This article is situated within the context of the rapidpace ofpublic-sector reform since the 1970s with a focus upon the development of collaborative synergies. Such change, initially stimulated by American management gurus, set forth an ideology to create ‘lean and athletic’ organisations for the modem world - Kanter (1989) referred to these transformations as ‘When Giants Learn to Dance’. Such management principles have since become embedded in the way that we think aboutpublic-sector management, and are embodied in New Labours modernisation and new localism approaches to local government restructuring and the subsequent search for collaborative advantage. Within this context, and using a case study based upon Newcastle City Council between 1997-2005, this article analyses the adoption of a package of measures and associated policy responses, referred to collectively as ‘Waking up the Sleeping Giant’ which emerged as a reaction to the historical governance trends of clientelism, paternalism and fragmentation, which had plagued the development of intra and inter organisational partnerships. This emphasis sought to turn the council into an ‘excellent’ performing local authority, and to create an organisation that learns, continually adapts and develops more permeable internal and external boundaries. It is argued that the adoption of radical overarching management strategies can have an unsettling effect on organisational arenas with implications for the success of current modernisation policy and the successful development of collaboration and partnership working.