OECD Journal on Budgeting

The OECD journal on public sector budgeting, published three times per year. It draws on the best of the recent work of the OECD Working Party of Senior Budget Officials (SBO), as well as special contributions from finance ministries, and makes it available to a wider community in an accessible format. The journal provides insight on leading-edge institutional arrangements, systems and instruments for the allocation and management of resources in the public sector. Now published as a part of the OECD Journal subscription package.

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Can Public Sector Organisations Learn?

In recent years, considerable attention has been focused on the importance of managing information in organisations, as well as the challenges for organisations to make use of and adapt from it. Organisationsare expected to value information, to be able to learn from the past and to adapt to changing circumstances. While much of the literature has focused on  private sector organisations, public sector organisations and indeed thegovernments within which they operate are undergoing significant reforms and face equal challenges. This paper considers organisational learning in the public sector in light of current public sector reform initiatives, many of which have implicitly been based on the assumption that the public sector can indeed use empirical evidence on past experience to inform current decision-making. In doing so, the paper tries to avoid treating organisational learning anthromorphically, focusing instead on the processes and procedures that form the life blood of organisations. Learning in organisations relates to how the organisation deliberately changes and adapts over time in terms of structures, functions, values, attitudes and behaviour. Organisational learning, as we shall use the term, refers to formal structures of information and whether or not they are used. Our interest is in how organisations can bring together information on past performance and have it influence decisions. Building on organisational learning literature, we will argue that while individual learning is important, it is not enough. There is a need to institutionalise learning processes within a public sector organisation...

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