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The Organizational Basis for Public Governance  

Morten Egeberg and Jarle Trondal

An organizational approach to public governance focuses on the organizational architecture of public organizations and contributes to explaining governance processes by the organizational characteristics of such organizations. The dependent variable “public governance” is defined as the process through which the steering of society takes place. Such steering of society can unfold directly (“governance”) as well as indirectly (“meta-governance”), the latter denoting the process of organizing the apparatus within which governance happens. Governance is not only about making formal decisions, but also about agenda setting, development of alternative policy directions, implementation, and learning. In practice, it is about hammering out legislation, budgets, policy programs, and law application (“governance”), as well as organizing, staffing, and locating the machinery of government (“meta-governance”). Organization structure, organization demography, and organization locus make up the key independent variables. Such a partial model is not thought to provide a full account of what happens in governance processes, but the organizational factors are expected to intervene and bias governance processes systematically and significantly. Since these factors are, arguably, relatively amenable to deliberate change, they constitute at the same time potential design tools. However, rational organizational design also depends on knowledge about the conditions under which the organizational factors themselves may be changed (“meta-governance”). Knowledge about these two relationships is, arguably, ultimately a prerequisite for (rational) organizational design. Public organization literature has largely neglected theorizing meta-governance and conditions for institutional (re)design. Organizational factors may influence meta-governance in two ways: first, existing organization structures, demographics, and locations may affect reform processes; secondly, reform processes themselves may be deliberately organized on a temporary basis to achieve particular goals. Organization theory is helpful in dissecting how different ways of organizing reform processes may produce different reform trajectories and outcomes. The idea sees reform processes as decision-making processes that allocate attention, resources, capabilities, roles, and identities. Reform organizations have structures, demographics, and locations that distribute rights and obligations, power and resources, and normally do so unevenly. Yet, when considering organizational (re-)design, its limitations should be considered as well. Organizational designers might benefit from being aware of the potential stickiness of existing organizational arrangements and the influence of environmental demands, as well as temporal sorting of events. Moreover, the limits to design are greater in complex organizational orders with nested rules such as in nation states, meta-organizations, and supranational institutions such as the European Union, than in single organizations such as government ministries and agencies.

Article

Administrative Culture  

Muiris MacCarthaigh and Leno Saarniit

Administrative culture is an established and prominent theme in public administration research. It is frequently used to explain or contextualize a variety of phenomena in the discipline, ranging from differences in governing styles and policy outcomes between national bureaucracies to making sense of the informal norms and values that determine the activities of individual public organizations and how they interact with political and non-state interests. It is also occasionally used to characterize a particular “type” of organizational culture, with features that distinguish it from the private or third sectors. With such varied uses of the term, as well as related concepts such as administrative style, tradition, and legacies, administrative culture attracts multiple interpretations as well as its fair share of criticisms as an explanatory tool. In some contexts, administrative culture is an independent variable that helps explain divergence and variety in policy outcomes within and across national borders, while in others it is a dependent variable that attracts experiments and new measurement tools with the aim of producing more sophisticated understanding of its place in public governance. Early skepticism about the study of administrative culture mainly arose due to the absence of adequate methodology as well as uncertainty about how to begin empirical research into the concept. The emergence of such a methodology and tools for inquiry since the 1970s has meant that administrative culture is now firmly located in the literature and practice of government and a burgeoning literature now exists across the globe. Some of the key contemporary debates around administrative culture concern the interplay between cultures and sub-cultures within bureaucracies, the influence of distinctive administrative traditions and styles on policy outcomes, and the role culture plays in public sector reform.

Article

Militaries’ Organizational Cultures in a Globalizing World  

Joseph Soeters

Organizational cultures in military organizations consist of symbols, practices, habits, hidden assumptions, and beliefs about what needs to be done, and what is appropriate and what is not, before, during, and after operations. Generally speaking, organizational cultures in military institutions are similar to those in any other work organization. Upon closer examination, however, it appears that the military’s 24/7, communal life outside society, its emphasis on hierarchy and discipline, and in particular its license to use large-scale force make it different. Relatedly, the way in which the military’s organizational cultures are created and recreated has aspects and emphases that are less common in conventional work organizations. Recruiting and socialization patterns of new organizational members in the military have been studied frequently because they are so distinctive. Military organizational cultures are not identical worldwide. Military organizations differ internationally, because military organizations are still strongly connected to their national backgrounds, including the languages, legal regimes, political atmospheres, and general ways of living in the many nations across the globe. National societies and their histories shape military organizational cultures in multiple ways. Dramatic experiences at the national level, for instance during World War II, may lead to a continuation or, just the opposite, the disruption, of armed forces’ organizational cultures. Yet, despite the differences, something of a world culture impacting on the use of force seems to emerge as well. In an era when international alliances carry out most missions, different national backgrounds influence strategic decision-making and the way operations are conducted. Most of the time, national armed forces operate separately, in their own area (or time) of operations, sometimes guiding troops from smaller and less wealthy partnering nations. The coordination of actions between the various areas of operation is generally not very well elaborated. This applies not only to combat operations but also to peace missions. A full integration of national armed forces, such as in a United Nations security force or a European army, is an ideal that some may dream of, but it is still far from reality. The greatest degree of integration is likely to be found in international headquarters.

Article

Administrative Traditions: Concepts and Variables  

B. Guy Peters

Contemporary administrative systems are shaped in part by their past and by the conceptions of good administration that are embedded in administrative culture. Administrative traditions shape contemporary administration in Europe and have been heavily influenced by European models. Administrative tradition means an historically based set of values, structures, and relationships with other institutions that define the nature of appropriate public administration. Seven dimensions can be used to both define these traditions and categorize public administration into four groups of nations. This explanation is similar to cultural explanations, but it includes the influence of structures as well as ideas. While the model of traditions developed is based largely on European and North American experiences, it can also be applied to a much broader range of administrative systems.

Article

The Politics of Public Broadcasters in Africa  

Corinna Arndt

National broadcasters are a standard feature across Africa. Set up by colonial regimes, they dominate media landscapes with their unrivaled geographic reach. Radio continues to be the main—and often only—source of information outside urban centers, where commercial media struggle to survive and illiteracy remains a challenge. Although access to new media has risen exponentially, use of mobile technology continues to be prohibitively expensive. Some national broadcasters are official state broadcasters: owned, run, and editorially controlled by government. However, many claim to be public broadcasters. By definition, these are accountable to the public rather than the government of the day: accessible to a universal audience, inclusive of a wide range of views; and fair, balanced, and independent in their journalism. This aspiration is reflected in national and supranational policy such as the African Charter on Broadcasting and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa. In reality, these broadcasters lack de jure independence, the basic condition for them to be considered “public.” They are, in law and in practice, state broadcasters—owed to a range of historical, social, financial, and political determinants despite attempts by journalists and civil society to change this. Principally, the political will has been lacking—in colonial as well as postcolonial elites—to relinquish control of newsrooms and open up space for dissent. There is one exception: the South African Broadcasting Corporation was granted de jure independence following apartheid and enjoys unrivaled (though contested) legal guarantees and journalistic freedom. Its ongoing difficulties to fully meet its public broadcasting mandate despite this relatively conducive environment demonstrate that de jure independence is a necessary but not sufficient condition for successful broadcasting transformation, and that organizational culture is an important variable to be taken into account.