Purpose- This paper aims to outline the contents of the special issue on public management reform in countries in the Napoleonic administrative tradition, discussing alternative explanatory frameworks, and proposing paths for future research. Design/methodology/approach – This article provides reviews of the papers in the special issue. Findings – Some broad sets of factor affecting implementation of public management reform in Napoleonic countries are outlined, schematised in a specific table, and discussed in the light of potential alternative frameworks, like cultural analysis. Research limitations/implications – Research limitations include the availability of empirical evidence given the width of the phenomenon under investigation (public management reform in five countries). Implications for the development of a broader comparative research agenda on countries in the Napoleonic administrative tradition (and others) are proposed. Originality/value – The special issue, of which this paper provides an overview, fills a gap in the literature by providing systematic and comparative analysis of public management reform in five under-investigated countries in the Napoleonic administrative tradition, arguably an important contribution to the widening of the comparative research agenda in public management.