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Blind Spots, Biased Attention, and the Politics of Non-coordination

Part of the Executive Politics and Governance book series (EXPOLGOV)

Abstract

Bach and Wegrich introduce the key theme of the volume, which revolves around understanding how routine processes of decision-making in public sector organizations potentially lead to problematic outcomes in terms of coordination and problem solving. Instead of viewing those outcomes as the result of organizational or individual pathologies, the chapter traces the origins of non-coordination within and between organizations to intentionally rational organizational behaviour. Conceptualizing blind spots as part of a larger universe of biases in organizational attention, based on established theoretical notions of bounded rationality and institutionalized organizations, the authors show how different types of attention biases provide novel insights into seemingly irrational or uncoordinated administrative behaviour.

Keywords

  • Bounded rationality
  • Organization theory
  • Coordination
  • Selective perception
  • Bureaucratic politics
  • Public sector organizations

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The study by Hartlapp et al. (2013) uses the theoretical language of ‘bureaucratic politics ’ yet in essence tells a story of selective perception that is biased towards the problem views and solutions of the unit in charge and patterns of negative coordination as elaborated by Scharpf (1994).

  2. 2.

    Hood (1998) uses both ‘blind spots’ (p. 18) and ‘Achilles’ Heel or characteristic path of collapse’ (p. 27) when referring to those inherent weaknesses of different models of organization in public management .

  3. 3.

    Another mechanism discussed by Fligstein et al. (2017) is organizational conditions that promote ‘positive asymmetries ’, or the idea that actors in specific social settings bias information towards best-case scenarios.

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Bach, T., Wegrich, K. (2019). Blind Spots, Biased Attention, and the Politics of Non-coordination. In: Bach, T., Wegrich, K. (eds) The Blind Spots of Public Bureaucracy and the Politics of Non‐Coordination. Executive Politics and Governance. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-76672-0_1

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