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Über dieses Buch

How to better coordinate policies and public services across public sector organizations has been a major topic of public administration research for decades. However, few attempts have been made to connect these concerns with the growing body of research on biases and blind spots in decision-making. This book attempts to make that connection. It explores how day-to-day decision-making in public sector organizations is subject to different types of organizational attention biases that may lead to a variety of coordination problems in and between organizations, and sometimes also to major blunders and disasters. The contributions address those biases and their effects for various types of public organizations in different policy sectors and national contexts. In particular, it elaborates on blind spots, or ‘not seeing the not seeing’, and different forms of bureaucratic politics as theoretical explanations for seemingly irrational organizational behaviour. The book’s theoretical tools and empirical insights address conditions for effective coordination and problem-solving by public bureaucracies using an organizational perspective.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Conceptual Foundations

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Blind Spots, Biased Attention, and the Politics of Non-coordination

Abstract
Bach and Wegrich introduce the key theme of the volume, which revolves around understanding how routine processes of decision-making in public sector organizations potentially lead to problematic outcomes in terms of coordination and problem solving. Instead of viewing those outcomes as the result of organizational or individual pathologies, the chapter traces the origins of non-coordination within and between organizations to intentionally rational organizational behaviour. Conceptualizing blind spots as part of a larger universe of biases in organizational attention, based on established theoretical notions of bounded rationality and institutionalized organizations, the authors show how different types of attention biases provide novel insights into seemingly irrational or uncoordinated administrative behaviour.
Tobias Bach, Kai Wegrich

Chapter 2. Accounting for Blind Spots

Abstract
Public and private organizations are regularly criticized for being blindsided. Lodge explores what explains the existence of blind spots, and how blind spots differ from other kinds of phenomena that have been associated with unintended consequences. By defining the blind spot as ‘not seeing the not seeing’, the chapter highlights the centrality of the blind spot to organizational life. The chapter develops its argument by first distinguishing the blind spot from other types of unintended consequences, pointing to varieties of ways in which blind spots emerge, before discussing recipes to mitigate the effects of blind spots. Lodge argues that blind spots are intrinsic in any form of organizing and that therefore all organizational life is inherently shaped by blind spots.
Martin Lodge

Chapter 3. Blind Spots: Organizational and Institutional Biases in Intra- and Inter-organizational Contexts

Abstract
Drawing on organization theory, Christensen discusses how blind spots are related to internal ‘organization is mobilization of bias’ factors and how different mechanisms sustain or undermine those factors. Increasing complexity and hybridity may also lead to blind spots. However, the chapter shows that blind spots are also related to inter-organizational features and that different mechanisms may sustain or undermine them. The dynamics between cultural path dependency and attempts of modern reform efforts are also relevant. Adding to this, Christensen argues that a focus on external complexity and hybridity and the use of myths and symbols (reputation management) may potentially both support and modify blind spots.
Tom Christensen

Blind Spots and Attention Bias

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. Professional Integrity and Leadership in Public Administration

Abstract
Seibel addresses the question of what makes public officials neglect professional standards when facing conflictive decision-making. The chapter explores the failure of German police authorities to investigate the nature of a series of killings committed in the early 2000s. Using a parliamentary committee report, the chapter re-analyses a key episode of decision-making when an attempt to streamline the organization and management of relevant police authorities and to re-evaluate the investigation’s core hypotheses failed to materialize. In doing so, Seibel reveals a tension between the logic of professional integrity or ‘goal attainment’ and the logic of ‘system maintenance’, also emphasizing the necessity to re-consider the notion of professional integrity and its protection through considerate leadership.
Wolfgang Seibel

Chapter 5. The Alarms That Were Sent, but Never Received: Attention Bias in a Novel Setting

Abstract
In an analysis of the Norwegian police’s response to two terrorist attacks in 2011, Renå examines the reasons behind and implications of the failure of the police’s internal alarm system to work. The system was email based with limited functionality and had been given hardly any attention pre-2011. The chapter argues the alarm system was a de facto blind spot. Renå shows that this was a result of locally rational behaviours, because (i) crisis coordination in the police was traditionally a one-to-one interaction at the local level, (ii) there was no disruptive incident that put swift crisis coordination on the political agenda, and (iii) the political steering of the police was characterized by detailed and biased performance management—biased towards issues other than crisis preparedness.
Helge Renå

Bureaucratic Politics: Reputation, Blame, and Turf

Frontmatter

Chapter 6. Why Cooperation Between Agencies is (Sometimes) Possible: Turf Protection as Enabler of Regulatory Cooperation in the European Union

Abstract
The literature on bureaucratic cooperation is replete with examples of deficiency and failure, while conventional wisdom holds that cooperation is bound to fail because bureaucratic organizations jealously guard their turf. Heims questions the notion that turf protection dynamics are bound to result in non-cooperation and, by drawing on examples of regulatory cooperation in the European Union, shows that turf protection dynamics can enable, as well as obstruct, cooperation. On this basis, the chapter develops a typology of the politics of (non-)cooperation by outlining four different cooperation dynamics and associated cooperation outcomes. This matrix portrays cooperation outcomes as a function of the overlap of organizations’ resources and core missions, describing how turf protection dynamics can enable cooperation and coordination when missions overlap and resources are complementary.
Eva Heims

Chapter 7. Blame, Reputation, and Organizational Responses to a Politicized Climate

Abstract
Hinterleitner and Sager conceptualize how public sector organizations (PSOs) react to elite polarization, which is as an increasingly common phenomenon in Western democracies. For politicians operating under polarized conditions, PSOs are a primary blame-deflection target. Since blame from politicians presents a threat to the reputation of PSOs, they react to these threats. While research has made progress in examining specific responses to reputational threats, the authors argue that an overarching categorization of responses is missing. The chapter adapts the concept of anticipatory blame avoidance to the decision-making of PSOs, using it as an umbrella concept to categorize and systematize the reactions of PSOs. PSOs that prioritize crafting responses to reputational threats may neglect tasks and duties potentially decisive for effective and problem-oriented public service delivery.
Markus Hinterleitner, Fritz Sager

Chapter 8. Passing the Buck? How Risk Behaviours Shape Collaborative Innovation

Abstract
Timeus analyses how public managers’ risk perceptions shape their willingness to pursue collaborative innovation. Through qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with public managers in Barcelona municipality, Timeus shows how they avoided collaboration in the design stage of innovation to limit the risk of losing control and authority over the innovation process. This risk-avoiding behaviour motivated public managers to limit collaboration to the implementation stages of innovation, mainly to transfer operational and financial risks to the private sector. Timeus’ analysis shows that public managers’ risk perceptions limit their willingness to collaborate precisely when collaboration can most benefit the innovation process: in the design stage. This helps explain why public managers often overlook or avoid opportunities to engage other actors in solving complex problems.
Krista Timeus

Chapter 9. Media and Bureaucratic Reputation: Exploring Media Biases in the Coverage of Public Agencies

Abstract
How agencies perceive, process, and prioritize multiple (potentially conflicting) audiences’ expectations of components of their reputations is a core interest of bureaucratic reputation theorists. Agencies must choose which dimension(s) to stress towards specific audiences, a process referred to as ‘prioritizing’. Boon, Salomonsen, Verhoest, and Pedersen challenge a central argument of contemporary bureaucratic reputation theory, namely that prioritizing assumes government agencies to be rational, politically conscious organizations with incentives to avoid reputational damages and political sanctions. The chapter tests the claim that agency behaviour is (at least to some extent) driven by the distinctive logic of the media rather than by assessments of the relative strength of different dimensions of an agency’s reputation that are subjected to threats, or by the nature of the agency’s task.
Jan Boon, Heidi Houlberg Salomonsen, Koen Verhoest, Mette Østergaard Pedersen

Achilles’ Heels and Selective Perception

Frontmatter

Chapter 10. Central Banks and Banking Regulation: Historical Legacies and Institutional Challenges

Abstract
Jordana and Rosas explore the different institutional models for the regulation of banks and financial services that exist worldwide. They find, on the one hand, many countries in which central banks have significant responsibilities for the regulation of the banking system, but also, on the other hand, countries where banking regulation is completely separated from the central bank, remaining in the hands of the executive or being delegated to an independent agency without subordination to the central bank. The chapter identifies the distribution of institutional regulatory models around the world, the possibility of path dependence in the choice of these models, and the relationship between these institutional models and the objectives of price stability and bank stability in different economies.
Jacint Jordana, Guillermo Rosas

Chapter 11. Why Do Bureaucrats Consider Public Consultation Statements (or Not)? Information Processing in Public Organizations

Abstract
Fink and Ruffing discuss a public participation procedure recently introduced in Germany and demonstrate that public participation has almost no effect on bureaucratic decision-making. Building on exchange theory and reputation theory, the chapter shows that public organizations include only those consultation statements (with those pieces of information) needed for organizational survival into their decisions. This attention-directing logic allows public organizations to act on consultation statements. Without internal heuristics that structure the processing of statements, organizations would be paralysed by the number and ambiguity of statements. On the downside, this attention-directing logic creates blind spots. Thus, the authors argue, selective perception is simultaneously necessary to ensure that organizations can process information at all, and dangerous as it may preclude the processing of new and vital information.
Simon Fink, Eva Ruffing

Implications

Frontmatter

Chapter 12. How to Deal with the Blind Spots of Public Bureaucracies

Abstract
This concluding chapter addresses two ‘so what?’ questions raised throughout the volume. First, if attention biases are a pertinent factor in organizational life in political contexts, what can be done about them? Bach and Wegrich discuss three public sector reform approaches (joined-up government, impact assessment, and behavioural insights) in terms of how, and how successfully, they address different attention biases. Second, how can research on organizational attention biases take the role of institutional context systematically into account and explore particular different institutions’ vulnerabilities to organizational attention biases? Two ideal-type institutional modes of coordination—hierarchical and negotiated coordination—are discussed in terms of their susceptibility to attention biases. Taken together, the discussion of these two questions outlines an agenda for future research the volume seeks to stimulate.
Tobias Bach, Kai Wegrich

Backmatter

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