Attributes of the Dutch culture

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Attributes of the Dutch culture


Huib Wursten,


Findings of (preliminary) research.

The trigger for this research was the observation that there is a big difference between the Anglo-Saxon countries, with their dominant masculine culture, and the more feminine Scandinavian-Dutch cultures.

1. Motivation

The following question was put to large groups of Dutch, Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and, for verification purposes, groups of Germans, Americans, and French in work organizations: How can you best motivate yourself and the people around you to work hard?

Four possible answers to the question were presented:

-By stimulating leadership

-By instituting a bonus system

-By promising a promotion as a reward for good performance

– By permitting autonomy within an individual field of tasks (i.e., permitting people their own “shop”).Note: The Dutch frequently use the word Toko, the Indonesian word for shop.

The vast majority (82%) of participants belonging to the Scandinavian-Dutch group immediately chose option 4, autonomy and the toko. Only 54% of those in the Anglo-Saxon control group chose option 4.

2. Managerial interferences

The second question posed was: What would you do if you had a boss who is looking over your shoulder and interferes frequently in your running of the toko? The answer was a resounding “I would stand my ground”. If managerial interference cannot otherwise be discouraged, or in the event of a personality clash, fiefdoms develop and the autonomous toko is defended at all costs.

3 When autonomy is granted within the toko

The third question posed was: How would you react if, contrary to the previous scenario, your boss accepted you at face value, allowed you to achieve within your own toko and awarded you full responsibility?

Three possible answers were presented:

a) By building a fiefdom and walling off the toko

b) By fostering competition between toko’s

c) By meeting with other toko-holders, finding common ground, and reaching consensus in order to make the entire toko complex function effectively

In the preliminary investigation, 89% of the participants immediately chose the third answer. The countless meetings that take place in organisations are evidence of the popularity of this strategy. The objective of these meetings is often gathering the support of others; the main toko-holders must reach a consensus on the strategy to be pursued. Consequently, decisions take the shape of an agreement based on the shared interests of all the relevant toko-holders. For that reason, one criterion for good policy is toko-holder satisfaction with respect to the manner in which decisions taken relate to their interests. The Dutch word is draagvlak. This principle allows for the retraction of decisions that have already been made. Theoretically, if one of the toko-holders party to a given agreement leaves a meeting and later that day has second thoughts, he may return the following day and say, ‘yesterday we took that particular decision, but I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and decided that it’s not a good idea. Can we work something else out?’ This tendency indicates that in a country like the Netherlands, decisions are not written in stone. An agreement made one day may be re-examined and altered the next. The Dutch word for the driving force behind this tendency is voortschrijdend inzicht. This takes place on the macro-level in politics (think of the Betuwe railway line affair) and the meso-level (the negotiations between Fokker and Dasa), as well as in micro-organisations. An important issue here is the manner in which control is exercised in each of the various models. According to the network model, verification occurs by means of the progress discussions in meetings and by respect for consensus reached by joint decision-making. The question is: is everybody still happy? In the contest cluster, the ideal verification is to settle with people on the basis of targets via formal assessment procedures. According to the well-oiled machine models, the ideal verification is to check whether everyone is following the system of formal rules. Practical issues are important: for instance, are all participants up to date with respect to the planning system? Inspection by the boss is the verification principle in the pyramid. In those societies there is a saying: “people respect what you inspect”. According to family models, the verification system consists of inspections performed by the boss and emphasis on harmony within the group. The various models also determine coordination instruments in societies and in organisations. The market model favors mutual adjustment in the form of ad-hoc negotiations based on supply and demand, while the network model favors mutual adjustment on the basis of mutual dependency between crucial tokos. The machine model accentuates the standardization of skills (such as the apprentice system in Germany), while the pyramid model highlights the standardization of work processes and direct supervision (such as the manner in which the French government works). Finally, the family model favors direct supervision. By way of comparison, the schematic differences between the five models on a number of interesting criteria for organisations are given.


Attributes of the network culture                                       


The toko as core concept                                                                

Autonomy in the individual work field is the most important drive for the majority of people.   (In politics, this is indicated as autonomy in own circle)


The need to be autonomous inside the toko is the starting point for motivation. In principle, the toko owners resist the interference of others.

One of the consequences of this is that toko owners often have no formal job description. If they do have one,  the majority admit that their job description is in the bottom drawer, so to speak. It is a sense of personal responsibility, and not a job description, that drives them. Result: it’s not the job description that determines whether somebody is invited to a given meeting, but rather the extent to which his/her toko is affected by the decisions made. It is seen as better to let all the potentially affected toko-holders participate and involve them all in the same process. The toko-holders may be reluctant to accept and enforce decisions in their area of responsibility if they were not involved in the decision making to begin with.


5.2 The starting point of the normative system in the Netherlands: position and rights of the individual.

The Dutch tend to see everyone as equal in the eyes of the law, with the weak viewed as a bit “more equal” than the strong. A number of features of Dutch “toko society” can best be understood when viewed through this lens.

  • The individual’s primary priorities, in terms of loyalty, are his own objectives and the development of his own talents. These priorities can be interpreted in a strict financial sense (i.e. salary) as well as in pragmatic terms (the thought is, “if I don’t defend the interest of my toko, then who will? My boss? My colleagues?”).
  • The Dutch legal system and national constitution were both strongly influenced by the spirit of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, a legacy shared with many other Western nations whose societies, like that of the Netherlands, are characterized by a strong emphasis on individualism. The Renaissance led to the discovery of the Individual, while the Enlightenment led to the development of a scientific, rational way of reasoning. Together these produced the school of thought we call positivism. Positivism makes a distinction between statements about reality that can be proven (or disproven) and those that cannot. As one positivist philosopher scholar stated, “the very meaning of a proposition is its method of verification”. As far as norms and values are concerned, the positivist point of view states that there is no way to verify the truth of a norm or value statement. For instance, the statement “this hammer is good” is a meaningful statement because it is possible to find an agreed upon tool to verify this. On the contrary, the statement “god is good” is not meaningful, simply because it is impossible to find an agreed upon tool of verification, as would be the case with a hammer or any other object. The source of a particular set of norms or values is key: if a statement (or, for that matter, an act) has its source in a holy book, such as the Bible or the Koran, there exists no agreed upon way to refute or verify it. One product of this paradigm is the theory of cultural relativism.

As a result of the rise of cultural relativism, the majority position in the norms and values debate in the Netherlands is a post-modern one. The majority school of thought defends the idea that values are relative and that there exist no methods for proving that one value system is better or “more true” than another. It all depends on point of view: if one group claims that its belief system dictates that men are essentially superior to women, no other group or individual may label that belief as essentially wrong.

  • The Polish philosopher Kolokowski expressed this dilemma by stating that “all cultures are equal, but the culture which holds that to be its most leading principle, has achieved a higher level of development”.
  • In Western, individualistic societies, one common way to escape this dilemma has been to adopt a view of the rights of the individual as they can be found in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” as a reference point. The focus of the Declaration is the belief that all humans are entitled to equal rights and obligations, regardless of class, race, gender or social position.
  • The Dutch, “feminine” interpretation of the above has produced the view that society should protect the weak more than the strong. For instance, it is acceptable in the Netherlands that in traffic accidents involving a car and a bicycle, the driver of the car be considered the guilty party, even if the bicycle rider was clearly at fault.


5.3 Mondigheid

This is a difficult concept to translate. It could be interpreted as “the skill and the urge to speak up in an explicit way to express one’s opinions”

Mondigheid is viewed by the Dutch as an essential skill– you must be able to defend the interest of your toko. If nobody speaks up, leadership expects that everyone agrees with, or at least accepts, decisions made. Being viewed by others as mondig is central to the development of a healthy self-esteem.

A telling example: some time ago, the Dutch soccer magazine Voetbal International published an interview with Paolo Maldini, the one-time captain of an Italian team. He told the reporter about his experience with the Dutch in his own club team in Milan. In talking about the coach-captain dynamic within his team, he said that as captain, he would never initiate a discussion about game tactics with his coach. “He decides: when he is asks for my advice, I give my opinion. But if he doesn’t ask, I don’t speak up. We are different from Dutch players. They talk a lot more, about how to approach the game and about how they’d like to play football. An Italian just does his job…(but) that’s the Dutch mentality. There’s always got to be a discussion, and that can be a problem. We’re just not used to that.”

Another revealing example: (taken from correspondence with Mexican colleague.

Leo Beenhakker, a world famous Dutch soccer coach, was hired to direct one of the most prestious soccer teams in México, El América. The team was owned by the most powerful media and communications empire in México, Televisa. Televisa’s President and CEO was Emilio Azcarraga, known as “El Tigre”. Leo managed the team so well that it became the national leader in the Mexican major league. Everything seemed to be going fantastically for the team when Beenhakker was suddenly fired, to his own personal and to Mexican public surprise. He was astonished, as he thought he’d been doing a great job. As it turns out, Leo wasn’t in the habit of accepting anyone’s advice, and had miscalculated some disagreements with El Tigre, thinking that good results were the only thing that mattered. Wrong! In México, the boss’s satisfaction is priority #1, and this was particularly true with Azcarraga, who had even managed to intimidate the Mexican President. How dare the Dutch newcomer try to take him on?

 In a country like Mexico, results are not enough. Hierarchy and obedience are crucial factors, with the potential to outrank general job performance results in some cases.

Mondigheid implies that everybody feels he has the right to defend his interest in a verbally direct way. Many other cultures simply interpret this as bluntness. However, this is a necessary step to:

5.4 Consensus decisions

 Decisions are made by looking for the shared interest of all toko-holders and by creating draagvlak(consensus). Two elements are important here:

  • There is a clear notion of interdependence. The common idea is that the important toko-holders will not carry out decisions if they are one-sided (if they are based on hierarchy, for instance). Consensus seeking makes this system very different from the Anglo-Saxon one. Cynthia P. Schneider, the American ambassador in the Netherlands, said in an interview: “We believe in governing by majority. If the minority wants something else, too bad! You [Dutch] always want to make everybody happy. To me that is very problematic. I would become very frustrated working in such a system. But until now it has worked, apparently.”
  • “All (important) toko- holders”. When someone is recognized as a toko-holder, he is invited to the table to discuss policy development with the others. It would be unthinkable not to invite every toko-holder. But this leads now and then to big surprises.

Example: a lead article from the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant from June 5 2000:

“Prime Minister Kok forgotten by NATO at Kosovo discussion”. The article described the frustration of the Dutch PM at not being invited to the meeting in London. “How could that be?” the article wonders, with the Netherlands “having a leading military role, but not being rewarded with a political position in the ‘contact group’ or the G7?”


5.5 Coordination as the preferred leadership style within a network

The ideal boss is a competent colleague, willing and able to negotiate on decisions with other toko-holders.

According to the Dutch constitution, the Prime Minister is not the “boss” of the government, but rather the chairman of the council of independent ministers. He acts as a coordinator, nothing more and nothing less. In this system, it is impossible to steer from a distance. The leader, the manager, is not external to the network, but is an integral part of the network of toko-holders.

An example from the Volkskrant September 5 1994:

“The ministers of the Kok administration are hesitant to appoint the Minister of the Interior to lead the management development system for high-level civil servants. That proposal is part of a plan to organize a general civil service organ. The council of ministers met last Friday to discuss the proposal. The plan proposes the regular rotation of top civil servants through the 14 government ministries, in order to avoid bureaucracy and silo development…The prime minister himself is not very happy with the proposal. He is resistant to the idea of playing referee in cases of differences of opinion between the coordinating Minister of the Interior and the minister involved.”

This kind of leadership is particular to the network and is not always appreciated elsewhere.

From an article in Business Week about the first president of the European Central Bank, the Dutchman Wim Duisenberg, comes another example:

“The ECB conveys the impression of confused- and thus weak- leadership under its president, Wim Duisenberg. He employs a consensual management style, and as a result the ECB appears to have far too many bosses”.


This does not mean that in the network cluster, no one ever calls for strong leadership. Because it is not viewed as usual, politicians and mayors are only seldom called on to show strong leadership in order to solve problems. The fear of being viewed as “too authoritarian” is real, and those who do implement strong-handed tactics, or even a strong-handed tone, risk a damaged reputation and negative press coverage.

A telling comment was made by Job Cohen, mayor of Amsterdam. In reaction to a discussion on the crime rate among immigrants, in which some were calling for strong leadership on his part, he reacted by saying, “I just want to keep things together”. This kind of reply can sometimes lead to furious reactions from political adversaries.


5.6  E= Q * A

This is the formula for optimal success in (change) management: the Effectiveness of a given board, management team, or project team decision is equal to the technical Quality of the proposal, multiplied by Acceptance (by the other toko-holders).

The secret of success, then, is the creation of consensus (again defined as the feeling of common interest shared by all the relevant toko-holders). The Dutch key formula for success is developing draagvlak. Again, the implicit meaning of this word is difficult to translate, but it implies “full support from almost all of the important toko holders”.


5.7 Consensus decisions are never fixed.

The autonomous toko-holders constantly re-evaluate the implications of decisions for their toko and the consequences for the organization as a whole. This leads to a tendency for individual toko-holders to mull over decisions and to approach colleagues (including the boss) later in informal settings, in order to share proposed improvements. This then evolves into a new, informal consensus decision. This is a continuous process. This is also voortschrijdend inzicht (emerging insight), as described in Chapter 4. As a result, there exists a strong tendency to make everything in management (statement of objectives, target setting, planning, etc.) tentative. Even in national legislation, this tendency can be found in the preference for contracting voluntary agreements between important social stakeholders for a limited time. Beter ten halve gekeerd dan ten hele gedwaald is an old Dutch saying meaning “it’s better to turn around at the halfway point than to follow the wrong road and become completely lost”.


5.8  An important management steering principle: coordinating “emerging insight.”

One crucial managerial skill is the ability to continuously identify the visible (and not-so-visible) important toko-holders with a role in a certain policy decision and involve them in this dynamic process. The boss/leader is himself part of that process. He must make himself available for discussions about emerging insights that take place in informal settings. An open-door policy is crucial. Of course, the toko-holders accept that the boss is also an important toko-holder, and that it’s necessary to involve him. This can all be quite a challenge for a boss, because several times a day a subordinate can, without knocking, come into his office to ask his opinion about a new idea. It would be wrong to misinterpret this as asking for permission or for the boss’s approval: they are simply involving an important fellow toko-holder. The danger is that some managers (even Dutch ones) may find the constant interruptions irritating, and that leads them to keep their office doors closed. The symbolic value of this is not lost on employees, who continue crucial discussions among themselves, excluding the boss. Sometimes, after it’s too late, managers discover that the emerging insight did its work and that they were not involved. For management, a considerable gap develops between what was expected and what really happened.


5.9 The system works by involving all important toko holders.

If you profile yourself as a visible toko-holder with an interest overall policy, you can be sure to be invited to participate in discussions.

When toko-holders are not so visible, problems can arise.

From time to time, the things that go wrong in the Netherlands result from the fact that in the consensus approach, no role exists for a stakeholder with the explicit task of guarding established norms. One example was the heated conflict over the implementation of a new national unemployment policy. The most important stakeholders were employers and trade unions. The government, the only stakeholder with a conflicting interest, was not represented.


5.10 Checking the system: Is everybody still happy?

Frequent checks of toko-holder satisfaction take place during frequent meetings, in order to make sure that everyone is still happy. If one of the toko-holders with a strong interest is not satisfied, he is supposed to speak up. The tone is frequently critical. This is sometimes perceived by outsiders as a blunt and/or negative way of communicating. Nevertheless, it is a necessary component of the check, and when it doesn’t take place, usually something is terribly wrong. The Dutch refer to the frequent checks and sharing of criticism as elkaar scherp houden (keeping each other sharp). Ernest Stewart, soccer international from the USA, said in an interview that he would probably never get used to the negative communication style within his team. When asked if American players were different, he replied:

“Americans players have a much more positive attitude; they say “good try!” instead of “hey jerk, what the hell are you doing?!”.


5.11 Enforcement is strongly disliked

All stakeholders try to avoid the position of enforcer, since they prefer to neutralize conflict, rather than seek it. There is a tendency to tolerate deviant behavior, rather than stamp it out. The Dutch word (yet another that does not lend itself easily to translation) is gedogen. It means something like  “making an exception for minority behavior rather than strongly enforcing majority decisions”.

This is reflected everywhere, even in the armed forces. An article in the New York Times discussed the reaction to an incident involving Dutch troops in Bosnia in July 1995. The heading was “Dutch Conscience Stung by Troops’ Bosnia Failure”:

 “Some critics are questioning not only the conduct of the Dutch Battalion in Srebrenica, but also the relevance of Holland’s traditionally peaceful, consensus-oriented approach to world affairs”.


A Dutch diplomat is then quoted as saying that “we don’t back up our diplomacy with a big stick”. Historians trace the roots of this approach as far back as the 15th century.


This dislike of and resistance to enforcement of decisions has resulted in two important features of Dutch culture:

  • The majority tolerates a given (minority) behavior because of a firm believe that enforcement would lead to even more negative consequences. Some examples include the Dutch attitude towards soft drugs, euthanasia and abortion. The Dutch like to cite the Prohibition period in the USA as an example in support of tolerance: if authorities outlaw something that is seen as desirable by (a segment of) society, the forbidden practice will carry on, but in secret. There is a good chance that the secrecy surrounding the forbidden practice will lead to crime, such as gang wars. The Dutch attitude favors decriminalization of controversial practices through an official policy of tolerance. By tolerating the practice, the government can control it (by means of taxation or regulation, for instance).
  • These unofficial agreements are the logical consequence of an official policy of tolerance. They consist of agreements between all relevant stakeholders, for a limited amount of time.


5.12 Preference for solidarity, not “winner takes all”.

Sympathy for the underdog

The feminine values in Scandinavia and in the Netherlands produce sympathy for the underdogs in society, rather than admiration of the ones who have “made it”. Those who profile themselves as winners are labeled uitslovers (show-offs). Thus, there exists a tendency to protect the weak with social security and various safety nets.



5.13 The Dutch political system: four C’s

The four C’s that characterize the system are: Consensus seeking, Coalition politics, Collegial administration and Co-opting (compromising with the opposition).

Coordination on a horizontal level is the key to understanding the Dutch political system. This is not new. In a book about the 19th century by Joost Kloek & Wijnand Mijnhard, 1800 Blauwdrukken voor een samenleving, the authors conclude that much in Dutch society, more then people expect, has remained the same over time, despite three centuries of major political, economic, technological and religious changes. In their work on the year 1650, Willem Frijhoff en Marijke Spies sum up the ideal conditions after the Peace of Westphalia in which a period of enormous growth began in the Netherlands (then known as the “Verenigde Nederlanden”). The Netherlands was ”in short, a society where the horizontal connections and division of power were more important then the vertical, the monopolizing of power…where not commanding but negotiating was the stakeholders’ dominant way of relating”. In other words, there existed a “meeting” or “discussion” culture. This characterization is very similar to the model now used to describe Dutch society and economy, the poldermodel.

The following example is particularly illustrative:

In a paper on crisis management, Dutch experts came to the conclusion that even when it comes to the management of unexpected disasters (like the plane crash over Amsterdam’s Bijlmer neighborhood), it is wrong to attribute too much blame to the “centralization reflex”. The parliamentary hearing regarding the Bijlmer disaster concluded that ”for management of future disaster situations, regardless of the nature of the disaster itself or its extent, the post of Coordinating Minister should be created”. Essentially, the parliamentary committee claimed that if disaster management was centralized, slowness, bureaucracy, and information gaps would be history.

According to the authors of the report, this is a big mistake. They maintain that whoever claims the support of an absolute majority in this country of consensus and coalitions is horribly mistaken. Any attempts to send commands from “the Hague” to lower levels of authority will fail miserably.

There exists, they conclude, a historical and deeply rooted resistance against force and “majority tyranny”.

5.14 Examples over time

The effect of these key concepts on the reality of leadership and management in macro-organizations, government/politics, as well as micro-organizations should not be underestimated.

By way of illustration and to demonstrate that these are very consistent cultural features, four examples over time are given below:


1996: The battle between France and the Netherlands over drug policy

It may appear that this was a rational discussion concerning a joint social problem. Actually, it was nothing less than a confrontation between two culturally different management models. In France, policy is created centrally. The government, at the top of the pyramid, may make decisions in the name of the public interest. The government subsequently formulates regulations that must be respected by those at all other levels of society. In order to be sure the rules are implemented, systematic verification on the part of the government takes place. Drugs are viewed as a social problem, something that must be controlled by government authorities. In line with this thinking, strict prohibitory provisions exist, which must be enforced hard-handedly if necessary.

In the Netherlands, the thinking on this issue is diametrically different. A social phenomenon like drugs is viewed from a consensus standpoint. Drugs are essentially a social phenomenon, with roots in the behavior and personal choices of citizens. Consequently, the relevant question according to the Dutch network model is: how can we confine this phenomenon in way that acknowledges this social reality of drug use, while keeping the interests of non-user stakeholders intact? The central issue is finding solutions in which the interests of all parties involved are addressed. The focus is not on a general, public interest, but on the shared interest of all separate parties involved. This subsequently leads to voluntary agreements between the parties involved, along with voluntary and agreed-upon sanctioning methods. Harsh, one-sided enforcement is fundamentally wrong. Regulations take on the form of voluntary agreements. In this context, it was perfectly possible for the Christian-Democratic mayor of a provincial city like Tilburg to reach a voluntary agreement with the coffee shops in town, stipulating that soft-drugs could be sold, under the conditions that there would be no noise disturbances, selling of hard-drugs or sale to minors.


1960 “New Babylon under development” – the Netherlands in the sixties.

Though many believe that the drugs debate in the nineties is an isolated phenomenon, it actually goes back much further than that. The title of this section is a reference to a book by the American historian C. Kennedy. In that work, he describes the course of major changes and processes in the sixties (such as student revolution).

He compares these processes with the student protests in Paris and anti-war demonstrations in the USA, among others. Kennedy demonstrates that social changes processes in the Netherlands proceeded smoothly, in contrast to the United States, which experienced considerable social upheaval in a number of domains. According to Kennedy, the central explanation for this was consensus thinking. While many American authorities actively opposed the new developments, Dutch leaders did not do much to maintain the status quo. Kennedy claims that this reaction was not rooted in the progressive nature of the Dutch leaders of the time, but in the conviction that the changes could no longer be stopped; “going with the flow of the times” seemed to be the only sensible option. “The belief in the inevitability of changes has always been a crucial factor in the Dutch culture”.

The Dutch political elites were and are characterized by inclusion and incorporation, and not exclusion, of differing ideas and minority groups. Kennedy states that the Dutch counterculture “could benefit from the conviction of many Dutch clergymen, intellectuals and politicians that ‘that’s the way it is’.

Kennedy concludes that “the counterculture thus made use of the self-criticism of the dominant culture and developed itself from that point. In this context, young counter-cultural rebels were little more than the radical incarnations of conventional self-criticism”.


17th century

How consistently does consensus-focused “network thinking” appear if we go back 300 years instead of 30?

J.L. Price of Hull University examined this question in a study entitled “Holland and the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century”. Even as far back as that time, the political system in the Netherlands differed significantly from the more feudal systems of neighboring countries. At that time, municipal self-rule was an established tradition in Holland and the Netherlands as a whole. Municipal political institutions may originally have been founded on the basis of charters awarded by the central authorities. However, says Price, “by the sixteenth century at least, they had come to be regarded as fundamental rights. Thus it can be argued that in a very real sense sovereignty lay not so much with the States of Holland themselves, but with the governments of the voting towns collectively. Although the towns were not individually sovereign, their collective governments were”. This power and the privileges of the towns were consistently supported by the States of Holland, “because their body was effectively controlled by the votes of town delegations. Thus, although the States of Holland were the supreme political authority in the provinces, in practice they acted as the expression of urban power”.

Even towns that found themselves politically isolated on a given occasion were, to a very large degree, protected from coercion by the majority, as no town wanted to set a precedent that could have been used against it on some future occasion; no town could be certain that it might not some day be in a vulnerable minority”.

And we’re talking about the seventeenth century here!


1990  Back to current practice: Rotterdam.

In 1992, G.R. Teisman wrote his doctoral dissertation on decision-making processes related to environmental investments, with a focus on Rotterdam in particular. Issues that were discussed included the Rotterdam railway tunnel, the Capelle a/d Ijssel express train, development of Zestienhoven airport, North Rotterdam District plan and, in particular, the ‘Kop van Zuid’ project. Teisman describes the reality of decision-making in the projects he examined. He claims that progress was demonstrably hindered in the projects he examined when it was assumed that decisions could be taken on the basis of formal hierarchic authority. Empirical evidence was found for the following points:

1. Policy systems consist of both centralized and decentralized units.

2. The relationship between these systems is one of mutual dependence, not hierarchy or autonomy.

3. Neither one-sided central- nor one-sided local power decisions  will result in satisfactory policy.

4. Shared interest is the touchstone for policy, not general interest or self-interest.


What Teisman has described is network thinking. He includes practical tips on how this can be maintained. It is remarkable that he links this reality to contemporary Dutch society, without offering a cultural explanation. He distinguishes two additional thinking patterns that can be converted into the cultural perspective using the pyramid model and the market model. In his analyses, he assumes that choosing to implement a particular model is a matter of choice, made independently of the basic values of a given culture. It is clear that he believes that the network model is really a more developed stage in the evolution of policy models.  So, the American and French models are actually preliminary versions of the consensus model. Let’s hope Bush and Chirac never read this!


5.15 Strengths and weaknesses of the network model

If we take culture and mind-set as the basis for the way in which solutions are found, we see that differences of opinion are reconciled in the Netherlands by acknowledging their existence and significance. There is an attempt to reach agreement with all parties involved, and enforcing things on others from above, out of obstinacy or powerlessness, is simply not done. Things that have gone wrong in Dutch society as a result of consensus thinking or that have been translated into network models in accordance with policy, can all be blamed on the fact that no place had been made for a stakeholder whose task it was to monitor standards. For instance, the main parties involved in developing the national pension system were the employees and the employers. The government, the only party that had an interest in monitoring the standards, was not part of the network. A big danger related to aiming for government efficiency and effectiveness is that an important task, monitoring the equality of rights, legal certainty and justice, may be forgotten, with no place reserved for it in the network. The same applies to smaller organizations. Though managers often realize that hierarchical handling is outdated, employees forget that the real task of the boss within the network is to act as monitor. While the Dutch find it unpleasant if a supervisor constantly looks over their shoulder, that should not be interpreted as a sign that he should not interact with the network. A clear place for that is reserved in the network, resulting from the importance of standard-monitoring and legitimization of participation in the network. On a horizontal level (and not by means of hierarchical interference), the discussion of the interests of the toko-holders constantly competes with the established standards. Toko-holders should feel free to discuss the feasibility of the standards, and modify or even scrap them if necessary. If conflicts arise, there should be a willingness to think in terms of win-win strategies.


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