Under the authoritarian rule of President Suharto, Indonesia built one of the world’s largest bureaucracies. However, it suffered from a range of problems including rampant corruption, inefficiency, poor service delivery and process orientation. Following democratization in 1998, the country’s political leaders have experimented with various modes of public administration reform culminating in the system-wide bureaucracy reform of Presidents Yudhoyono and Jokowi that commenced in 2010. This article examines the nature of Indonesia’s public administration reform in the democratic era using ideal type constructions that facilitate identification of what the reforms are and what they are trying to achieve while simultaneously setting out the current bureaucratic structures and behaviours and the difficulties they pose for the reformers. The article concludes that while progress has been made, Indonesia will not achieve its declared goal of creating a “world class” public service by 2025 largely due to powerful forces resisting reform.