Front Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xiv

How can we deal effectively with bureaucratic dysfunction? This book examines the problem and develops 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 dedicated to diagnosing and remedying bureaucratic dysfunction in practice, this study reveals the shortcomings of conventional approaches to bureaucratic dysfunction. The usual methods have failed to diagnose problems, distinguish symptoms, or identify root causes in a comprehensive or satisfactory way. They have also...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-16

In Terry Gilliam’s movie Brazil (1985), a low-level civil servant is confronted with a problem that is not being solved through the regular business pro cesses of his organization. The protagonist, Sam Lowry, works at the Ministry of Information, which is responsible for processing information requests from other government agencies, archiving government documents, and keeping citizen records. The problem that Lowry tries diligently to solve is the immediate result of a technical failure of a government printer brought about by a literal bug: an insect falls into the printer at the moment that the printer is processing arrest warrants. The insect causes a stain on a form, changing “Mr. Tuttle” into “Mr. Buttle” by smearing the...

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Foundational Concepts

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pp. 17-51

While bureaucratic dysfunction is a fascinating phenomenon in its own right, it is not my main concern. The larger issue at stake is the loss of value, both to the individual and to the public at large. As discussed in the previous chapter, it is easy to focus on one set of symptoms or another but quite challenging and even disorienting to diagnose the problem thoroughly, systematically, and comprehensively. For that, we need a strong set of concepts to serve as a foundation on which to build an understanding of the general problem in its various manifestations and to help describe and examine the problem in specific, concrete situations. Developing this set of concepts is the purpose of this chapter....

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Theories of Bureaucratic Dysfunction

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pp. 52-104

Scholars and practitioners alike—from various eras, countries, an disciplinary fields and with very different perspectives and motivations—have written much about the phenomenon of bureaucratic dysfunction.1 This has resulted in a wealth of descriptions, distinctions, interpretations, and explanations. It also has resulted in an extremely fragmented field of study.sup>2 In this chapter, I present an overview of the most relevant literature on the subject. My goal is not to attempt to reconcile conceptual approaches or to synthesize particular theories; that would be too much of a stretch, given the current...

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Inquiry and Action: The Kafka Brigade Method

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pp. 105-133

This chapter discusses the rationale for the methodological choices that shaped the research on bureaucratic dysfunction conducted by myself and the Kafka Brigade. The goal of this chapter is to explain these choices. It is important in this regard to note that the study reported here incorporated three kinds of research: first, a conceptual exploration, based on an examination of the problem from a bureaucratic theory and public value perspective; second, a theoretical exploration of bureaucratic dysfunction, based on study of the existing literature; and third, an empirical exploration, based on an ongoing evaluation of action research in practice. These three kinds...

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Kafka Cases I: The Pilot Phase

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pp. 134-159

In this chapter and the next, I present fourteen cases of bureaucratic dysfunction as experienced by public sector clients. The cases are presented clinically, as if they were medical cases. I first describe the “pathology,” the combination of symptoms, and then the process of identifying, defining, diagnosing, and remedying the problem (some-times referred to as IDDR). In this chapter the first four cases taken on by the Kafka Brigade are detailed. Two cases concerned entrepreneurs in the food sector, one was about school dropouts, and one had to do with licensing a communal-garden barn. These first four cases constituted the pilot phase, during which the Kafka Brigade was figuring out how to properly research a case and facilitate the process of finding a solution. The lessons learned in this phase informed the...

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Kafka Cases II: The Consolidation Phase

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pp. 160-226

This chapter presents the results of the second phase of action research on bureaucratic dysfunction by the Kafka Brigade. The research method was much more structured, systematic, and consistent in its design and application in this phase than in the pilot phase. Whereas the pilot phase encompassed a variety of heterogeneous episodes in which each episode built on and improved on the previous episode, the consolidation phase consisted of ten case studies (numbers 5 to 14) that were conducted in an almost identical manner....

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Emerging Issues and Lessons

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pp. 227-244

This chapter discusses the results of the Kafka Brigade’s exploration using the frameworks developed in the earlier chapters. It attempts to capture the most salient lessons from the action research project and illuminate them with insights from the conceptual and theoretical work. In bringing together the lessons from these three kinds of research, we can begin to understand how we might deal effectively with bureaucratic dysfunction. In chapter 2 I identified complex cases of red tape as potential symptoms of under lying bureaucratic dysfunction. In chapter 3 I reviewed the literature to further explore the meaning and root causes of bureaucratic dysfunction. To get a sense of how bureaucratic dysfunction manifests in practice, I then examined fourteen different cases, organizing the lessons of each case through the typologies and analytical frameworks that emerged from our conceptual and theoretical explorations....

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Conclusions

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pp. 245-268

The goal from the start of the Kafka Brigade’s efforts has been to develop actionable ideas to reclaim some of the value that bureaucratic dysfunction strips away. In this book, I have used both bureaucratic theory and public value theory to explore the problem. Initially bureaucratic dysfunction was understood in terms of its consequences: a loss of value to the individual public sector client as well as the public at large. The process of dealing with bureaucratic dysfunction that the Kafka Brigade developed through action research may help reclaim some of the lost value. Analyzing and distilling lessons from this work has produced a set of principles that can guide remedial action and yield insights into the conditions under which they can be most effective....

References

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pp. 269-282

Index

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pp. 283-290

Back Cover

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