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  1. 1. Performance Management in Transitional Administration: Introduction of Pay-for-Performance in the Estonian Civil Service Tiina Randma-Liiv University of Tartu, Estonia Abstract The article analyzes the problems of incorporating performance management techniques into a transitional administration. Critical factors for the success of pay-for-performance are identified, which form the basis for the Estonian case study. It has been demonstrated that although the common problems of pay-for-performance in Western countries are also present in the Estonian context, they are supplemented by specific issues related to transitional administrations of CEE such as poor policy analysis, deficient accountability and co-ordination mechanisms, insufficient management experience and underestimation of democratic values, which altogether make the development of ambitious performance management tools in CEE even more questionable than in the West. Performance Management in Transitional Administration: Introduction of Pay-for-Performance in the Estonian Civil Service Since the early 1980s, public sector worldwide has been under constant pressure to improve its performance in pursuit of more efficiency and effectiveness, and to revive the shrinking trust in public institutions. Consequently, public service performance has received more attention than ever from politicians, civil servants and citizens alike. New Public Management with its “economic rationalism” and managerialism has influenced public management initiatives in many countries. Emphasis on using private sector management instruments in the public sector, decentralized managerial and financial control, as well as the fostering of “performance culture” or “performance orientedness” have resulted in a growing use of performance management tools such as pay-for-performance (PFP). The option of linking pay increments to performance is applied in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, while several other countries are considering the adoption of more flexible and performance-oriented pay policies (Bossaert et al., 2001). The diffusion of PFP in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries is less researched. However, the SIGMA study (1999) demonstrates that all CEE countries apply a unified salary system in their civil services. No overly decentralized, individualized or flexible pay systems appear to exist in CEE. Individual CEE countries also use various supplements to the base salary such as fringe benefits, allowance for the civil service experience, the “13th month’s salary”, management allowance and, increasingly, PFP (SIGMA, 1999). Performance management has been considered a powerful instrument to encourage high quality performance of civil servants and reward best officials based on their merits. Murphy and Cleveland (1995) demonstrate several ways how performance management can help organizations. Performance management can enhance the flexibility and quality of organizational decisions, ranging from reward allocation to training, promotions or layoffs. It
  2. 2. provides a set of tools for organizational diagnosis and development as well as for suggesting avenues for change. Performance management can also improve the quality of individual decisions, ranging from career choices to more particular decisions on where to invest one’s time and effort. An organization that does a good job in performance management is likely to help build and cement commitment and satisfaction of staff. Performance management processes have also been viewed as a means for improving organizational communication (Murphy and Cleveland, 1995). An important value added here is expected to be the greater contact between management and staff, involving increased clarity in setting the goals and a more careful review process, including feedback. Finally, Shoop (1991) acknowledges that there is also some public relations value in performance management. To the public and its representatives performance management symbolizes the fact that public managers care about the performance of their staff and that civil servants are receiving a fair return for their efforts, thus contributing to the legitimacy of public sector. The concept of performance management looks so intuitively appealing that it seems almost ridiculous to disagree with. However, Ingraham (1993) demonstrates that although the use of PFP has been often linked to successful private sector practices, in fact, a great deal of private sector research documents the difficulties inherent in creating the necessary linkages between performance and reward. Therefore, private sector experience does not represent an unqualified success story with clear lessons for public organizations. As much as the recent public sector reforms demonstrate private-to-public sector diffusion, they also reflect cross-national lesson- drawing. This is particularly the case in the CEE countries which tend to look up with “blind admiration” to their Western counterparts and, themselves lacking proper capacity for policy analysis, copy uncritically the (often unsuccessful) initiatives of the West. Critical factors for the success of pay-for-performance Previous studies have identified plenty of problems related to the adoption of various tools of performance management, including PFP, in the public sector (Lawler, 1981; Deming, 1986; Rainey, 1990; OECD, 1992; Halachmi, 1993; Ingraham, 1993; Kellogh and Lu, 1993; Murphy and Cleveland, 1995; Marshall, 1998; Radin, 1998; Kellough and Nigro, 2002). These analyses are useful in understanding the problems resulting from inaccurate assumptions and implementation difficulties. None of the benefits of PFP automatically flow from the mere presence of any performance management system, yet an organization that does a good job at performance management might benefit from it. The section at hand attempts to identify and categorize the various factors responsible for previous failures and, accordingly, state the preconditions for a successful adoption of PFP. 1. PFP as part of strategic management. Several authors (Lowery and Petty, 1995; Radin, 1998) have also demonstrated the importance of linking PFP to strategic and annual plans. Any PFP scheme should not only constitute an integral part of the general pay policy but also of broader public management strategies and tools. However, Ingraham (1993) argues that the common practice of adopting PFP schemes without broader reforms to support them suggests that these techniques have often been viewed as mere adjustments of the base, rather than fundamental revisions of existing management systems. 2. Managerial roles and abilities. The incorporation of performance appraisal and PFP into the strategic management process assumes very much of individual managers including their commitment, ability and initiative. Ingraham (1993) demonstrates that public managers must not only be able and willing to change but must be willing to do so in the face of 2
  3. 3. rather serious systemic disincentives including the limits of legal and political environment of public service. Highly formalized PFP systems may force managers to make distinctions that are not realistic or simply put them in an uncomfortable role. Gerhard and Milkovich (1992) note that managers are often unwilling to distinguish between good and poor performers. Halachmi (1993) claims that in order to maintain harmony and good working relations with civil servants, managers tend to exaggerate the positive and minimize the negative aspects of the accomplishments. When almost everyone receives a similar performance-based pay increase, the message communicated to civil servants may be interpreted to mean that the organization does not really care about performance. Finally, development of PFP schemes is likely to bring extra responsibilities to managers requiring a considerable amount of paperwork, extra time, resolution of conflicts and lengthy appeals processes. 3. Performance measurement. Financial rewards are a function of measured performance, rather than performance itself. Perry (1990) claims that the primary problem managers encounter is not one of knowing who are the best performers, but rather that of measuring and documenting performance differentials accurately and completely. There is little if any agreement on the standards and measurement of performance used to appraise civil servants. Several authors (for example, Allison, 1980; Kellough and Lu, 1993) have drawn attention to the greater diversity and intangibility of objectives and performance criteria in the public sector, which may make the objectives vague, difficult to follow and hard to evaluate quantitatively. In addition, Murphy and Cleveland (1995) argue that appraisal systems often send mixed messages about what aspects of job performance are considered respectively the most and least important. 4. Fairness of PFP. The research of Lawler (1981) demonstrates that it is important for the employee to perceive the appraisal process to be fair and objective. The fundamental issue here is whether decisions about pay should be based (partially or fully) on job performance. A strictly performance-based system may ignore several factors that are believed to be relevant to compensation (e.g. job demands, skills of officials, situational constraints, performance of the organization) (Gerhart and Milkovich, 1992; Lawler and Jenkins, 1992). A common problem, argued by Murphy and Cleveland (1995), is that links between performance and pay may pressure raters to distort performance ratings upward. The quality of assessment has a role in perceptions of fairness or unfairness, legitimacy and rationality regarding a wide range of organizational practices. Civil servants who believe that an organization’s decisions are irrational, arbitrary or unfair are unlikely to develop any strong commitment to the organization. Poor communication of results may add to the negative perception of performance appraisal. However, attempts to make performance evaluations completely objective have met with little success (Milkovich and Wigdor, 1991). 5. Teamwork and system variables. Deming (1986) has argued that individual appraisal and PFP are dysfunctional because they interfere with teamwork, create unhealthy competition and dissension between employees, foster mediocrity, focus on short-term outcomes, and overemphasize individual differences in performance. Deming also suggests that most of the meaningful variation in performance is due to system characteristics rather than to person characteristics since individual performance depends on the nature of the job, the organization, and the product or service. Halachmi (1993) claims that when the organization is accused of incompetence, negligence, or of being unresponsive, recognition for one’s hard work does not mean much. Several authors (e.g. Murphy and Cleveland, 1995; Radin, 1998) demonstrate that the tools of performance 3
  4. 4. management often fail to consider the role of situational variables in determining performance. The ever-changing political environment in its turn influencing the public sector makes the situational variables particularly significant. 6. Size of reward. An important factor governing the success of PFP is the total amount of money available for performance-linked increases. Researchers (Milkovich and Wigdor, 1991; Kellough and Lu, 1993) argue that for PFP schemes to operate effectively, the rewards offered need to be large enough to provide motivation to individuals and/or groups. Armstrong (1993, p. 91–92) claims that although usually PFP accounts for 3– 5% of base salaries, it should in fact constitute at least 20% of base salaries if the aim is to motivate employees. Ingraham (1993) shows that an even more significant issue lies in the fact that the managers and executives of public organizations do not control their financial resources and, therefore, often cannot guarantee that an adequate reward will be available in any given year. 7. Costs of PFP. Halachmi (1993) claims that most organizations do not have a clear idea about the actual (tangible and intangible) costs they incur in connection with performance management. Tangible costs include, among other things, the expenses for designing the system and for training managers to carry out the evaluation properly; the productivity lost in diverting the time and effort used to compile the assessment; the expenditures to update, develop, test, and keep inventories of the instrument(s) used for the appraisal, as well as the expenditure for keeping records of performance results and dealing with complaints. Armstrong (1993, p. 84) argues that instead of bringing more flexibility, PFP increases the formality in organizations, and thus requires extra time and resources, and leads to the increasing workload for civil servants. Moreover, low-quality performance management practices could be harmful for both individual civil servants and the organization. The equity theory of motivation (Adams, 1963) suggests that the inflated evaluation of employees generates other costs in terms of the loss of good will, morale, loyalty, motivation and attitudes toward work and the organization. Ingraham (1993) argues that no evidence supports the view that PFP systems save money (at least they do not do so initially). Rather, in their early years, effective systems may cost more than the more traditional practices they replaced. The following case study of the introduction of pay-for performance into the Estonian civil service will take these critical factors as a basis for analysis. Before that, a brief overview of the development of Estonian public administration will be provided. Development of Estonian public administration The Republic of Estonia has currently 1.4 million inhabitants, dispersed over 45,000 square kilometers. Together with the other Baltic States, it is considered the most successful part of the former Soviet Union since regaining its independence in 1991 as a parliamentary democracy with a President, Prime Minister, and a 101-seat unicameral Parliament, the Riigikogu. Ten different governments have been in office during the period of 1991-2002. The success of the democratic and economic reforms in the 1990s has recently been rewarded with the invitation to join the European Union in May 2004. In Estonia, it is not possible to talk about long historical traditions of the state and the gradual emergence of modern forms of government. The development of the public service has for centuries meant the dominance of the states occupying Estonia – Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Russia. The exceptions are the two comparatively brief periods of independent 4
  5. 5. statehood, 1918-1940 and 1991 to the present. The present article focuses on the development of performance management systems since 1991. However, since several authors (Drechsler, 1995; Lauristin, 1997) have pointed that Soviet bureaucracy and its public disrepute have caused many of the problems that the Estonian civil service is facing at present, it will be necessary to briefly analyze the Estonian public administration under the Communist rule. The Republic of Estonia was occupied by and annexed to the Soviet Union in 1940. The fact that the allocation of all resources and the policy-making process took place in Moscow instead of Estonia laid the basis for an extremely centralized administration. It also meant that the domestic civil service was deprived of any experience of policy-making prior to 1991. Several authors (Vihalemm, Lauristin and Tallo, 1997; Bercík and Nemec, 1999; Jasaitis, 1999) have described the Communist administrative systems as over-politicized: political loyalty had high priority and strict ideological control was exercised over personnel and decisions. In the Communist cadre system, secretive selection prevailed – open competitions and competitive examinations were unknown. The civil service was not “professional” in that it did not value specialized training and competence, and professional qualifications did not usually matter in promotion and salary allocations. Performance appraisal was merely symbolic and was based mainly on an assessment of ideological matters. Civil servants were subjected to the general Labor Code which offered them neither specific status nor social guarantees. However, job security was very strong: it was almost impossible to fire an official because of poor performance. Sootla and Roots (1999) argue that a variety of other reasons were used for dismissing officials, such as divorce, marriage to a foreigner and church attendance. Staff depended to a large extent on their supervisors, whose opinions were sometimes known to override legal norms, which, in turn, entailed a selective implementation of legislation. The civil service system offered a clear example of a patronage system with no regard for merit principles. On 20 August 1991, Estonia declared its independence from the Soviet Union. It was necessary to build up the state, its political, legal and economic institutions virtually from scratch. Developments in the 1990s were influenced by the aims of introducing merit principles into Estonian public management and abolishing the patronage and politicization of the civil service. This has led to the gradual development of a modern civil service system in which comparative merit or achievement governs each individual’s selection and progress, and in which the conditions and rewards of performance contribute to the competency and continuity of the civil service. Replacing the Communist civil service with merit principles relies not only on the adaptation to the democratic legal framework but also on a fundamental change in the values, attitudes and beliefs of politicians, public service executives, individual civil servants and all citizens. The following table illustrates the challenges of grafting a merit-based civil service onto the foundations laid in the course of the Communist regime. 5
  6. 6. Communist civil service Modern civil service Loyalty to Communist Party Loyalty to public interest High level of politicization of civil service Distinction between political and administrative positions Based on spoils, patronage and nepotism Based on merit principles “Administration of the working class” Administration of professionals Closeness, access to critical positions Open to different groups in society, depends on Party membership competitive exams Secrecy of decision-making Transparency of decision-making, personnel policies and their implementation Personal favoritism of managers Written and universal procedures No stimuli for high performance Effectiveness and efficiency are highly valued Accountability is not specifically addressed Well-developed accountability framework Labor Code determines work relationships Separation of public and private in both public and private sectors spheres, adoption of a Civil Service Act Selective implementation of legislation Rule of law On 1 January 1996, when the Estonian Public Service Act came into force, all employees working in public administration institutions became public officials without passing any examinations or other selection mechanisms. The Public Service Act provides for the abolition of the patronage system and the introduction of recruitment and promotion on merit, competitive examinations, regular performance appraisal, as well as common grading and salary scales throughout the civil service. The Public Service Act leaves recruitment open for all posts in the civil service, open competitions for senior positions in which are publicly announced. Civil servants are recruited on a permanent basis as a rule, fixed-term contracts being used for temporary staff only. Human resource management in the civil service is, to a large degree, decentralized in Estonia. Every ministry and executive agency is responsible for the recruitment, probationary periods, training, performance appraisal, promotion and organization of work of their officials; only senior civil servants are appointed, evaluated and promoted centrally. Job security is high, dismissal is rare and puts remarkable financial pressure on public organizations. The civil service commands relatively low prestige, and the level of remuneration of officials during the 1990s has not been competitive compared with the salaries in the private sector. However, the situation has slightly improved recently. Changes have occurred among the civil service personnel. The number of civil servants has slowly increased, reaching 20,472 in 2000, despite the government’s declared intention to reduce it. Many officials have left the service, with new staff being recruited during the reorganization of ministries, as well as in the course of frequent changes in government. The number of young officials has grown rapidly as the Soviet civil service experience has proved in conflict with the needs of democratic government. According to the Avaliku Teenistuse Aastaraamat (2001), 54% of civil servants were less than 40 years old, and 76% had worked in the civil service for less than 10 years in 2000. Labor turnover slowed down at the end of the 1990s, being 10-20% a year starting 1997. 6
  7. 7. However, several authors (Ridley, 1995; Hesse, 1996; Verheijen, 1998) have observed that the political and economic reforms of the transition period have left the civil service reform in the cold not only in Estonia but in most CEE countries as well. Moreover, Drechsler (2000) claims that the underdeveloped public administration has started to act as a brake on continuing reforms, furthering stabilization and joining the European Union. Indeed, the development of the Estonian public administration in the 1990s was neither rational nor consistent as the political will for structural administrative reforms was deficient. Although the democratic governments of the 1990s were able to change the general legal framework of the civil service, they met with but limited success in reshaping the administrative culture and performance at large. Little attention has been paid to systematic in-service training and conscious development of civil service culture at a time when both politicians and civil servants have found themselves under constant pressure to build up state institutions and develop new functions of the independent state. Introduction of pay-for-performance in the Estonian civil service In order to understand the environment where the PFP scheme was launched, attention has to be paid to the existing salary policy and personnel appraisal in the Estonian civil service. The State Public Servants Official Titles and Salary Scale Act (adopted in 1996) defines a uniform salary scale for civil servants ranging from 7 to 35. The Act, however, leaves a relatively large amount of discretion for every government organization to determine the salary rank for each particular job. As a result, salaries differ considerably between government organizations, and the salary system cannot be characterized as consistent or transparent, as ranks are not defined clearly and individual institutions try to find ways to motivate their employees, e.g. by paying for extra tasks or differentiating salaries within ranks. In addition to their salaries, civil servants have a number of monetary benefits depending on their seniority, academic credentials and proficiency in foreign languages. None of the laws passed in the domain of civil service has specifically aimed to link civil service pay to performance, however, the Public Service Act foresees the possibility to allot occasional monetary rewards or valuable gifts for exemplary individual performance, or promoting an individual employee to a higher salary rank. Performance appraisal was introduced to the Estonian civil service by the enforcement of the Public Service Act in 1996. The Act set the start of regular evaluations to 1998-2000. The idea of regular evaluations was highly “mechanistic”, first and foremost perceived as threatening by providing, for example, for dismissal in cases of unsatisfactory performance, and disregarding such classical aims of performance appraisal as feedback, personnel development or training. Such a scheme was largely caused by the transitional character of the Estonian civil service – as all state employees became automatically civil servants in 1996, regular evaluations were initially seen as a tool for “cleaning up” the civil service. However, the government did not succeed in starting with regular personnel evaluations in 1998. The 1998 amendment to the Public Service Act added to the idea of formal evaluations the process of regular performance interviews. Therefore, the performance appraisal system consists of two parts. First, the formal evaluations which take place once in every three years and are carried out by the Competition and Evaluation Committee led by the administrative head of each agency. Performance evaluations may result in declaring an official to be either suitable or unsuitable for the post, leading respectively to proposals of further training, assignment to higher salary rank, promotion, demotion or dismissal of the official concerned. Secondly, performance interviews are carried out annually by immediate supervisors and form a basis for formal performance evaluations. Performance interviews offer a “softer” approach to personnel 7
  8. 8. policies by laying greater emphasis on feedback and motivational factors such as personnel development. Performance interviews may also result in a proposal to raise an official’s salary rank, or to pay extra bonuses within an existing salary rank provided the agency has sufficient financial resources. The concrete application of performance appraisal (e.g. the methods used and results obtained) depends on each government agency. In sum, performance appraisal is not directly linked to civil service pay policies, as pay is handled separately from other human resource functions. The idea to introduce PFP into the Estonian central government developed in the Ministry of Finance during the preparation of the 2001 annual budget. Consequently, the approved state budget earmarked 5% of existing civil service payroll as funds for PFP. Therefore, internal financial sources or so-called “reserves” were used to introduce the new scheme. Thereupon, on 24 January 2001 the government adopted a Regulation establishing PFP, which came into force retrospectively as of 1 January 2001. Although most ministries had earlier made critical remarks on the draft of the Regulation, mainly concerning the need to determine performance criteria before the evaluation period, the majority of ministerial amendment proposals were disregarded by the Ministry of Finance which was charged with the preparation of the Regulation. According to the Regulation, the allocation of funds for PFP was to be carried out in accordance with the annual Action Plans of each government agency. The respective Action Plans were to be submitted by 15 February 2001. The same deadline was set for each Minister to establish a Committee for the evaluation of results. The Regulation prescribed that at the end of the performance period set by the Minister (usually 1–4 a year), each agency must issue a performance report. Then, the Committee would report to the Minister on the performance of each agency working under the Minister, who in turn would allocate the PFP funds for each institution. The Regulation did not determine how the respective funds were to be allocated within each agency, leaving that entirely to the discretion of the agencies. The explanatory note accompanying the Regulation determined the goals of the PFP scheme. In addition, the initiators of PFP from the Ministry of Finance expounded these widely in the mass media. For example, the biggest business daily Äripäev (2000) reported extensively on varying expectations related to the PFP scheme. When Janno Reiljan, a Member of Parliament, submitted a formal request of clarification regarding the use of PFP funds, Prime Minister Mart Laar further elaborated the aims of this new initiative (Riigikogu, 2001). In sum, PFP was supposed to: • help to achieve better results at no extra cost • recognize and motivate individual agencies in their striving for greater efficiency and effectiveness • improve teamwork within public organizations • forge a better link between individual performance and institutional goals • increase public sector transparency • increase the attractiveness of the public sector in the labor market • reduce the number of civil servants and cut back personnel costs • improve public sector planning • cut red tape Discussion The PFP scheme has not yet been in operation long enough for a thorough assessment. However, the short experience with PFP in the Estonian civil service has been relatively well studied and 8
  9. 9. documented. In early 2002, the Estonian State Audit Office carried out a performance audit to assess the success of the first year of PFP (Riigikontroll, 2002). The author of the article served as an expert on the audit team. Four ministries together with their agencies (both central and regional ones) were selected for the audit: Ministry of Justice (35 agencies), Ministry of Finance (8 agencies), Ministry of Defense (43 agencies) and Ministry of Highways and Communications (22 agencies). The analysis of the ministries involved a thorough study of their formal documents (strategic plans, Annual Plans, Action Plans and performance reports), as well as procedures and processes related to the allocation of PFP funds. The study of formal documents was supplemented by in-depth interviews with altogether 53 civil servants. In addition, the actual achievement of stated goals was checked in 62 cases. The results of the study will be analyzed on the basis of the critical criteria of performance management discussed earlier. PFP as part of strategic management The PFP scheme lives its own life in the Estonian civil service. Systemic problems were encountered already in the design of the scheme as the development of PFP did not occur in conjunction with other civil service functions. Instead, the Regulation established PFP independently, adding it mechanically to the existing pay, appraisal and planning processes. This can be observed best in the preparation of the various plans. Firstly, Action Plans as main tools of PFP did not necessarily follow the ideas of long-term strategic plans. Secondly, different Annual Plans were used for the preparation of the annual state budget. Each agency was left to decide on the connections between Annual Plans and Action Plans. Most interviewees claimed that although these plans were often quite different, substantial overlapping occurred. In addition, the introduction of PFP did not cause any changes in the existing pay or appraisal policies. There is little indication that the PFP scheme was viewed as anything other than a mere technical management tool that can easily be grafted onto an existing management system. Managerial roles and abilities Managerial problems can be identified on both macro- and micro-level of the PFP system. On the macro-level, designers of the system clearly overrated the commitment and management skills of ministerial leadership, heads of agencies and mid-level managers by leaving them considerable discretion without any support mechanisms. On the other hand, individual managers did not feel the “ownership” of the new initiative. This may have been conditioned by the fact that government institutions were under pressure to introduce PFP or because a number of critical amendments proposed by the ministries in the draft Regulation were not seriously considered. However, even under the deficient system, top leadership of the studied ministries could have done much for the success of PFP. Instead, all ministries and agencies revealed problems with working out rules and criteria for the allocation of PFP; in some cases no organizational procedures were ever settled. The leadership of ministries did not care how individual units of their organizations allocated PFP, which led to ranking subordinates without any appraisal mechanisms, and the subsequent pay decisions. None of the researched institutions used performance interviews or any other kind of two-way communication between raters and ratees. Civil servants were not told why they received, or did not receive, PFP. The results also indicate that neither the Committees deciding on the allocation of PFP funds for agencies nor individual managers were able to differentiate between agencies, units or civil servants, or to make any other “unpopular” decisions. Performance measurement 9
  10. 10. Performance measurement took place on two levels: firstly, ministries evaluated their agencies, thus determining the amount of PFP funds allocated to each agency, and secondly, each agency allotted the money to its employees. It was not known to the agencies which criteria where considered by the ministerial committees in the allocation of PFP funds. The amount of the funds depended largely on the number of civil servants in each agency. Such approach obviously did not help to distinguish between good and bad performers and was at odds with the general aim of the scheme to motivate good performers. While the formal decision-making procedure had been set on the macro (ministerial) level, the allocation of PFP funds within agencies was rather chaotic. On the one hand, in most cases no clear performance criteria were set either on unit or individual level. On the other hand, a few agencies tried to work out rather complicated mathematical models with different weights and coefficients (with regional Probation Offices resorting to geometric progressions), which rendered the appraisal process a highly mechanistic one. In all cases, appraisal was a top-down process, with civil servants being neither consulted in designing performance criteria nor given appropriate feedback. The allocation of PFP helped to recognize problems with setting goals both on agency level as well as in terms of agency units and individual civil servants. As the Action Plans were drafted during less than a month, the goals of institutions often represented the mechanic accumulation of tasks indicated in job descriptions or of individual goals (e.g. to graduate from a university). As a result, goals and means got mixed, and many Action Plans mostly listed means (e.g. the number of judges trained). The preparation of performance reports involved a starkly “black- and-white” approach in evaluating whether a stated goal was reached or not, with no attention paid to the quality and other indicators of results (e.g. the concepts of equity and equality or even the protection of vulnerable groups). Finally, the entire PFP process was overshadowed by time pressure. For example, although the new scheme started already in January 2001, the Ministry of Justice only managed to define the number of performance periods in June, the Ministry of Finance had not settled its performance criteria by September, and both the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defense changed the number of performance periods during the year. The agencies which decided to establish performance criteria, only worked these out a short time before the end of a performance period. Performance criteria also varied in different performance periods. Fairness of pay-for performance Although the direct aim of the study was not to assess the fairness of PFP, it is important to note that the majority of respondents did not perceive any link between performance and reward. Indeed, the variation of PFP was symbolic in most cases, and an unwillingness to differentiate between agencies or civil servants prevailed. It appeared that all agencies under the studied four ministries received PFP funds as there was no real attempt to compare agencies with each other or to give an independent evaluation to their achievements. Generally, the PFP funds constituted 5% of the payroll of each agency. Interestingly enough, PFP funds were also allocated for unfulfilled tasks. For example, the Ministry of Finance decided that agencies which had fulfilled their Action Plans to 75% would receive 4.5% of their payroll as PFP funds. Similar inflated approach appeared in the evaluation of eighteen regional units of the Tax Board. The directors of regional units who received an evaluation “below the average”, still secured PFP ranking between 30-50% of their base salaries. The Ministry of Finance allocated PFP to 100% of its employees, 80-90% of civil servants received the reward in the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Highways and Communications. The only ministry to use any differentiation was the Ministry of Justice which allocated PFP to about a half of its staff. In a few cases (e.g. the Customs Office), PFP was distributed simply as a percentage of the employees’ base salaries. In 10
  11. 11. addition, a strong positive correlation appeared between the amount of the base salary and the PFP (the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Highways and Communications even used a formal system of coefficients in correspondence with organizational hierarchy). In the allocation of PFP to individual civil servants, Action Plans were often not considered at all (e.g. in the Ministry of Highways and Communications). The Tallinn Prison distributed its PFP funds even before issuing a performance report. In a few cases (e.g. the Highway Administration), performance reports appeared invalid by showing the achievement of targets which were actually not reached. Such examples did not contribute to the satisfaction of civil servants, in fact, the opposite is true – most interviewees voiced their dissatisfaction with the implementation of the scheme. Finally, not only were civil servants not informed of the reasons underlying their respective PFP rewards, but the overall scheme did not include any appeals procedure either on agency or individual level. Teamwork and system variables In theory, the Regulation establishing PFP provides for both collective and individual allocation of rewards, thus trying to offset one of the main criticisms of PFP – its individualistic character. However, the actual implementation of the PFP scheme indicated that the collective dimension of the scheme remained marginal, as all agencies received PFP funds. Within agencies, PFP was allocated on an individual basis, as the PFP funds of each sub-unit were more or less mechanistically calculated on the basis of the number of civil servants on the payroll of the respective unit. The Ministry of Justice was an exception here, proving capable of differentiating between different ministerial units. As there was little differentiation between civil servants, no unhealthy competition between staff members was reported (organizational climate was rather influenced by the perception of unfairness of such a practice in general). As for other system variables, there were several cases were a goal was deemed not achieved because, for example, the relevant law was not adopted by the Parliament (in the case of the Ministry of Justice), or a public procurement process was delayed (in the case of the Highway Administration). But this did not influence PFP either, since the Action Plans were not seriously considered in the appraisal of individuals, and all agencies were able to secure their PFP funds. Size of reward In the case of the Estonian civil service, the source of PFP should be considered before analyzing the size of reward. As the money for PFP was subtracted from the overall payroll of governmental institutions (5%), it influenced the whole process of implementing the scheme. Agencies perceived the situation as if “something rightfully theirs had been taken from their budgets”, and therefore, felt justified in receiving the same sum back as PFP fund. Such an environment put ministerial committees in a difficult position in terms of distinguishing between agencies. On the individual level, the average PFP was, therefore, 5% of the individual annual salary which, according to many interviewees, was not enough to motivate civil servants to improve their performance. Officials of the Ministry of Highways and Communications claimed that it would be easier to pay occasional performance bonuses to well-performing officials than go through the bureaucratic procedure of PFP at an only marginal benefit. Although the differentiation between civil servants was very limited, a few top managers secured a substantial reward, for example, the Ministry of Justice disbursed a very high PFP bonus (48% of the average annual salary of the ministry) to one senior official. Other factors 11
  12. 12. Before examining the overall costs (and benefits) of PFP, attention must be paid to a few other factors which have not been discussed before but can be considered important variables in the analysis of PFP in the Estonian civil service. • Time pressure. The scheme was introduced under great time pressure, which did not allow any thorough analysis or preparation of relevant documents and processes. The decision on the introduction of PFP was made before the actual designing of the system, which later led to serious implementation problems. Government institutions did not have enough time to prepare their managers and civil servants for the introduction of the new initiative. • Poor analysis of previous practice. The initiators of PFP were able to convince decision- makers and the public that PFP schemes had succeeded in private sector and in foreign public services. However, there are many reasons to believe that the design of the PFP scheme proceeded essentially in isolation from the experience of other countries (although the explanatory note refers to a study of the Finnish experience). It also disregarded previous implementation problems in both private and public sectors and overlooked scientific literature with numerous case studies. • Absence of support mechanisms. The introduction of a new policy did not involve any pilot studies, there were no guidelines prepared or training provided to support the development of Action Plans, the measurement of institutional or individual performance and preparation of performance reports. Despite insufficient preparatory work, ministries were under pressure to introduce PFP immediately in the first year with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs being the only one which did not follow the established PFP process. • Problems with the general framework of plans. The existing framework of plans (strategic plans, Annual Plans) was not changed by the introduction of PFP scheme. Instead, Action Plans were introduced which, to a large extent, overlapped with existing Annual Plans. On the other hand, contradictions were reported between Annual Plans and Action Plans. As no guidelines were given for the development of Action Plans, these appeared in widely different forms and qualities, which made it very difficult to use them for the intended purpose. Accordingly, performance reports based on the evaluation of Action Plans varied a lot, and could not serve as a good basis for making decisions on PFP issues. • Absent monitoring. The Ministry of Finance as the initiator of the PFP scheme and drafter of the Regulation, distanced itself completely from the implementation of the scheme. No monitoring was carried out, neither was the implementation of the PFP scheme evaluated. As a result, the same Regulation (with insignificant modifications) was introduced for the year 2002 despite severe criticism that it received from the State Audit Office. • Developing administration. Several agencies found it difficult to adequately plan and measure performance due to their structural reorganization. In addition, interviewees developed concerns about the comparability of different performance periods, which can be difficult in a fast developing administration. The introduction of PFP scheme also identified broader problems in transitional public administration such as poor accountability and control systems, as well as frequently changing political priorities. Costs of PFP The explanatory note to the Regulation introducing PFP in the Estonian civil service did not foresee extra costs related to the new initiative, since money for PFP was supposed to come from 12
  13. 13. the ministerial “reserves”. The explanatory note stated that some extra time could have been spent on the development of Action Plans, performance reports and decision-making processes, but the respective costs were considered to be minimal. Indeed, there were no major tangible costs related to the PFP scheme. The process was very cost-efficient (no costs related to the analysis, training or preparation of support materials), yet on the other hand, it was not accompanied by any greater effectiveness of the civil service either. Compared the outcome to the original goals of the PFP scheme, it is difficult to identify any major achievements. Moreover, several intangible costs became apparent. None of the ministries and agencies reported better performance than in previous years. Instead of motivating agencies and individual civil servants to improve their performance, dissatisfaction with the scheme was reflected during the interviews. As PFP was limited to the individual level, it did not affect teamwork in organizations, nor did it forge any better links between individual performance and institutional goals. Absence of performance criteria and vague decision-making processes within agencies did not contribute to making the public sector more transparent. There is no evidence of increasing public sector attractiveness or cutting the number of civil servants and personnel costs. In fact, the number of civil servants increased slightly during 2001. All respondents reported increased paperwork and other problems related to new complicated procedures and the variety of plans. It is difficult to judge the influence on organizational climate. However, considering the fact that all government institutions lacked clear criteria and procedures of evaluation, two-way communication and appeals procedures were missing and PFP was often considered unfair, there is sufficient reason to believe that if PFP had any effect on organizational climate, it was negative rather than positive. As a result of the first-year experience, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Social Affairs decided not to continue with PFP in 2002. The most positive effect of the first-year experience concerned learning from mistakes on both central and organizational levels. The government recognized the need to improve the general salary system of civil servants and the planning framework, eliminating overlapping and contradictory requirements. In addition, managers claimed that the PFP exercise made them aware of different problems in their organizations. It was already evident in 2002 that many government institutions had improved their institutional planning and personnel appraisal practices as well as the salary systems. The need for the development of better control and accountability mechanisms was also realized. Lessons for Central and Eastern Europe The findings of the introduction of the PFP scheme in the Estonian civil service system form a twofold basis for broader conclusions. Firstly, they provide further support for previous critical studies of PFP reported in Western countries. However, there are also additional problems in transitional administrations, making the development of performance management tools even more questionable than in the West. Secondly, the findings allow us to trace broader conclusions about the complexities and specifics of public policy processes in transitional administrations, particularly in CEE. Implementation gap Several authors (e.g. Verheijen, 1998) have observed that the implementation gap between formal acts and procedures on the one hand and their actual implementation on the other represents a far-reaching problem in most CEE countries. This, in turn, has made it difficult to introduce new management tools in the public sector. The development of modern public 13
  14. 14. management initiatives remains a challenge not only in the law-drafting endeavors but, first of all, in the real implementation processes of the enacted policies and laws at every administrative level. Whereas most CEE countries, including Estonia, were involved in the development of a legislative framework to their civil services in the middle of the 1990s, more attention has been paid to the managerial, or “softer”, issues of public administration since the end of the 1990s. The legalistic approach to public administration has gradually been balanced by an increasing focus on management problems that have been encountered during the implementation of new legislative acts. Deficient accountability and co-ordination mechanisms In CEE countries, many new organizations, structural units and individual jobs have been created during a short period of time and thus often without necessary prior analysis. This has led to unclear hierarchical relationships, overlapping functions, duplication of duties and various problems related to accountability. When the base of the organization is weak, other management techniques have a poor and unreliable foundation to build on. The case study of Estonia supports earlier work by Verheijen (1998), demonstrating unusually poor accountability and co-ordination mechanisms in CEE public services. The lack of co-ordination mechanisms has probably been inherited from the Communist regime, under which responsibility for the integration of policies and for controlling their implementation used to lie mainly with the Communist Party. Very little was done to develop new mechanisms for integration, co- ordination and control during the 1990s. This, in turn, allowed individual ministries or even structural units of ministries to come up with fragmented policy proposals that did not fit the larger framework. Furthermore, the parliaments of CEE countries, being overloaded with the preparation of legislation, have proved unable to exercise their powers of control of the executive. Even if they had the time, the lack of experience on the part of many MPs, coupled with the lack of resources, would limit the scope and depth of parliamentary scrutiny. Consequently, it is important to get the basics right and to be able to control inputs before introducing ambitious management techniques revolving around outputs and outcomes. Poor policy analysis The case study above demonstrates how poor policy analysis and policy-making process may affect the actual results of introducing PFP. Verheijen (1998) has demonstrated that a lack of capacity in policy-making is a serious problem in most CEE countries. The development of democratic institutions has formally taken place, however, new political parties are yet unable to carry out adequate policy analysis. This leads to a situation where politicians are unable to set strategic goals, which, in turn, engenders conflicting policies and symbolic objectives. This process may even accelerate in the context of frequent political changes and the generally unstable political environment in CEE. As both politicians and civil servants have a decade of experience in elaborating a great many new policy proposals, there is as yet no general culture which would require serious analysis to precede the adoption of a new regulation or policy. In addition, as the whole society is undergoing a number of rapid and radical changes, it has been relatively easy for all social groups (including political parties and civil service) to accept new initiatives without any major criticism. Such an “activist” approach has left less resources to the implementation and evaluation of new policies. The challenge for all CEE countries is to move from the practices of early transition years, where new institutions and policies had to be adopted immediately, to more thorough preparation and analysis of new policy initiatives. Insufficient management experience 14
  15. 15. Performance management is one of the most sophisticated areas of public management. Therefore, public sector managers in CEE who often have insufficient managerial experience (or irrelevant management experience from the Communist period) should be aware of its problems and failures. Managers with too little experience may take the slippery road and overquantify performance indicators as these are easier to measure and may look more objective, transparent and understandable than qualitative data (Mintzberg, 1994). By working out complex mathematical models, the technique may easily come triumph over the purpose of administrative operations. Managers with poor experience are likely to also have low self-respect, leading to the fear of making mistakes, achieving goals at any cost, and self-justification instead of open learning process. Performance management can succeed only if public sector managers receive training and strong methodological support in introducing new management tools. In addition, appropriate control and monitoring mechanisms should help to avoid problems with decentralization and high managerial autonomy. For many public sector executives, managing of public agencies means applying rules and regulations (Ingraham, 1993). The complexity and thoroughness of legal acts surrounding the working conditions of civil servants may reduce managers to passive and reactive followers of the rules rather than proactive developers of management instruments and facilitators of their implementation. Although this is also a problem in Western countries, it is a much bigger issue in CEE, due to the poor experience of managers. Moreover, additional CEE-relevant problems such as inadequate trust between managers and civil servants are liable to arise because of the high level of politicization in the region (Verheijen, 1998), which may make the performance management process less “counseling” and more a controlling exercise. If the performance management schemes want to improve the actual performance of civil servants, managers in CEE should be ready to invest a significant share of their time and thought into the development and implementation of a performance management scheme. This would mean the development of better communication and feedback practices instead of forcing a rigid ranking order on civil servants – in a word, the change of a whole management culture. Involvement of civil servants in the design of performance criteria and decision-making process is the first step towards a change from the “legalist” to a “managerial” approach to performance management. Fairness of management practices There is still a long way to go in CEE countries in introducing procedures and policies designed to ensure fairness of organizational practices. People’s perceptions of fairness reflect at least two features of the situations they find themselves in: the actual outcomes and the processes used in arriving at these outcomes. When establishing new management practices in CEE, a lot of attention has been paid to particular techniques, for example, the development of very complex performance appraisal techniques in some Estonian agencies. Focusing on techniques may easily leave the process in the background. Inevitably, civil servants sometimes feel that a decision or procedure is unfair. Here formal appeal procedures offer one avenue for civil servants to voice their concerns and seek solutions. However, appeal systems are reactive. They focus the attention and energy of disputants on the past and represent a formalized process of designating an injured party, blaming someone or something for the injury and claiming a remedy. Therefore, public sector managers should also think of developing proactive approaches to ensure fair treatment including, for example, well designed and implemented performance appraisals, frequent informal feedback, clear discipline policies, regular surveys to monitor civil servants’ attitudes and perceptions, as well as good communication practices in the organization. 15
  16. 16. Democratic versus technocratic values And last but not least, performance management is not a valueless exercise. Public sector goals can work at cross purposes if they combine values which, when implemented in concrete policy proposals, reveal themselves as contradictory. For instance, several “democratic” goals such as representativeness, transparency, equal opportunities, access to public services, fair procedures and citizen participation in decision-making may conflict with more “technocratic” or “rational” goals such as efficiency, effectiveness, value-for-money or fast decision-making. This kind of contradiction can be especially hard to solve in CEE countries, where the above-mentioned democratic principles are not as deeply held and broadly accepted as in the countries with long democratic traditions. The situation will be more complicated where civil society organizations are weak and where limited resources may bring pressure to bear on governments to follow “technocratic” goals. The foregoing also relates to the problem of mixing means and ends. Halachmi (1993) argues that public managers may not realize that by initiating a PFP scheme they may be starting a ritual that will eventually turn means into ends and take on a bureaucratic life of its own. Carelessly designed performance indicators may subvert the wider goals of an organization, and detract from the intended policy outcome. Therefore, decision-makers of new democratic countries should be particularly careful in focusing on “democratic” goals and quality of public services. Conclusions The findings of the study do not support many of the assumptions that surrounded the initial adoption of PFP in the Estonian civil service; instead they demonstrate that many of the untested and frequently stated assumptions held by initiators of PFP scheme were built on quicksand. Consequently, there was, and continues to be, a significant gap between the rhetoric (“public sector pays for performance”) and reality. The fundamental question remains, why do governments, including the Estonian one, keep adopting PFP if the substantial amount of the research as well as the negative firsthand experience show that PFP does not work as advertised. Several reasons provided by Kellough and Lu (1993) such as the symbolical and political attractiveness of the concept of PFP, business stereotype, managerial orthodoxy, political control, sunk costs and perceived implementation failure are also present in Estonia. The main reason for persisting of the Estonian PFP scheme is a symbolic response to public perceptions of bureaucratic inefficiency and demands for accountability, which is reflected by the political support to PFP because of its symbolic rather than instrumental value. The central dilemma in this field seems to be whether there is a failure of theory or of implementation of PFP schemes. The response of the Estonian government to the unsuccessful first-year experiment proves that difficulties with PFP are considered the product of implementation “glitches” rather than fundamental problems with the basic concept of PFP. As the analysis of the more general issues of public policy-making in CEE countries demonstrates, deficient accountability and co-ordination mechanisms, poor policy analysis, insufficient management experience, unfair management practices and underestimation of democratic values provide sufficient evidence to raise serious questions about the wisdom of developing PFP schemes in transitional administrations, and more specifically, continuing with this model in Estonia. The belief that current troubles are merely the product of implementation difficulties needs to be supplemented by critical analysis of the overall concept of PFP by raising fundamental questions concerning the viability of the underlying idea, including the suitability of PFP to the public sector and specific political, cultural and administrative environment. 16
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