is structural change and the abolition of several directors and functional managers has given employees the opportunity for greater collaboration in the organization. From the empirical evidence, it can be concluded that the abolition of these top managers has changed the management style and the decision-making processes. It is stated by the informants that employees are involved in decision-making and the city managers acts more like a mentor, instead of as formal leader who takes all the final decisions. Based on the conclusion, these are the three learning points:


  1. Structural change can change collaborative practices in an organization
  2. Employees have different perceptions of how organizations work
  3. Structural change can emerge differently in the organization.


The municipalities of Greenland were centralized in 2009, where the main purpose of municipal consolidation was to create more public service and less administration. It was argued that the municipalities would have greater financial availability and better professional interaction in the municipality by centralize them.

The public sector, including the municipal sector, is frequently debated in Greenland. The latest example is during the election campaign in Greenland in 2021, where parties expressed their different opinions about the municipal sector. Furthermore, the topic is focused in the academic literature and in reports, where it is mentioned that the administration in Greenland is inspired by the Danish model. Møller (2019) mentioned in her master thesis that Greenland have copied the Danish model, without thinking about how to adapt the administration structure to the Greenlandic infrastructure, while economical experts mentioned, in their introduction in a report, that the public sector in Greenland is inspired by the Danish model and that the applicable laws and regulations is copied from Denmark6. If you then look at the Greenland Economic Council's report from 2019, it is emphasized that the Greenland administration is growing every year. The figures from Greenland's statistics show that the number of employees in the public administration has grown from almost 10,600 in 2015 to 11,200 in 2019. Furthermore, the Economic Council has mentioned that the aging population, in general throughout the country, will challenge public finances in the future. Therefore, experts believe that demographic trends should be addressed through streamlining, in the public sector, to resist the increasing public expenses. In the same report from 2019, economic experts recommend that specific action should be taken to solve the challenges. If not, public expenses will grow if the system remains unchanged. This means increased pressure for the implementation of savings, at the same time as it will be necessary to provide additional income to ensure a sustainable public economy8. These different reports point in the direction of innovation and change should be created, in the public sector.


One of the findings in this master thesis is that empirical research shows an indication of the centralization in 2009 has negative consequences for the cities that lost their municipal administration.

In the introduction of the thesis, it was mentioned that centralization should create greater professional interaction, in addition to creating greater financial availability to carry out larger projects (Skatte & Velfærdskommission, 2011). On the other hand, the empirical evidence in this thesis shows that centralization has resulted in employees lost significant responsibilities according to decision-making, because centralization have resulted in all important decisions were transferred to a central administration.

This finding is based on the empirical evidence, where employees’ states and argue how centralization had negative consequence on their working life. This is also clearly on the observation because employees constantly comparing the conditions in the new municipality with the previous municipality. Empirical evidence shows that cities in Qeqertalik Municipality have been given greater responsibility as result of decentralization of the organization. And that trust has positive effects on employees´. It means that trust and responsibility has give positivity and opportunity to grow as employee.

This finding opens to discuss and research further of how centralization in 2009 has affected the Greenlandic cities, and this would gain the knowledge and documented history for how centralization can develop in a country like Greenland with a totally different infrastructure than Denmark.

Handlinger tilknyttet webside

Senest opdateret 25. november 2021