The 2017 MLD Area Newsletter is now available. Catch up now on the latest work from MLD Area faculty and read our feature on the newly launched Social Innovation and Change Initiative.
(Click on the front page below to view the whole newsletter)
About Dealing with Dysfunction
How can we intervene in the systemic bureaucratic dysfunction that beleaguers the public sector? De Jong examines the roots of this dysfunction and presents a novel approach to solving it. Drawing from academic literature on bureaucracy and problem solving in the public sector, and the clinical work of the Kafka Brigade — a social enterprise based in the Netherlands dedicated to diagnosing and remedying bureaucratic dysfunction in practice, this study reveals the shortcomings of conventional approaches to bureaucratic reform. The usual methods have failed to diagnose problems, distinguish symptoms, or identify root causes in a comprehensive or satisfactory way. They have also failed to engage clients, professionals, and midlevel managers in understanding and addressing the dysfunction that plagues them. This book offers conceptual frameworks, theoretical insights, and practical lessons for dealing with the problem. It sets a course for rigorous public problem solving to create governments that can be more effective, efficient, equitable, and responsive to social concerns.
De Jong argues that successfully remedying bureaucratic dysfunction depends on employing diagnostics capable of distinguishing and dissecting various kinds of dysfunction. The “Anna Karenina principle” applies here: all well-functioning bureaucracies are alike; every dysfunctional bureaucracy is dysfunctional in its own way. The author also asserts that the worst dysfunction occurs when multiple organizations share responsibility for a problem, but no single organization is primarily responsible for solving it. This points to a need for creating and reinforcing distributed problem-solving capacity focused on deep (cross-)organizational learning and revised accountability structures. Our best approach to dealing with dysfunction may therefore not be top-down regulatory reform, but rather relentless bottom-up and cross-boundary leadership and innovation. Using fourteen clinical cases of bureaucratic dysfunction investigated by the Kafka Brigade, the author demonstrates how a proper process for identifying, defining, diagnosing, and remedying the problem can produce better outcomes.
On behalf of the recently launched Social Innovation and Change Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School, we invite you to join an interactive conversation on the new book:
Innovation and Scaling for Impact: A conversation with authors Johanna Mair and Christian Seelos
Thursday, March 30, 4:30 – 5:30PM
Darman Room, Taubman Building, HKS
Join Johanna Mair and Christian Seelos, directors at the Social Innovation and Change Initiative at HKS, for an interactive conversation on their new book, Innovation and Scaling for Impact: How Effective Social Enterprises Do It. RSVP here.
Learn more about the Social Innovation and Change Initiative (SICI ; pronounced “sigh-see”) and see listing of upcoming seminars at: http://sici-hks.org/
Leaders today—whether in corporations or associations, nonprofits or nations—face massive, messy, multidimensional problems. No one person or group can possibly solve them—they require the broadest possible cooperation. However, in his recent book Leadership for a Fractured World (2015, Berrett-Koehler Publishers), HKS MLD Area scholar Dean Williams argues that our leadership models are still essentially tribal: individuals with formal authority leading in the interest of their own group. Williams goes on to outline an approach that enables leaders to transcend internal and external boundaries and help people to collaborate, even people over whom they technically have no power.
Drawing on what he’s learned from years of working in countries and organizations around the world, Williams shows leaders how to approach the delicate and creative work of boundary spanning, whether those boundaries are cultural, organizational, political, geographic, religious, or structural. Sometimes leaders themselves have to be the ones who cross the boundaries between groups. Other times, a leader’s job is to build relational bridges between divided groups or even to completely break down the boundaries that block collaborative problem solving. By thinking about power and authority in a different way, leaders will become genuine change agents, able to heal wounds, resolve conflicts, and bring a fractured world together.
The book features a forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.