In tackling admnistrative reform and in the hope of achieving an improvement in resource allocation, most European governments have shown increasing interest in adopting private sector management models in public administration. The assumption underlyng the paper is that the decisive variables in the different national contexts have to do with at the two levels administrative actors interpret their role and participate in the reform process. The paper examines the case of the reform of the Italian Ministry of Finance. In order to seek an improvement of its functioning and services, the reform is supposed to introduce a management system in which the key concepts are planning, programming and control of administrative action and results. According to reform rhetoric shaping a new class of administrative managers at the local level is the crux of the question. However, research results hint that the creation of this new local executives' lack of trust in the "system", as much as in the reform process, has so far been characterized by a tendency to give them responsibility without autonomy, and autonomy without control. The greater their lack of trust, the lesser their willgness to risk the consequences of failure and the greater their tendency to stick to defensive positions returning to previous "bureaucratic" conceptions and ways of operating.