Formal Structure and Culture: Organizational Influence on Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change in Quasi-public Network Sectors

Doctoral dissertation, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo, 2012, 192 p.

This PhD thesis analyses adaptive capacity to climate change in quasi-public network services. These sectors are represented by case-studies of the Norwegian and the Swedish electricity grid sector. An organization theory framework is utilized with two main perspectives. The instrumental-organizational and the institutional-cultural perspective focus on two organizational dimensions operating at the sector level: the formal structure and organizational culture, respectably. Formal structure is understood as the formal rules regulations, rules, and command lines that determine who can do what, while organizational culture is understood as the individual institution or sector and the dominant norms and values within this sphere. Through four articles and a general discussion of findings in thesis it analyses how a change in formal structure and organizational culture influence the capacity of the sectors to adapt to climate change. The analysis operates both at the sector-level and at the organization-level and the study comprises isolated analysis of the Norwegian and Swedish sectors, as well as comparisons.

Resting on analysis of data derived from formal documents like official reports, as well as 40 interviews, the thesis finds that both formal structure and organizational culture influence climate change adaptive capacity. In both countries the sector has seen a reduction in adaptive capacity through New Public Management inspired reforms, although a larger reduction has found place in Norway than in Sweden. This is due to a more radical change in both the dimensions, where the organizational culture went from emphasizing robustness and system resilience while largely disregarding economic cost, to the other extreme, where economic efficiency took over as the main legitimating factor for decisions. This was further reflected in the formal structure which led to undermine adaptive capacity. For Sweden, with a parallel reform five years after the Norwegian one, the reduction in adaptive capacity was present because of similar change in the organizational dimensions. The changes were less radical, however, and the Swedish system has showed an ability to balance the considerations of system function and resilience with that of economic efficiency.