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Top Management Turnover and Organizational Performance: A Test of a Contingency Model


George A. Boyne is a professor of public sector management in the Business School at Cardiff University. He is also a member of the Centre for Local and Regional Government Research. His research focuses on the determinants of performance in public organizations.

Oliver James is a professor of political science in the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter. His current research focuses on public service performance and chief executive succession, performance reporting to citizens and users, and, more broadly, the interaction between political institutions and processes and public services.

Peter John is the Hallsworth Chair of Governance in the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, where he is codirector of the Institute for Political and Economic Governance. He has held posts at Birkbeck College and at the Universities of Southampton and Keele. He has research interests in public policy, urban politics, and civic participation. He is the author of Analyzing Public Policy (1998) and Local Governance in Western Europe (2001).

Nicolai Petrovsky is an assistant professor in the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Kentucky. His research focuses on government performance and responsiveness.


A crucial test of whether “management matters” is whether changes in the team at the top of an organization make a difference. Focusing on turnover in the collective senior team rather than successions of individual chief executives, this article argues that the impact of leadership succession is contingent upon prior organizational performance. The evidence on English local government shows that changes in the top management team lead to improvements when initial performance is bad, but result in deterioration when initial performance is good. The results support the view that high-performing organizations should attempt to retain members of their senior management team, whereas low performers should seek to replace them.