Department of Administration and Organization Theory

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New publication from Lægreid and Rykkja on Organizing for “wicked problems”

Per Lægreid and Lise H. Rykkja have published an article on “Organizing for “wicked problems” – analyzing coordination arrangements in two policy areas: Internal security and the welfare administration” in International Journal of Public Sector Management.


The purpose of this paper is to address the question of coordination by comparing two recent reforms schemes in Norway: internal security and the welfare administration. Both concern typically transboundary “wicked” policy problems where horizontal and vertical coordination is difficult. What kind of coordination problems did the reforms address, what kind of coordination solutions were provided, and what can explain the observed pattern?

The paper draws on organizational theory, distinguishing between a structural-instrumental and a cultural-institutional perspective. A comparative case study design is applied. The analysis combines insights from four large research projects.

Both cases represent broad government efforts to tackle “wicked” coordination problems when there is a mismatch between the problem structure and the organizational structure. In both cases, reorganization and structural changes resulted in hybrid and complex organizational arrangements. The welfare administration reform tried to solve a tension between ministerial responsibility and local self-government by introducing One-stop-shops. Within the area of internal security, coordination problems related to lacking ministerial capacity was tackled by introducing a formal principle of collaboration, a lead agency approach and network arrangements.

Effective coordination might ease wicked problems by enhancing the understanding of the problem and its underlying causes, increasing the probability of finding agreed-upon solutions and help implementation. Enhanced communication and strengthened mutual trust and commitment among actors might be a positive outcome. However, coordination implies dilemmas and trade-offs, and reformers often have to balance different interests.

The paper shows that different instruments of coordination are central for handling “wicked problems”.


The article can be found here.