Governance And Administrative Reforms
Abstract and Keywords
This article, which examines how governance is related to administrative reforms, particularly to the so-called post-New Public Management (NPM) reforms, analyses the typical features of the post-NPM reform wave as they relate to governance and considers the concepts of governance, networks, and partnership in a reform context. It provides evidence that governance reforms and NPM reforms partly overlap, especially when it comes to more specific reform tools.
Over the past decade multi-level governance and post-NPM issues have moved to the core of public sector reforms. The concept of working across jurisdictions has become increasingly important in public administration and management theory and practice, reflecting the increased complexity and fragmentation that New Public Management (NPM) reforms have brought (Christensen and Lægreid 2010; Halligan 2010). The need for more coordination has become a focal issue.1 A commonly held notion is that working across organizational, jurisdictional and political/administrative boundaries will enable more efficient and/or effective policy development and implementation and service delivery.
In post-NPM reform, efforts have focused particularly on the problems that arose as a result of greater vertical and horizontal specialization in NPM (Christensen and Lægreid 2007). On the vertical dimension, using more central resources to coordinate subordinate institutions and levels and using stronger instruments of central control have enabled political executives to regain a degree of political control and pursue consistent policies across levels. On the horizontal dimension, cross-sectoral bodies, programs or projects are increasingly being used to modify the “siloization” of the central public administration brought about by the strong specialization by sector (Pollitt 2003a).
We will argue that reform involves processes of layering or sedimentation (Streeck and Thelen 2005) in the sense that reforms do not normally replace each other, but instead, new reforms are often added to old ones producing hybrid administrative systems. Our view is that when existing political-administrative systems are confronted with new reforms they become partly deinstitutionalized. However, they also retain some traditional elements that continue to coexist with reform elements, producing an ever more complex and layered system as these new elements in turn are adapted and institutionalized. If this view is a valid one, public organizations will consist of elements from different eras and reform waves that become balanced and rebalanced over time.
(p. 256) We will use the term governance to describe changes in the nature and role of the government brought about by public sector reforms over the last two decades whereby the previous focus on hierarchy has given way to a greater emphasis on networks and partnerships (Bevir 2009). Thus governance used in this specific meaning expresses a belief that the organs of government increasingly depend on other organizations—be they local government, supra-government, or private sector organizations—to implement their policies and deliver public services.
Two reform waves have been prominent in recent decades: New Public Management and post-New Public Management (Christensen and Lægreid 2007). Like NPM, post-NPM—often labeled governance reforms (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011; Klijn, Chapter 14, this volume)—offers a kind of ‘shopping basket’ of different elements (Pollitt 1995). There are also, however, some rather clear differences between the two reform waves. While NPM had a more internal focus on improving efficiency, post-NPM governance-inspired reforms are mainly interorganizationally oriented. They seek to improve the horizontal coordination of governmental organizations and also to enhance coordination between the government and other actors (Klijn, Chapter 14, this volume; Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011). NPM implied proliferation and unbundling, contractualization, marketization, a private sector management style, explicit performance standards and output/outcome control. In contrast post-NPM implies a mixed pattern of in-house, marketized services and delivery networks, a client-based, holistic management style, boundary-spanning skills, joined-up targets, a procedural focus, impartiality and ethical norms and stronger centralized control (Lodge and Gill 2011). Under NPM politicians had a strategic, goal-setting role, and civil servants were supposed to be autonomous managers held to account through performance arrangements and incentives (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011). Under post-NPM politicians are guarantors of compromise deals between multiple stakeholders, while civil servants are network managers and partnership leaders.
We will mainly relate governance to post-NPM because it has a flavor of joining-up, collaboration and coordination but there are obviously also governance-related elements in the NPM movement, such as public–private partnerships, networks and user participation. Since networks are often seen as an organizational mode different from markets and hierarchy (Bouckaert, Peters, and Verhoest 2010), we will put a specific emphasis on this when discussing governance-related reforms. Thus governance reforms and NPM reforms partly overlap, especially when it comes to more specific reform tools.
We will focus on three issues in this chapter. First, we will address the concepts of governance, networks and partnership in a reform context. Second, we will examine the typical features of the post-NPM reform wave, especially as they relate to governance. Third, we will discuss to what extent this latest reform movement has replaced previous reforms or whether it has merely supplemented them. Finally, we will draw some conclusions and look at some implications.
Our major argument is that administrative reforms represent a mixed order (Olsen 2010). The old public administration exemplified by hierarchy and Weberian forms of (p. 257) bureaucracy was supplemented during the NPM reform movement by disaggregation, autonomization, agencification, and marketization. This was followed by post-NPM, which entailed patching up the administrative bodies of the state, bringing about stronger integration between the state and the private sector and civil society and increasing central government capacity. Thus, what we have seen is not pendulum swings from government to governance and back again, but rather one reform supplementing another in a complementary process whereby the trade-off between different administrative modes has changed, resulting in increased complexity and hybrid organizational forms.
Governance, networks, partnerships, and reforms
In the post-NPM reforms governance elements and networks are supplementing hierarchy and market as coordination mechanisms. Organizational forms such as partnerships and collegial bodies spanning organizational boundaries are being used more intensively. Networks have been introduced in most Western democracies as a way to increase the capacity of the public sector to deliver services. Governance networks can be seen as part of a transition from a hierarchical state government to a network form consisting of decentralized nodes of authority, but they can also be seen as a supporting tool that powerful governmental actors use to increase their capacity to shape and deliver public policy in a complex world (Klijn and Skelcher 2007: 598). This view challenges the ‘governance without government’ thesis of Rhodes (1996) which asserts that networks are self-organizing, that the government is only one of many players and that there is a strong horizontal component in the networks (Bache 2000). In contrast, this instrumental conjecture implies that the central government is a powerful actor that creates networks in order to realize its projects and does so in response to a national mandate to be a delivery arm for a national policy initiative that requires inter-organizational cooperation at the local level (Skelcher, Mathur, and Smith 2005).
For complex, unstructured and rapidly changing problems a network approach may be suitable (Kettl 2003). This approach understands coordination as the interaction of interdependent actors from different traditional hierarchical structures and from outside such structures. Such actors pay less heed to formal top-down authority and rely more on negotiations and mutual adjustments and on bringing together organizations to pool resources and knowledge. This network model scores high on adaptability and flexibility, but accountability may be reduced and ambiguous, and steering may be more difficult.
The governance literature is in large part concerned with networks as a phenomenon in which private actors are a central feature (Skelcher, Mathur, and Smith 2005). But there is also a more state-centric approach to governance in which public–public (p. 258) networks are a main component (Peters and Pierre 2003). Here civil servants have networking and boundary-spanning competences allowing them to act as go-betweens and brokers across organizational boundaries both vertically and horizontally. Public–public networks bring civil servants from different policy areas together to trump hierarchy (Hood and Lodge 2006: 92)—in other words, they act as facilitators, negotiators and diplomats rather than exercising only hierarchical authority. Individual, people-oriented skills, and not technical skills, are central to this kind of competence, and may be especially important in tackling ‘wicked issues’ that transcend traditional sectors and policy areas. The ability to further cooperation is also valued.
Partnerships have become a popular tool in the governance of welfare services (Fimreite and Lægreid 2009). They are designed to enhance collaboration and cooperation across boundaries in public services (Sullivan and Skelcher 2002). Repeated efforts to achieve coordination are a main argument behind using partnership models in the public sector. There are different kinds of partnerships, but a common feature is lack of hierarchy. Mörth and Sahlin-Andersson (2006) classify partnerships along two dimensions—degree of formality and degree of permanence. We will add two further dimensions to these: the degree to which private actors are involved and the degree of voluntariness (Fimreite and Lægreid 2009). Some partnerships can be very informal, time-limited, voluntary and include a strong private component. Others can be highly formalized, mandatory and permanent with a weak private component. In the welfare state administration one-stop shops have become an emerging instrument for joining up and strengthening governance relations, but there is significant diversity between countries regarding the task portfolio, participant structure, level of autonomy, proximity to citizens and instruments used in these arrangements (Askim et al. 2011).
In addition to the partnership model we also have a multi-level governance system in which tasks are carried out at different levels of government, implying increased interdependence of public agencies operating at different territorial levels, often in a complex system of overlapping jurisdictions (Bache and Flinders 2004). Tasks can rarely be treated independently of each other, the different levels have to collaborate, and coordination between levels is an important precondition for coordination between sectors. Multi-level governance does not necessary imply state decline, but rather state transformation and adaptation (Pierre and Peters 2000).
A main concern that arises when partnership is used within the public sector is the problem of accountability. Accountability is a multidimensional concept. In a hierarchical model the concept of accountability is primarily related to upward accountability to political sovereigns (Christensen and Lægreid 2002). The network or partnership models will make a model of strictly hierarchical responsibility from the top down less applicable. Partnerships need some level of independence but at the same time they should be accountable upwards to politicians, horizontally to other agencies and local government and downwards to citizens. They thus have to face the challenges of political as well as administrative and bureaucratic, legal and professional accountability (Pollitt 2003b).
A central accountability issue is thus how the relationship between government and networks impinges on ministerial responsibility (Christensen and Lægreid 2008). It is (p. 259) generally accepted that ministries should be allowed to give some interpretative guidance to partnerships in how to carry out their tasks. Partnerships might also weaken accountability to political bodies at the local level. A joint front-line unit is supposed to balance local accountability to the municipal council with vertical ministerial accountability. Weaker upwards accountability to the parliament and accountability to the local council may, however, be supplemented by stronger downwards accountability to users, clients, and citizens. Partnerships scoring high on formality and permanence are constrained by procedural and substantive rules that define their discretion. Autonomy from direct political control does not automatically mean immunity from public accountability. Thus, responsiveness towards users and clients might become a substitute for accountability in the control of autonomous central agencies.
We will claim that networks as a coordinating mechanism in partnership models supplement rather than replace the traditional welfare state hierarchy (Bouckaert, Peters, and Verhoest 2010). One consequence of this is that accountability relations are challenged.
Governance and post-NPM reforms
The main goal of post-NPM reforms has been to gradually counteract the disintegration or fragmentation brought about under NPM and to restore public sector organizations to a situation of greater integration and coordination (Christensen and Lægreid 2007). This is closely related to the development of governance measures in a modern political-administrative system. First, fragmentation under NPM increased pressure for more horizontal integration and coordination. Second, political executives were reluctant to accept the undermining of political control that resulted from NPM. This has resulted in efforts to strengthen central capacity and control, particularly in sectors seen as politically salient (Gregory 2003; Halligan 2006). There is an increasing striving for coordination and coherence in public policy, and one answer seems to be a return to the centre. While the latter trend is more about restoring the hierarchy, the former is more about governance in the sense of networks and partnerships. Thus we will focus mainly on these horizontal elements of the post-NPM movement.
The post-NPM generation of reforms advocates a more holistic strategy (Bogdanor 2005). The slogans “joined-up-government” and “whole-of-government” provided new labels for the old doctrine of coordination in the study of public administration (Hood 2005). In addition to the issue of coordination, the problem of integration was a main concern behind these reform initiatives (Mulgan 2005). The purpose has been to work across portfolio boundaries and administrative levels to achieve shared goals and an integrated government response to particularly complex issues. Attempts to coordinate government policy-making and service delivery across organizational boundaries are, however, not a new phenomenon (Kavanagh and Richards 2001).
(p. 260) The concept of working across boundaries gained popularity in public administration and in management theory and practice from the late 1990s (Gregory 2003). The new mantra was an increased focus on the notion of stronger coordination, integration and connecting the dots. The notion that working across organizational boundaries will enable more efficient and/or effective policy development and implementation and service delivery runs counter to the NPM claim that greater efficiency can be achieved via more fragmented arrangements.
The horizontal dimension of post-NPM is regarded as even more important than the vertical one. In Australia and New Zealand, for example, new organizational units, such as new cabinet committees, inter-ministerial or inter-agency collaborative units, inter-governmental councils, the lead agency approach, circuit-breaker teams, super networks, task forces, cross-sectoral programs or projects, tsars, etc. have been established with the main purpose of getting government units to work better together (Gregory 2006; Halligan and Adams 2004). In 2003, a new Cabinet Implementation Unit was established in Australia to support whole-of-government activities. Creating coordinative structures inside existing central structures, increasing the strategic leadership role of the Cabinet, and focusing more on following up central decisions are typical hierarchical efforts in Australia. Their aim is to put pressure on the sectoral authorities to collaborate and coordinate better (Halligan 2006). In Norway a new minister of coordination was established in the Prime Minister's Office in 2009. Other examples are merging agencies to form larger bodies, such as the Department of Homeland Security in the USA, the Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand or the new welfare administration in Norway.
The horizontal dimension typically concerns policy areas that cut across traditional boundaries, so-called “wicked issues.” How this dimension is handled ranges from mergers to softer collaborative measures. The Canadian government launched what were labeled horizontal management initiatives from the mid-1990s to tackle policy issues such as innovation, poverty, and climate change (Bakvis and Juillet 2004). Other examples of these were seen in Australia in 2002, where attempts were made to bring more coordination to such areas as national security, demographics, science, education, environmental sustainability, energy, rural and regional development, transportation, and work and family life (Halligan and Adams 2004).
Procedural efforts have also been made to enhance post-NPM initiatives. In New Zealand there is a stronger emphasis on effectiveness, broader long-term “ownership” interests and outcomes in contrast to the shorter-term and narrower “purchaser” efficiency and output focus that characterized the NPM reforms (Boston and Eichbaum 2005).
Post-NPM seems generally to be more about working together in a pragmatic and intelligent way than about formalized collaboration. This is especially true in Canada where working horizontally has been an issue of ongoing importance since the mid-1990s (Bakvis and Juillett 2004). The approach to major stakeholders in the environment, including private actors, is more heterogeneous and involves joined-up governance efforts and the use of networks and partnerships.
(p. 261) Collaborative efforts aimed at delivering a seamless service, like Australia's one-stop shops, can be seen as control from above to secure coordinated and efficient service delivery, but also as a real local collaborative effort requiring autonomy from central control (Halligan 2006). A comparative study of service delivery organizations in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and the Netherlands concludes that procedural bureaucratic models are being superseded by network governance (Considine and Lewis 2003).
The post-NPM reforms are also culturally oriented governance efforts. They focus on cultivating a strong and unified sense of values, teambuilding, the involvement of participating organizations, trust, value-based management, collaboration and improving the training and self-development of public servants (Ling 2002). The argument is that there is a need to re-establish a “common ethic” and a “cohesive culture” in the public sector because of the reported corrosion of loyalty and increasing mistrust brought about by NPM, which was rooted in diverse economic theories (Norman 1995). All agencies should be bound together by a single, distinctive public service ethos, as emphasized in Australia (Shergold 2004). Under the slogan “working together”, the Australian government has emphasized the need to build a supportive public sector culture that encourages whole-of-government solutions by formulating value guidelines and codes of conduct.
NPM is also related to governance efforts. Directly influencing public services is the “real thing.” In a democracy it is up to citizens to choose which institutional arrangements they prefer, and if they are dissatisfied with the existing system it is their privilege to try other arrangements. But we can also take a more skeptical view of the democratic value of people's status as customers. A managerial concept of democracy might weaken civic responsibility, engagement and political equality and enhance the role of administrators and managers (Christensen and Lægreid 2001). It is a paradox that while one goal of NPM is to open public administration to the public, it may ultimately reduce the level of democratic accountability and lead to erosion of the “publicness” of public service, a development that post-NPM has tried to counteract (Haque 2001; Peters 1999).
Governance as replacing or supplementing previous reforms
A further central question is whether governance-related post-NPM is transcending NPM. There are rather different views on this. One view is that we are seeing a process of substitution and pendulum swings. Just as NPM was a substitute for the “old public administration”, post-NPM will replace NPM, simply because the time is ripe for it. This “zeitgeist” approach focuses on the deinstitutionalization and (re)institutionalization of reforms, rather than combinations of reforms (Røvik 2002). Another possibility is simply that political priorities have changed and that leaders have therefore decided to scrap one set of reforms and embark on another, or that dominant coalitions have been (p. 262) renegotiated and have decided to move beyond NPM. Dunleavy et al. (2006) simply claim that NPM is dead and has been replaced with Digital-Era Governance.
Another take on this is that governance components are transcending the NPM-post-NPM divide, a view that stems partly from the ambiguity of the concept itself. As indicated earlier there are obvious governance elements in the NPM movement related to public–private partnerships, increased market orientation, introduction of quasi-markets and arrangements for increased user participation. To complicate the picture further there are also non-governance components in the post-NPM movement, such as bringing the central government back in and strengthening the hierarchy. In contrast to the proliferation and fragmentation that followed the NPM reforms, the post-NPM reforms have focused more on integration and coordination. The structural arrangements for increasing horizontal coordination and coordination across administrative levels via networks and partnerships are the main governance features of the post-NPM movement (Christensen and Lægreid 2007).
One implication of this understanding is that different reform waves will be combined. In reality reform waves influence the development of public organizations and their activities in a gradual process of change, so that it is difficult to identify the end of one reform wave and the beginning of another. The claim is that NPM is by no means over (Pollitt 2003b), but is being supplemented by other reform initiatives. The next question is then how we may characterize this combination, that is, what kind of dynamics and mechanisms does it involve? Some would say that NPM is the dominant reform wave and that post-NPM has simply modified certain aspects of it. Another possible version is that both reform waves are important and are used in different ways according to policy area or just combined differently in different reforms.
Another take on how reform waves interact is inspired by a combination of structural, cultural and myth perspectives (Christensen et al. 2007) and sees the different reforms as a process of layering or sedimentation (Olsen 2009; Streeck and Thelen 2005). If we look at the historical development of public institutions, we see that at certain points in time elements of their basic structures and cultures are either pushed aside or deinstitutionalized when a new reform wave comes along or else manage to remain viable and influence the further development of the organization, regardless of new reform waves. This layering of various elements from the “old public administration”, NPM and post-NPM makes public organizations increasingly complex. Governance elements seem to thrive amid this complexity.
One reason for layering processes may be the simple instrumental fact that executive leaders decide to keep reform elements they support or like when introducing new reforms. Another reason may be that a diversity of reform elements from different waves makes it easier to make flexible political compromises, decrease conflicts and increase legitimacy. A third and more culturally oriented reason could be that path-dependent mechanisms make it difficult to remove all elements from an old reform when a new one emerges. It is never easy to start from scratch, and continuity in norms and values helps a public organization to cope with periods of transition. A fourth and more symbolically oriented reason is related to the labeling of reforms (Meyer 1979). Often reforms are sold (p. 263) as new, modern and efficient, whereas in actual fact there is far more continuity than reform entrepreneurs would have us believe. Continuity that incorporates some new structural and cultural elements—sold as modernization—may be a better option than reforms that turn an organization upside down.
Summing up, we would tend to subscribe to the argument that reform movements are characterized by combination, complexity, layering and hybridization, rather than by dominance, substitution and pendulum swings (Christensen et al. 2007). Our main argument is that public reforms are driven by a number of different forces. Public administration faces increasingly complex environmental and internal conditions, reflected in multifunctional organizational forms, and the administrative reforms in the public sector can be understood as compound reforms that combine different organizational principles based on multiple factors working together in a complex mix (Egeberg and Trondal 2007). Compound administrative reforms are multidimensional and represent “mixed” orders and combinations of competing, inconsistent and contradictory organizational principles and structures that coexist and balance interests and values (Olsen 2007). It is not a question of hierarchy, market or networks but of how the mixtures of these forms of coordination change in different reform movements and how the trade-off between them is altered.
Multidimensional orders are considered to be more resilient to external shocks and therefore preferable to uni-dimensional orders (March and Olsen 1989). Compound reforms thus depart from “either/or” theorizing by assuming that executive governance rests on the mobilization of multiple and complementary sets of institutions, actors, interests, decision-making arenas, values, norms, and cleavages, reflected in what we call a transformative approach to reforms (Christensen and Lægreid 2001). In a pluralistic society, where there are many criteria for success and different causal understandings, we have to go beyond the idea of a single organizational principle to understand how public organizations work and are reformed and look at them as composite organizations (Olsen 2007).
Our argument is that we face a dialectical development in which the old public administration has been combined with NPM and post-NPM features to create new hybrid organizational forms. The central component in the old Weberian bureaucratic model is sustainable and robust, but in the strong modern state it has been supplemented with neo-Weberian components such as performance management and user participation, responsiveness and professional management (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011) and also with new public governance initiatives (Osborne 2010).
Public administration faces increasingly complex, semi-autonomous and multifunctional organizational forms. The proliferation of these organizational forms in the public sector is one of the reasons why many countries have now launched initiatives to (p. 264) enhance coordination (Christensen and Lægreid 2007). In such initiatives, strengthening the link between individual public sector organizations and the larger objectives of government as well as with other public sector organizations seems crucial. On top of this, governance efforts to collaborate and coordinate with the private sector through partnerships, networks and participation are becoming more important for governmental decisions and policy implementation.
Post-NPM initiatives in different countries vary according to the starting points and national administrative cultures. But a common characteristic is that post-NPM reforms do not represent a break with the past, nor do they fundamentally transform existing organizational modes. Rather it is a question of rebalancing existing administrative systems without changing them in any fundamental way (Gregory 2006). These post-NPM reforms have not replaced the NPM reforms. Countries show complex combinations of organizational autonomy on some issues, increased centralized control and network-like coordination mechanisms alongside remnants of traditional hierarchical control (Bouckaert, Peters, and Verhoest 2010).
In the last decade there has been no dominant model (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011). NPM has been supplemented by post-NPM, including key concepts such as governance, networks and partnerships. What is more the big models of NPM and post-NPM overlap and are not mutually exclusive when it comes to specific reform tools. Both paradigms incorporate ideas from the other perspective, and both in practice and in the academic literature ideas from both models are combined (Klijn, Chapter 14, this volume).
Summing up, post-NPM reforms imply an increased focus on integration, horizontal coordination in line with a governance approach and enhanced political control (Pollitt 2003b; Lægreid and Verhoest 2010). The emergence of post-NPM reforms can be understood as a combination of external pressure from the technical and institutional environments, learning from NPM reforms and deliberate choices by political executives. An increasing number of scholars are arguing that these post-NPM trends are a reaction to the organizational proliferation and resulting fragmentation induced by NPM doctrines (Pollitt 2003a; Boston and Eichbaum 2005; Gregory 2006; Halligan 2006; Christensen and Lægreid 2007; Bouckaert et al. 2010; Lægreid and Verhoest 2010). This counter-reaction to organizational proliferation entailing increased central control and coordination has been observable in many countries (Bogdanor 2005; Bouckaert, Peters, and Verhoest 2010). External and internal pressures have questioned the effectiveness of a proliferated public sector. These include internationalization and Europeanization, security threats and crisis management needs as well as a call for more integrated service delivery and holistic policies, e-government and regulatory reform initiatives, and the loss of a common civil service culture.
However, it remains unclear what these coordination initiatives imply for public-sector organizations in terms of actual autonomy, control, coordination and performance. One take is that this is a new “one best way” orientation with a lot of symbolic flavor. Another is that such post-NPM initiatives have made a substantial contribution to a better organized public sector. The question is whether post-NPM and governance efforts (p. 265) will continue to be a strong reform movement or whether they will gradually fade away and be supplemented by new reform initiatives.
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(1.) Such efforts are typically referred to as joined-up government, whole-of-government, holistic government, collaborative governance, networked government, connected government, cross-cutting policy, horizontal management, partnerships and collaborative public management (Gregory 2003, Ansell, Chapter 35, this volume). Osborne (2006) labels this new reform trend New Public Governance focusing on networks, boundary spanning and relational contracts.