Quality & Quantity

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 1565–1585 | Cite as

Dusk for the pyramid-shaped bureaucracy: examining the shape of the U.S. federal bureaucracy in the twenty first century

  • Seejeen ParkEmail author


The pyramid-shaped hierarchy was the most popular structure for the federal bureaucracy for most of the twentieth century. However, major management reform movements in the late twentieth century, such as new public management, reinventing government, and the national performance review, embrace the common theme of criticizing the traditional bureaucracy. If these efforts to fix the bureaucracy had achieved their anticipated results, the contemporary federal bureaucracy would have become a flattened-pyramid hierarchy with an increased span of control. The current article investigates the structure of the federal bureaucracy from the early 2000s to the present. The findings indicate that the federal bureaucracy is not pyramid shaped but instead is an inverse-calabash shape. In addition, little evidence was found of an increased span of control in the federal bureaucracy. In sum, the goal of the management reforms for changing the structure of the bureaucracy was not fulfilled.


Federal bureaucracy Span of control Pyramid hierarchy Management reform 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public AdministrationKwangWoon UniversitySeoulKorea

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