Globalization, the impact of the information society, demographic change and persistently high levels of unemployment are placing unprecedented competitive pressures on public organizations and their employees.
Greek public administration in its effort to deal with these demands has initiated various reform projects aimed at making government more efficient, effective, productive, flexible, transparent and responsive.
However, dissatisfied citizens, low levels of government and public service performance, trust decline, corruption, political scandals, black markets, more tax avoidance strategies, and cynicism are some of the signs that the empirical research has shown.
It is suggested that these unsuccessful reform efforts can be attributed to the fact that the majority of these modernization initiatives viewed organizational change as a mechanical process, as a matter of restructuring departments, rearranging functions and personnel or other top-drive technical solutions, rather than an attempt to change individual and organizational culture.
We argue that successfully modernizing the public sector in Greece mainly depends on how human capital i.e. public leaders and their staff, think, learn and behave. A shift from a bureaucratic organizational learning - single loop learning, towards an innovative and reflective organizational learning - double loop learning, is vital to achieving such a successful transition. In other words, modernization is a dynamic transformative learning process tantamount to creating a learning public organization.
Learning does not occur naturally, it is a complex organizational process that needs to be initiated and sustained. Thus, creating a learning public administration requires a framework which embodies both the formal and informal frames of learning. A holistic framework which emphasizes the structural and policy making systems and at the same time goes beyond formal initiatives to foster a deeper understanding of the behavioral and cultural systems of the organization.
In response to this challenge we devised the STAIR (Strategy, Targets, Assignment, Implementation, Results) model, as a Knowledge management tool, that can be utilized for modernizing Greek government organizations. In particular, the STAIR framework consists of three distinct but complementary phases: strategy design (STA), strategy implementation (I) and strategy evaluation (R) - which represent the operational core of the model. Additionally the STAIR model puts an emphasis on the development of the intangible assets that underpin its operational core e.g. employee commitment, citizen focus, transparency, meritocracy, trust, learning and innovation etc. These intangible elements constitute the cultural core of the STAIR model and are considered as the cornerstone for perpetual achievement and sustainable results.
We argue, therefore, that STAIR can become a tool for managing organizational change towards the learning public organization if it is used as an ideal state, a conceptual framework for testing and evaluating organizational reality - namely, the more the thinking, reasoning and reflecting on the two cores of the STAIR, the easier the road for establishing the learning public organization. In other words competence in climbing up the steps of the STAIR can transform organizations into strategically thinking and acting - learning entities.