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Projects that aid the development of trust-based governance of public authorities (2018:12)

Statskontoret (The Swedish Agency for Public Management) has been tasked by the Government to carry out a survey of projects that promote the development of ideas and ways of working in public authorities and that can aid the development of trust-based governance. The assignment also includes highlighting good examples that create an effective administration that is within the rule of law and ensures greater knowledge-building in our public institutions.

We have based our study on the results of a questionnaire aimed at public authorities and on case studies of idea-to-implementation development projects in six authorities.

The authorities run a large number of projects

Over half of these authorities are running idea-to-implementation development projects specifically intended to aid the development of more trust-based governance. The authorities running these projects are found in all areas of administration but above all in the administrative authorities and in universities and colleges. Idea-to-implementation development projects are rather less common in the judiciary.

Large authorities run projects to a greater extent than do small authorities. There is also a larger proportion of authorities in the healthcare, environment and trade and industry sectors that run projects compared to authorities in other sectors. The sector in which idea-to-implementation development projects are least common is defence.

The projects are often aimed at streamlining activities and making use of employee skills

A large proportion of the idea-to-implementation development projects have been initiated for a number of different purposes. The most common of these is for that the projects streamline the activities of the authorities. Other common ones are that the authorities make greater use of employee skills and experiences and to cut down on unnecessary administration.

Authorities that are aware of the reform for trust-based governance are running more idea-to-implementation development projects

A large proportion of the authorities are aware of the Government’s reform to ensure trust-based governance. Certain authorities are running idea-to-implementation development projects to a greater extent than other authorities specifically so as to develop trust-based governance.  These authorities are the ones that state that they are well aware of the reform or can demonstrate that the ongoing development of their activities is characterised by trust.

Good examples of idea-to-implementation development projects

On the basis of our survey we have selected and analysed six good examples of how authorities can help bring about greater trust-based governance. These projects have the primary aim of streamlining the activities of the authorities in question. The projects have been run on a small scale in these authorities, and each project has involved a limited number of people.

Different methods for aiding trust-based governance

The projects have sought in different ways to aid greater trust-based governance. These have been primarily meant

  • refining the manner of governance to give the employees greater room for manoeuvre
  • developing team-based methods of working to make use of employee skills
  • cutting down on unnecessary administration to free up more time for core activities and hands-on management
  • developing an overall view of procedures to cut down on “chasing targets”
  • allowing management to provide support but not direct the activities down to the last detail
  • involving employees in implementing the projects.

Important prerequisites

The case studies show that there are important prerequisites for ensuring the projects will be successful. In order to run an idea-to-implementation development project that has real substance,

  • the projects should have been initiated on the basis of clearly identified needs
  • the projects should have clear-cut goals
  • an external party should assist by giving an outsider perspective
  • it should be possible to set aside time for working on the project
  • the authority’s management should demonstrate their awareness that producing results can take time
  • the project group should have a strong mandate and the confidence of the authority’s management.

In order to run a project that will aid the development of more trust-based governance, the authorities need to

  • regard trust as a means rather than an end in itself
  • guarantee that a relationship of trust already exists between employees and managers before the start of the project.

Possible risks

Our case studies also show that there are risks associated with the efforts of these projects to aid the development of more trust-based governance.

Managers may not take more of a back seat in their role as managers

Less detailed regulations and greater room for manoeuvre mean that managers need to be more hands-on. In that way they can be of additional support for employees when the employees need it.

Employees may miss having detailed guidelines to rely on

Employees need to feel they have sufficient skills to exercise their new responsibilities. That will give them the assurance to manage their greater room for manoeuvre.

Don’t forget employees when creating follow-up procedures

Our case studies show that the projects often mean that while employees create new methods of working they are seldom allowed to participate in shaping the follow-up of results.