Institutional logics in inter‐departmental coordination: Why actors agree on a joint policy output

AuthorThomas Danken,Thurid Hustedt
Date01 September 2017
Published date01 September 2017
Institutional logics in inter-departmental
coordination: Why actors agree on a joint
policy output
Thurid Hustedt
| Thomas Danken
Otto-Suhr-Institute of Political Science, Freie
Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Faculty for Economic and Social Sciences,
University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
Thurid Hustedt, Otto-Suhr-Institute of Political
Science, Freie Universität Berlin,
Ihnestr. 22, Berlin 14193, Germany.
By investigating two German inter-departmental committees, this
article shows that the policy output of these coordination bodies
depends on the specific institutional logic evoked throughout the
coordination process. While in one of the groups a policy logic
prevailed and a joint coordination output was achieved, the other
was dominated by a political logic and proved unable to achieve
agreement. The article contributes to research on government
coordination by showing that actor orientations are crucial for
explaining inter-organizational coordination. The results direct
attention to the behavioural implications of coordination
Problems of horizontal coordination in government are usually considered a side effect of functional specialization
and division of labour. Inter-departmental coordination often proves difficult because of the turf wars that arise
when departments promote their own interests. As a response to these problems, governments often establish
inter-departmental committees (hereafter: IDCs) to develop joint policy solutions (Peters 1998, p. 36, 2006, p. 131;
Halligan 2007, p. 211). Usually, IDCs are associated with a comprehensive and joint coordination output that would
not have been achieved otherwise, that is, without a purpose-built framework. The organizational arrangement of a
group to which all members contribute is said to result in an agreement of all members by means of aligning prob-
lem definitions and policy goals (Egeberg 1999, p. 460).
This article studies two IDCs: one arrived at a joint coordination output albeit modest at best as considered by
observers. The other IDC did not achieve any kind of output at all, although both operated within similar organiza-
tional frameworks. This article therefore asks under which conditions IDCs arrive at a joint coordination output, that
is, achieve agreement across departments on the policy issue at stake.
Although government coordination represents a perennial issue in both research and practice, no grand theory
on coordination is available, but a wide range of concepts exists through which government coordination is studied
(for an overview, see Peters 2015). Overall, structure-based approaches dominate in the study of coordination.
Coordination is considered to be a solution to fragmentation and specialization sought by mechanisms of
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12331
730 © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Public Administration. 2017;95:730743.

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