Coordination Processes and Outcomes in Norway and New Zealand: The Challenge of Inter-Organizational Coordination of Food Safety Issues
Appears in the following Collection
- Institutt for statsvitenskap 
AbstractThis dissertation has compared food safety reforms in New Zealand (2002, 2007 and 2010) to a food safety reform in Norway (2004). At the same time these food safety reforms have been compared to general reforms in the two countries. This dissertation explains how reforms affect inter-organizational coordination. Norway and New Zealand have selected rather different organizational solutions of food safety issues. In Norway, three ministries (the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF), the Ministry of Health and Care Services (MHCS) and the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs (MFCA)) have professional responsibility for a national food safety agency, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA). In New Zealand, by contrast, the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) shared responsibility for food safety issues until 2002. In 2002, political and administrative leaders established the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) as a semi-autonomous body attached to the MAF. The food safety issues were then detached from the MoH. In 2007, the leaders separated the NZFSA from the MAF and made it a separate ministry (a stand-alone public service department). In 2010, however, the NZFSA has become a department within the MAF in New Zealand. This dissertation shows that food safety issues are cross-cutting issues that span different organizational boundaries. Handling food safety issues can therefore potentially be attached to various organizations, and will for this reason often require inter-organizational coordination of several organizations. Therefore, a study of the organization of food safety issues provides insights into how inter-organizational coordination is organized as well as how it operates in practice. This dissertation explains how reforms affect inter-organizational coordination of food safety issues in Norway and New Zealand.
Organizations generally experience two main challenges that can cause inter-organizational coordination problems. First, inter-organizational coordination is generally more challenging than intra-organizational coordination. It therefore requires greater effort to ensure inter-organizational coordination than intra-organizational coordination. Second, horizontal inter-organizational coordination is generally more challenging than vertical inter-organizational coordination. Such vertical inter-organizational coordination often involves a superior organization that formally has the right to instruct a subordinate organization, by contrast to horizontal inter-organizational coordination. These challenges will be difficult but not impossible to handle. To overcome these challenges the involved leaders can make use of various efforts. Such efforts are discussed throughout the dissertation. The comparison of the food safety reform in Norway (2004) and New Zealand (2002) showed a potentially interesting paradox: Less conflict should be observed when a food safety agency is attached to just one ministry as in New Zealand at that time, than under the three-ministry organizational structure in Norway. By contrast, the study showed that the reform has had positive effects on inter-organizational coordination in Norway, while New Zealand on the other hand has struggled with coordination challenges due to a complex accountability framework. Several factors worked to overcome important challenges in the inter-organizational coordination processes in Norway.
The comparison of the food safety reform in Norway (2004) and New Zealand (2007) showed several points: On the one hand, by creating a ministry it seemed paradoxical that New Zealand should introduce a more challenging inter-organizational structure in 2007 than that implemented through the 2002 reform. On the other hand, such horizontal inter-organizational coordination processes worked quite well in Norway after 2004. However, even though horizontal inter-organizational coordination may be more challenging than vertical inter-organizational coordination, the food safety reform in 2007 eliminated the confusing accountability framework in the 2002 reform. Although the new reform in 2007 solved some challenges, it also created new ones. The interviews showed that inter-organizational coordination worked quite well in New Zealand between the MAF and the NZFSA, but that some challenges existed. Handling this, for example, a leader from the NZFSA spent some time within the MAF to ensure better inter-organizational coordination.
The 2010 reform in New Zealand seems paradoxical given the premise that inter-organizational coordination between the MAF and the NZFSA worked quite well since 2007. The analysis showed, however, that the initiative came from outside the two organizations. In addition, reforms may often be implemented due to problems or challenges, and organizations find structural change to be a relevant option to solve such problems or challenges. However, reforms may also be implemented for other reasons, such as increasing legitimacy in the environment, showing political power or reducing costs within the state sector. The three reforms implemented in New Zealand illustrates that reforms frequently solve some problems, but simultaneously also create new ones.