From hierarchies to networks: changes in organisation of public service delivery

Richard Kokeš


Government services slowly enter new and promising era. The traditional way of organising public sector service delivery in western democracies is hierarchical. Hierarchical organisation means functional specialisation. Top layers of the hierarchy specify and specialise different parts of the hierarchy in the bottom to provide rather specific functions – services. Service provision is then fragmented. Citizen in need of long-term help often ends up using many services with low cooperation between them. These conditions lead to high costs and low quality. We currently can identify in Europe promising cases of institutions which are organised as network organisations and sometimes even changed their structures from hierarchal type with great success. In this paper, we discuss what drives hierarchical organisation ineffectiveness when supporting people suffering with complex problems and what are some of the crucial conditions to organise successful network based integrated services. There are four principles discussed that are common to successful network organisations which are very different from the principles of hierarchically organised institutions – holistic service provision, flat organisation structure, high trust and capability measurement. These principles are shown on three cases - Jeugdbescherming Regio Amsterdam (child protection, Netherlands), Karolinska University Hospital (Sweden) and Buurtzorg (health and social services, Netherlands). 

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