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The Transition from the Bureaucratic Paradigm to a Public Management Culture

Michel Crozier

This document studies the problems posed by the transition from a bureaucratic paradigm to a public management culture. The need to formulate an appropriate strategy for change is proposed, taking into consideration the priorities of acquiring knowledge, preparing for decision-making, evaluating results and training human resources.

The greater volume of both public and private administrative activity, together with a change in power relations in contemporary society, have led to a need for a new form of management culture to replace the bureaucratic paradigm. The main problem that will be faced during the transition will be how to overcome existing contradictions between developing capacities for managing the increasing complexity of the task and the lack of available resources for fulfilling the purpose.

Under these conditions, the transition will be a long and painful process, which will require a change of not only prevailing administrative techniques, but also of the cultural system as a whole. This task is more easily carried out in the private sector, where relations between action and results are more forthright; in the public sector, other factors must be taken into account.

The formulation of an appropriate strategy for change is an essential prerequisite if the transition to a new management culture in the public sector is to succeed. Knowledge will be a key element in transforming the administrative system. Consequently, investment in the knowledge of human systems is vital for designing the required strategy for change.

In addition to investment in knowledge, efforts should be guided along three basic lines: preparing decision-making, evaluating results and training institutional leaders and operators. The decision-making process related to administrative reform can no longer remain in the hands of amateurs; it must be professionalised in order to ensure its efficiency and optimise the outcome.

An evaluation of the results of decision-making is one of the most critical instruments available for promoting change from a bureaucratic paradigm to a public management culture. It is highly adequate as a way of creating awareness, among those involved, of the pertinence and validity of the changes underway, leading them to assume more active positions in favor of change.

Training contributes significantly to leading people to adopt cultural change. Training programmes should be situation-specific so as to train public officials and leaders to solve problems in their specific environments. The paper concludes by pointing out the need for convergence between an appropriate strategy, possession of knowledge on given problems and the presence of individuals trained to solve them.

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