Tue, Sep 12, 2017 - Page 8 News List

More to conservation than mergers

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

According to media reports, the direction for the central government’s reorganization will soon be decided. The Forestry Bureau and the Construction and Planning Agency, which administer national parks, are to be amalgamated into the planned Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

The Environmental Protection Administration has said that integrating the administration of soil conservation forests under the new ministry would be a good thing, but the opinion is not supported by the Council of Agriculture or the Ministry of the Interior, each for their own reasons.

It is not a good idea to hastily merge or reform conservation organizations, unless it is done with clear vision and goals. There are three main reasons for this.

First, organizational mergers are a means to an end rather than an end in themselves. Bringing the administration of all soil conservation forests together under the new ministry would be a major organizational reform project and it is debatable whether it would be more effective.

Doubts about effectiveness will be raised no matter the form of merger. A hasty merger without concrete goals is likely to be for its own sake, meaning that it would become even less effective.

Second, mergers are not the only way forward. An organizational merger — or structural adjustments — is only one available method to improve effectiveness.

There are other factors to consider, such as the public’s demands and identities, political support, leadership, vision, resource allocation, clarity of work duties and purpose, labor, work identification, sense of satisfaction and so on.

Conservation organizations also include other ministries, such as the Ministry of Justice — which enforces environmental laws — local governments, civic groups and others.

In other words, if mergers are not accompanied by complementary measures, or are not designed in a goal or solution-oriented way — that is, to make conservation more effective — then it is doubtful whether they can achieve that goal.

The third aspect to consider is the challenge of merging organizational cultures. Conservation agencies have long been operating under different ministries and have developed their own cultures. Each agency has its own mindset, mode of operation, work habits, values and so on.

After merging, their gears must be reground so that they can mesh together and function smoothly, but this regrinding cannot be done in a day or two. According to organizational development theory, such a process takes at least 20 years.

In the absence of careful planning, a merger is doomed to fail, so it would be a good idea to research the case of the National Development Council — which was formed by merging the Council for Economic Planning and Development; the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission; and the Public Construction Commission — as well as the breaking up of the Government Information Office and the National Youth Commission to determine whether these agencies’ functions and effectiveness have improved or worsened as a result of the structural change.

Good conservation does not just depend on these few agencies. There is a complex network of related entities in the judicial, educational, interior affairs and foreign relations fields, as well as within local governments.

In such a complex situation, a merger that has no clear vision will take a lot of effort for no reward. It could have a negative effect on morale and even make conservation less effective.

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