Organizational learning in public administration in Poland. The issue of the politicization and the adminisrative decision-making process

Łukasz Widła - Domaradzki, Mateusz Robert Trochymiak

2017 W: European Administrative Space: Spreading Standards, Building Capacities / Ivan Kopric, Polonca Kovac; Bratysława: NISPAcee Press, s. 115-134

One of the oldest questions raised by public policy scientists is the problem of politicization of public administration. Since Max Weber there is a silent assumption in the thinking of public policy managers that public administration must be independent from politicians in the field of execution of public policies. The argument for that is that independent officials will execute political decision in the rational way. Independent in sense that they are chosen to do their job because of their competence, skills and knowledge and not because of their sympathy to the particular ideas and values of ruling parties. Since 19th century a lot of research has been done and it has been proven that in public policy process it is barely possible to separate the influence of politicians and the administrative decisions. One of the reasons for this is that politicians are always looking for ways to control administrative decisions because they are responsible in front of the voters and other public actors. On the other hand, in the democratic states there is no proof of full control of administration by the politicians and policy execution. In fact, administration many times has proven to be politic-proof and focused on the interests of the bureaucrats as a group, rather than political goals. One of the reasons being that in the 20th century administration as an executive apparatus of states became the world’s largest companies, with their own specific rules and qualified workers. Because of their professionalization and experience the officials as a group are hard to replace, which gives them power to exert their interests. In other words, the relation between politics and administration is a complex one, with many interests at play. Despite the common assumptions that too much politicization cannot be good for the public policy process, this phenomenon is still a black box. We don’t know exactly how political influence affects and changes administrative decision, and how deep does it go. In Poland there is a common opinion that administration is strongly dependent from the political parties, which is observable mainly first months after the elections when higher-officials and official managers are often replaced by those with political support of the winning party. Also, the politicians from cabinets in ministries often interfere in the process of administrative planning. We assume that those changes and interferences produce some level of uncertainty in administrative organizations, which makes the process of improving management and administrative structures more difficult. We want to know how does this process look like and what factors are correlated to it. In project “Ministries as learning organizations” (MUS) we observed this phenomenon in relation to changes in internal structures of administration and management. For this effect we used structural modelling techniques to better understand the relations between organizational learning and political adaptation. As we discovered, there is an optimal level of Political Adaptation specific for every type of Department, but in some cases different than maximum.