Martha S.

Feldman University of California, Irvine

Managing the Organization of the Future Part III: Public

Organizations of the Future

more collaborative, the boundaries will be he public organization of thebe morewill be more porous, and there will future connecting to the public as well as to other jurisdictions and to the private and nonprofit sectors. Ultimately, the organization of the future will be primarily concerned with the process of acting, and structures will be seen as interrelated with actions rather than as independent of actions. We are already starting to see the emergence of the organization of the future. This emergence is spurred by recognition of the dynamic, complex, and interdependent nature of the problems that organizations deal with. Silos and stovepipes are increasingly seen as causing more harm than good. There is a corresponding increase in scholarship about collaboration, collaborative governance, inclusive management, partnerships, projects, and stakeholders (see, e.g., Ansell and Gash 2008; Bryson 2004; Crosby and Bryson 2005; Denhardt and Denhardt 2000; Feldman and Khademian 2000, 2007; Hajer and Wagenaar 2003; Innes and Booher 2003; Milward and Provan 2000; O'Leary and Bingham 2009; O'Leary, Gerard, and Bingham 2006; Provan and Kenis 2008; Roberts 2004). The challenge for practitioners operating in the future and for scholars in studying and providing ways for practitioners to operate in the future is to move from a focus on static entities to an understanding of the relationship between dynamic processes and static entities, from a focus on organization to a focus on the interaction between or-

potential is missed. Collaboration can create capacity for addressing not only the current problem but also those that follow. New ways of understanding collaboration can help us achieve these potentials. The need for collaboration has been established. What practitioners and scholars both struggle with is the ability to make collaboration productive (Bardach 1998; Feldman, Khademian, and Quick 2009; Moore 1995). At every level, collaboration is often met with frustration. Efforts to include the public, efforts to collaborate across organizational and jurisdictional units, and efforts to partner with the private or nonprofit sector often take place only as a last resort. Some refer to this as "failing into collaboration" (Ansell and Gash 2008; Roberts 2004), in part because these efforts appear to be so difficult. Public managers and frontline practitioners must do the work; scholars of organization theory and public management need to help.

Martha S. Feldman Isthe Johnson Chair ManageGovernance and Public for Civic meet and a professor of planning, policy science. management and design, political of California, and sociology at the University She Irvine. is a senior editor for Organlka. and book Sc•enco review editor for the don InternationalPublicManagement Jomnal. research examines organizational Her including manageroutines and practicesm meet practices for collaborative governance inpublic organizations. E-mail:

ganization and organizing. This is essential to effective collaboration. Collaboration as a process
cannot be for its own sake, and if it is only a way to accomplish

How can scholars help? In the second half of this essay, I introduce a theoretical approach that provides a way of thinking about the interactions between process and outcome. This approach to research has the potential to provide explanations that can generalize from one context to another without assuming that the same action will work in different contexts (Feldman and The challenge for practitioners Orlikowski, forthcoming). Beoperating in the future and ing able to replicate a successful for scholars in studying and outcome is complex because providing ways for practitioners contexts change over time and from organization to organizato operate in the future is to tion. By explaining processes on static move from a focus and their relation to outcomes, entities to an understanding scholars can legitimate and creof the relationship between ate a space for experimentation dynamic processes and that enables people to tailor practices for specific contexts. static entities, from a focus

on organization to a focus on the interaction between organization and organizing.

the present task, much of the

Take, for instance, the way in which organizations prepare to collaborate during crises (Bigley Managing the Organization of the Future S159

and Roberts 2001; Kristensen, Kyng, and Palen 2006). In some organizations, this practice is a vibrant learning opportunity; in others, it is a rote operation. What do we know about what makes the difference? While it is certainly important to assess such preparation in terms of speed, the number of mistakes made, and similar outcome measures, unless people in each context use the process as a way to learn, doing better the next time is just a matter of chance. In organization theory and public management, an entity focus has predominated for many years. This focus has been productive. We have learned much about the power of structures and the importance of the forms of organization. The insights of Taylor (1911), Gulick and Urwick (1937), Lawrence and Lorsch (1967), Thompson (1967), and many others continue to be relevant. Scholars have built on these insights to explore the influence of structures on organizational processes. Studies of decision-making processes provide an excellent example. Organizational structures and the structures of policy domains, eminent scholars have argued, influence the nature of rationality in decision making (Cohen, March, and Olsen 1972; Lindblom 1959; March and Simon 1958; Simon 1997).

and Jackson 2007). Foster care is sometimes the appropriate outcome of family group decision making, but the inability to value the dynamic relationship between the collaborative actions taken and the outcomes achieved and the resulting shift in focus from family and community engagement to reducing days in foster care made it difficult to see that outcome as appropriate. There is an alternative. Theories of practice allow scholars and practitioners to understand the importance of action in creating and re-creating structures as well as the importance of structures in constraining and enabling actions. These theories, articulated by scholars of the social sciences and philosophy (Bourdieu 1977, 1990; Giddens 1976, 1979, 1984; Latour 1986, 2005; Lave 1988; Ortner 1984, 1989; Schatzki 2001), provide new insight into the potential for collaboration in organizations and policy domains. They allow us to rethink fundamental concepts such as agency, structure, power, objectivity, and subjectivity in ways that make it possible to explore the processes of adjustment that produce stable patterns. These theories enable the researcher and practitioner to focus on the continuous nature of the dynamics intrinsic to organizing, and thus to create new ways of engaging public potential to address public problems.

As with any focus, however, the focus on entities and structures is partial and limiting. While action and processes have been considered, the emphasis on the importance of structures has supported In this short essay, it is only possible to provide the briefest of introa division between actions and structures that is reflected in a ductions to practice theory and its potential for understanding the dichotomization of processes and outcomes. Studies often identify role of organizing in addressing public problems.1 In the following, structures as independent variables and processes as dependent variI provide a brief example and pointers to some of the excellent reables. Studies of the relationship between structures and outcomes search already published and under way. I apologize for any research often consider processes as, at best, the mysterious black box that that I have omitted from this list. My effort is to provide pointers in connects the two. Take, for instance, the various box and arrow a variety of directions rather than to be exhaustive. The references figures that are so often found in scholarly articles. The boxes are listed will lead to many others. always labeled, but the arrows are often unadorned, as if they are either unimportant or speak for themselves. We tend not to spend From the perspective of practice theory, collaboration creates the time theorizing the arrows or understanding the many different community that enacts the task as well as the product of the task ways in which entities can be connected, while spending a great deal (Feldman and Khademian 2008; Feldman and Quick 2009). This of time theorizing and measuring the boxes. recursive relationship means that community This bifurcated approach to structures and building and task accomplishment (or process [A] recursive relationship means outcomes, on the one hand, and processes and outcome) are not in a trade-off relationthat community building and or actions, on the other, can result in a belief ship. If you sacrifice one, you also impair the task accomplishment (or process that they exist independent of one another. other. This understanding of the relationship and outcome) are not in a tradeThe upshot is overestimating the stability of has been captured in the 50/50 rule used in a structures and outcomes and underestimating off relationship. If you sacrifice Midwestern city (Quick and Feldman 2009). the contribution of action or processes. one, you also impair the other. According to this rule, the success of the project is assessed equally on the quality of the While the division of dependent and indepenprocess and the quality of the outcome. Moredent variables may make research more tractable, seeing the actions over, the process is assessed by whether it increased the capacity of that people take as being constrained and enabled by structures but the community to solve future problems. not constitutive of them is problematic for understanding the nature of coordination across organizational, jurisdictional, sectoral, temPractice theories and the recursive relationship between action and poral, and other "boundaries." To illustrate, consider a child welfare structures have been engaged by scholars in organization theory practice called family group decision making. The focus of this prac- (Carlile 2002, 2004; Czarniawska 2004; Feldman 2000, 2004; tice is a plan for protecting and caring for an abused or neglected Jarzabkowski 2005; Wenger 1998; Nicolini, Gherardi, and Yanow child that is developed through a meeting of the child's extended 2003; Orlikowski 2000, 2002; Tsoukas and Chia 2002), planning family. The plan often reduces the number of days in foster care. (Forester 1999; Healey 1997; Sch6n 1983; Schweitzer, Howard, Research on the implementation of this practice showed that as the and Doran 2008), and public management (Bryson, Crosby, and reduction emerged, this outcome was often mistaken for the goal, Bryson 2009; Crampton 2001; Czarniawska 2002; Feldman and and specific instances of family group decision making were judged Khademian 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008; Feldman and Quick 2009; by whether they had reduced days in foster care rather than how the Kenney 2007; Quick and Feldman 2009; Sandfort 2000, 2003, process had been used to serve the interests of the child (Crampton 2010; Thacher 2001, 2009; Yanow 1996). These scholars show us
S160 Public Administration Review * December 2010 * Special Issue

the role of action in producing and reproducing constructs that have been seen as entities, such as community (Quick and Feldman 2009), knowledge (Carlile 2002, 2004; Nicolini, Gherardi, and Yanow 2003; Orlikowski 2002), policy (Crampton 2001; Yanow 1996), strategy (Jarzabkowski 2005), and technology (Orlikowski 2000). They show us ways to understand the interrelated nature, for instance, of community, action, and policy (Czarniawska 2004; Jarzabkowski 2005; Quick and Feldman 2009; Yanow 1996), or of technologies, learning, and knowing (Brown and Duguid 1991; Carlile 2002, 2004; Gherardi 2006; Kenney 2007; Lave and Wenger 1991; Orlikowski 2000, 2002), that can help us enact collaborative and inclusive organizing. Many significant research questions arise from a practice theory perspective. Here, I will just mention three broad areas. 1. Accountability: The family group decision making example illustrates a familiar problem-accounting for outcomes alone often distorts what we want to achieve. How can we develop ways of accounting not only for what was accomplished, but also for the attention to the future consequences of how it was accomplished? 2. Empowerment: Effective collaborations often depend on community and/or employee empowerment. Yet by theorizing power asymmetries as characteristics of people and groups or as associated with stable structures of society rather than as the consequences of our actions, we tend to theorize empowerment as the giving away of power and limit the likelihood of people taking these actions. Focusing on the dynamics of power would enable scholars and practitioners to reconceptualize empowerment as productive rather than redistributive, suggesting new possibilities for action. 3. Leadership:Viewed through a practice theory lens, leadership is defined as the practices that enable communities to move forward rather than as a feature of an individual (Quick 2010). How communities create, modify, and engage such practices is a significant field of future research.

I am grateful for the helpful comments of Natalie Baker, David
Crampton, Rosemary O'Leary, Katie Pine, Kathy Quick, Jodi Sandfort, and David Van Slyke.

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