In order to implement effective policies in a complex and dynamic environment, public organizations need to learn. Feedback is an engine of organizational learning, informing public managers about performance and allowing them to improve solutions. However, obtaining meaningful feedback is challenging in the public sector, and different management models favor different scopes of feedback.
This chapter explores feedback practices in departments of government ministries that follow different management models, and also looks at the position of evaluation in their spectrum of feedback.
Findings grounded in an empirical analysis of 71 departments of Polish ministries show that organizational learning is not a deliberate enterprise but rather an ad hoc endeavor while evaluation is just one of the minor feedback sources. Departments rely on irregular, unstructured feedback dominated by sources within an organization, focused on procedural issues and feeding operational rather than strategic reflection. Departments with traditional bureaucratic and New Public Management models do not differ significantly, with one exception – evaluation studies are more prevalent under the managerial approach.
The conclusions offer three ideas on how evaluation practitioners could facilitate organizational learning: (1) apply a user-centered approach with a focus on decision moments, (2) move from single studies to streams, and (3) institutionalize learning with application of knowledge brokering and learning agendas.