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Understanding street-level bureaucracy$
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Peter Hupe, Peter Hupe, Michael Hill, and Aurèlien Buffat

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781447313267

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447313267.001.0001

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Bureaucratic, market or professional control? A theory on the relation between street-level task characteristics and the feasibility of control mechanisms

Bureaucratic, market or professional control? A theory on the relation between street-level task characteristics and the feasibility of control mechanisms

Chapter:
(p.205) Twelve Bureaucratic, market or professional control? A theory on the relation between street-level task characteristics and the feasibility of control mechanisms
Source:
Understanding street-level bureaucracy
Author(s):

Duco Bannink

Frédérique Six

Eelco van Wijk

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447313267.003.0012

Street-level bureaucrats do their work in different contexts and these contexts pose different control challenges. This study distinguishes two context variables: complexity and ambiguity. When ambiguity and complexity are simultaneously high, managers face a double control challenge - achieving both the expertise to address high complexity and the alignment to overcome high ambiguity. Traditional control mechanisms, enforcement, incentives or competence control, fall short. Using evidence from a wide cross-section of street-level tasks (42 cases), this study provides support for the claim that the double control challenge in contexts of simultaneously high complexity and high ambiguity is important in street-level bureaucracies and that it is difficult to devise a response. Usually one of the challenges is simply ignored. Where a response to both control challenges is devised simultaneously, tensions occur because some of the mechanisms conflict with each other. We found very few organisations that have found appropriate solutions.

Keywords:   control, complexity, ambiguity, double control challenge

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