The paper examines the reform process regarding the Italian Senior Civil Service (SCS) developed in the 1990s and early 2000s. On the basis of a qualitative analysis of top level executives' perceptions and attitudes, the article highlights the role of organizational culture as an obstacle to modernization and administrative change. Using the wellknown Putnam's dichotomy between the "classical" and the "modern" bureaucrat, it points out the main difficulties the SCS faces in the process of change. The emerging conflict among professional figures provided with different patterns of education, recruitment and career, and a widespread red-tape administrative culture do not allow full bureaucratic change. The result is a process of bounded organizational learning which only partially affects state bureaucracy.