AuthorJunjan, Veronica
  1. Introduction

    Public sector reform (also discussed in the literature as public management reform) represents a constant feature of the change efforts undertaken by different government levels in almost all countries in the world in the last forty years (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011). Developed and developing countries alike have been swiped by the waves of different reform fashions, and attempted, on their turn, to import solutions from elsewhere or to develop their own way of addressing the (social) problems they were facing (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, 2005; Dolowitz and Marsh, 2000).

    With the benefit of the hindsight, we know that the results achieved so far vary. Different explanations are advanced in the literature and discussed in scientific conferences in this respect. These explanations include the lack of proper theoretical grounding for the design of reforms (Olsen, 2015), the perverse effects of measurements of results (Van Thiel and Leeuw, 2002; Moynihan et al., 2012), legacy effects (Meyer-Sahling and Yesilkagit, 2011) or deficiencies related to administrative capacity (Hintea, Sandor and Junjan, 2004; Junjan and Iancu, 2011). Within the research area dedicated to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public organizations, strategic planning occupies an important role.

    This paper aims to provide a summary of preliminary results of a literature review investigating the state of the art of available research concerning strategic planning in local governments in Europe. After describing the theoretical background of the inquiry, the methodology section outlines the choices made in selecting and analyzing the literature. The results are summarized in the fourth section, and the conclusion provides some insights as well as suggestions for the next steps.

  2. Theoretical background

    This paper starts with three suppositions. The first is that all the reforms that have been advanced during this time are designed, decided upon, executed and evaluated in organizations. Public and semipublic organizations, often within different collaborative arrangements and organizational forms, are carrying out reform decisions taken at political level. Public organizations are particularly vulnerable to turbulence coming from their environment (Rainey, 2014). O'Toole and Meier (1999) outlined in their strategic management model the tasks that the managers need to address in order to facilitate organization performance as: a) create stability, b) shield the organization from outside shocks, and c) use the opportunities provided by the environment. Strategic planning can and, when executed properly, does provide a solid guiding tool to support organizations in the process of dealing with change. The second supposition considers that there are different challenges faced by local level organizations in comparison to the ones faced at national level in carrying out reform efforts. Local context (socio-economic, political, types of relationships with the national level, local organization capacity) does play an important role for the success of the strategic planning effort. The third supposition refers to the timing of the reform and of the strategic planning effort. This refers to both the moment in the electoral cycle where strategic planning efforts develop (arguably most of the time at the beginning of the cycle, but one needs to take into account also the differences between the local and national electoral cycle). At macro-level, one needs to consider also the spirit of the time (that is, ideas, concepts, and positions on what is legitimate in terms of reforms and of public management, see also Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011, p. 33).

    In terms of the major paradigms of public sector reform, the last forty years have registered: a) New Public Management (NPM); b) Neo-Weberian State (NWS), and c) New Public Governance (NPG). These three paradigms addressed different parts of the balance of the public sector values: efficiency-effectiveness-legitimacy, and were predominant at different moments of time. New Public Management focused on efficiency and dominated during the 1989s and 1990s. Initially addressing issues concerning the improving of the performance of public organizations and importing management techniques and methods from private sector management, the NPM looked further into analyzing paradoxes and unexpected results associated to the public sector reforms (Hood and Peters, 2004). Neo-Weberian State (Drechsler, 2005; Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011) proposed an alternative to the perceived mechanistic import of managerial techniques from the private sector...

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