ATKINSON GRADUATE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, WILLAMETTE UNIVERSITY, SALEM OR, 97302
What should public management researchers study? By public management researchers, I mean, of course, academics who teach in public management programs.
There are two simple answers to this question. The first is that we should study things that will amuse, amaze, and arouse the envy of our peers. That is, we should do good stuff. And "what is the good stuff? Yes, it's careful and honest, adheres to canons of fair argument, is fresh. More, it's driven by interesting and important (not necessarily fashionable) questions and it displays good analytic, conceptual judgment and, often, a bit of intellectual daring" (see Appendix A). The second is that we should study the things our students ought to know. That is, we should figure out their needs and their needs should drive our research agenda.
Both answers are correct, but the second has priority because it goes directly to the question of what we should study, while the first asks how. What should our students know? Presumably, they ought to know how to manage. Hence, the question really is: What does it mean to know how to manage?
Looking at the curricula of most business schools, one might infer that the answer to this question is that managers know how to use a set of tools. The schools themselves are organized like giant toolboxes, compartmentalized by academic departments/disciplines: strategy and policy, marketing, organization theory and behavior, human resources, finance, accounting, managerial economics and operations research, quantitative methods and statistics, and information technology and computer science. Moreover, this structure is reinforced by the curricular requirements of the bodies that accredit these institutions, especially AACSB, but to a significant degree NASPAA as well.
Of course, public management is not business management. While most of the differences between managing in the public and private sectors may be matters of degree, not of kind, significant differences do exist. Public managers need something more than a set of generic management tools, otherwise we could send them to business schools (or, if you believe as I do that business schools are in fundamental ways ill-organized to train mangers, you could fix the business schools and then send them there). But, even If management training were merely tools transmission and skills acquisition, that would be the wrong strategy. This is not merely a matter of emphasis and attitude (i.e., What is the best job to take after graduation? The one that pays the most). Some of the tools public managers take from business schools are ill-suited to the jobs they face; many of the critical tools they need are entirely absent from the business curriculum.
Nevertheless, generic management tools are basic to management practice. When public management scholars ignore those tools, we ignore the needs of our students. Unfortunately, all too often, that is what we do. When, for example, I ask outstanding public managers which journals they read, they often answer Harvard Business Review or Management Accounting. They seldom say Public Administration Review and nobody ever answers JPAM. It seems that public management scholars often haven't even given their students an adequate set of basic tools, let alone the better tools they need.
Because the business disciplines have developed a variety of useful basic tools and because it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel, it follows that public management scholars should study generic management tools.
We should probably also consider the learning agenda that guides the business disciplines: first, identification of basic tools (description); second, best practice research to tell us how and where those tools should be used (normative analysis); third, the evidentiary basis for claims about how well the tools work (positive analysis), a point I shall return to later in this essay.
To study generic management tools we must figure out what they are. That is, we must chart the boundaries of generic management by identifying the intersection of the jobs of public and business managers. I don't wish to appear disingenuous about what this means. It is no secret that I teach at a school that claims to teach generic management or that our MM program is the only degree program in the country that is accredited by both AACSB and NASPAA.
However, the Atkinson School set out to be a generic management school without a clear idea of what that meant. It was the fad in the mid 1970s -- at about the time we opened our doors, generic schools of management were created at Yale, Rice, UC Irvine, Riverside, and Davis and a number of existing business schools, Stanford, Northwestern, UCLA, etc. established public management programs. Our founding Dean, Steve Archer, had been chairman of the finance department at the University of Washington and he designed a fairly standard business curriculum -- for the time it was a little heavy on finance, accounting, and the decision sciences and light on marketing and business policy and strategy -- to which he added a significant politics and law component. He also determined that school's research concentration would be government regulation of business and recruited a faculty from existing MBA and MPA programs who shared his commitment to the school's educational mission and its research thrust.
For a number of reasons, the Atkinson School has succeeded in retaining a generic focus where others failed. I would stress three reasons for our success: careful staffing at the outset, a location across the street from the state capitol, and size. Staffing is self explanatory. Our location is important because of the access to internships and the convenient opportunities for class projects in Oregon state government that it provides. There is no doubt in my mind that these experiences help to account for the fact that a third of our graduates take jobs in the public or non-profit sectors (indeed, nearly half of those taking jobs with for-profit consulting firms service governmental agencies). This is three or four times the level of other generic programs and is actually higher than some MPP/MPA programs. Nor is there any doubt in my mind that we would have gone the way of all other generic programs if those jobs hadn't been there.
The benefits of size are arguable. Steve Archer consciously and persistently fought disciplinary compartmentalization. For example, he distributed faculty from different disciplines into offices on different floors; and randomly numbered courses and listed electives in the catalog in an attempt to break down disciplinary boundaries. Nevertheless, despite Steve Archer's best efforts, I think that with a faculty of 30 or 40, we would have inevitably compartmentalized ourselves into departments and disciplines. Indeed, over time our school's research program eventually lost its original focus. Individual research efforts are now oriented primarily to journals in our home fields. Because we are small, however, we have been forced to work together closely on curricular matters and research -- so we do, thereby making a virtue of necessity.
Our curriculum currently consists of a required core consisting of ten courses and ten electives. The last time we thoroughly redesigned our core, we collected a large number of core course syllabi in the basic business disciplines, plus political science, negotiation, law, and ethics, from a variety of MBA and MPA programs, created a standard or average syllabus in each area based on common elements across programs, "chunked" each average syllabus, and, for the most part, discarded those chunks that our alumni advisory committee (half public/half private) told us they didn't need. Some chunks were retained for contrast; others because of faculty interest (see Appendix B).
This exercise identified large areas of overlap between business and public management. You probably won't be surprised to learn this is the case with respect to organization theory, human resources, finance, accounting, or information technology, although there is scant evidence that public management researchers in this country pay much attention to finance, accounting, or information technology. You may be surprised to learn, however, that our alumni advisory panel found as much or more overlap in strategy and policy and marketing -- and in politics, negotiation, law, and ethics.
Of course, our alumni may be biased about the importance of politics, negotiation, law, and ethics. However, I am inclined to believe that business schools do their students a profound disservice when they discount these fields. (I acknowledge that in recent years many business schools have given these fields a more prominent place in their curricula).
Another place where business schools often go wrong is in the way they compartmentalize their tools. Their disciplinary stovepipes have always been dysfunctional insofar as they had more to do with faculty preparation than the needs of students. Nowadays, they are also increasingly irrelevant. Organizations are no longer compartmentalized the way business schools are (Bruggeman, 1995; Otley, 1994; Bunce, Fraser, Woodcock, 1995). Arguably, decompartmentalization is being driven by the information revolution, which is breaking down economies of scale and scope built upon functional specialization. According to Michael Hammer modern data bases, expert systems, and telecommunications networks provide many, if not all, of the benefits that once made internal specialization of administrative functions like personnel, finance, accounting, etc. attractive (Hammer, 1990: 108-112). To the extent that the provision of these services requires specialized skills they are increasingly contracted out to specialist firms. The rest are performed by the people in the organization who actually do its real work.
What we see emerging are smaller, flatter organizations, organized around a set of generic value-creating processes and specific competencies. Some single mission organizations are now organized as virtual networks; some multimission organizations as alliances of networks. Johnson & Johnson, 3M, and Rubbermaid, for examples, are loose alliances, sharing only their top management, a set of core competencies, and a common culture (Quinn, 1992). The control systems of these organizations, like those of centralized bureaucracies, collect a lot of information on every aspect of operations, including non-financial information, but unlike the control systems of stovepipe organizations, which were erected on the premise that the exercise of judgment should be passed up the managerial ranks, this information is used to push the exercise of judgment down into the organization, to wherever it is needed, at the point of sale, at delivery, or in production (Simons, 1995).
Philip Evans and Thomas Wurster refer to these new kinds of organizational arrangements as hyperarchies, after the hyperlinks of the World Wide Web (Evans and Wurster, 1997: 75). Evans and Wurster assert that, like the internet itself, the architectures of object-oriented software programming, and packet switching in telecommunications, these kinds of organizations have eliminated the need to channel information, thereby eliminating the tradeoff between information bandwidth (richness) and connectivity (reach). This, they claim, challenges all hierarchies, whether of logic or of power, "with the possibility (or the threat) of random access and information symmetry."
It would be ironical indeed if public management schools were now to compartmentalize themselves the way business schools do. Although it seems that the federal government of the US is bound and determined to do precisely that, cf. the Chief Financial Officer Act and Chief Financial Officer Act.
Are there alternatives to the way businesses schools compartmentalize their tools? For a long time I thought my old teacher (and I assure you he was old even then), Peter F. Drucker (1953, 343-344), had the right idea. Drucker claims that there are a set of generic management skills and that they can be organized in terms of the common functions or tasks that managers perform in all organizations:
A manager, in the first place, sets objectives. Secondly, a manager organizes. Next a manager motivates and communicates. The fourth basic element in the work of the manager is the job of measurement. Finally, a manager develops people.
There are higher level functions:
Planning: formulating a product/market strategy to allow the organization to exploit its core competencies to meet the demands of its external environment;
Organizing: aligning the organization's administrative, responsibility, and account structures with its strategy;
Staffing: motivating and inspiring people to serve the interests of the organization, recruiting, training, and indoctrinating them, and coordinating their activities to do its work;
Developing: creating a culture and a web of personal relationships that strengthens and maintains the organization's core competencies and reinforces its formal structures.
And, there are lower-level functions:
Controlling: monitoring and enforcing rules and procedures, encouraging productive and discouraging unproductive behavior, rewarding performance;
Operating: detailed planning of capacity utilization, scheduling of material and work flows, and task execution;
Reporting: reporting to higher level authorities on environmental forces and surprises, opportunities and threats, strengths and weakness, efforts and accomplishments;
Budgeting: assessing alternative investments and policies, programming the consequences of investment decisions and policy commitments, target setting.
I liked Drucker's answer because it reflects a commitment to generic management. It also satisfies the requirement that a taxonomy be, so far as possible, a mutually exclusive and severally exhaustive set of classes, something that business school stovepipes never even pretended to be. Moreover, Drucker's answer has been around for a long time. The particular formulation of it presented here, POSDCORB, was adumbrated by Luther Gulick in the mid-1930s in his introduction to Papers on the Science of Administration (Gulick and Urwick, 1937).
One can imagine a core curriculum designed around POSDCORB: first term courses might include planning, organizing, operating, and reporting; second term might include staffing, developing, controlling, and budgeting, which, if one looks at the result of our chunking exercise and throws in quant/stats, is pretty much what we do.
Recently, however, I have become disenchanted with POSDCORB. It now seems obvious that replacing the business school disciplinary structure and curricular design with one designed around management tasks merely replaces one compartmentalized set of stovepipes with another. Moreover, I am inclined to believe that POSDCORB is too inward looking. Perhaps, the manager's single most important job is understanding and shaping the organization's environment, primarily, but not solely, by means of the services it delivers to its customers and clients. Increasingly, I think Mark Moore (1995) has the right idea, if not necessarily the right directions.
Moore asks how governmental organizations can create value for the public. He concludes that managers must look upward toward securing more effective policy mandates, building support and legitimacy for agency initiatives, outward to the accomplishment of public purposes, and downward to the competent operation of their agencies. Moore also recommends specific, concrete changes in the practices of individual public managers: how they envision what is valuable to produce, how they deliver services and fulfill obligations to clients, and how they engage their political overseers. Like Drucker, Moore relies primarily on case analysis drawing on cases from the Kennedy School files: William Ruckelshaus and the EPA, Jerome Miller and the Department of Youth Services, Miles Mahoney and the Park Plaza Redevelopment Project, David Sencer and the swine flu scare, Lee Brown and the Houston Police Department, Harry Spence and the Boston Housing Authority.
Moore's advice makes a great deal of sense because he makes the manager the center of his enterprise, rather than its subject, focuses on fundamental processes through which organizations create value, and emphasizes the acquisition of a repertoire of task-contingent skills. But his advice does not constitute a blueprint for a management curriculum, let alone an agenda for public management research. This is primarily a matter of emphasis. Moore's view of management is almost a mirror image of the POSDCORB view. If POSDCORB is too inward looking, Moore's view isn't inward looking enough -- it has almost nothing to say about organizing, staffing, and designing, for examples, let alone, lower level management tasks. This is not surprising. Moore set out to write a book about organizational strategy and policy, not a blueprint for a management curriculum. It is not a criticism to say he succeeded in doing what he set out to do.
If there is a problem with Moore's managerial strategists, it's that they often seem more interested in public relations than in performance. They are also surprisingly oblivious to the development and maintenance of core competencies. They can envision value, but don't seem to grasp that organizations create value from knowledge. Of course, managers must look outward and upward, but they must also look back -- across the entire supply chain, and they must work through the organization, rather than down, to create value from knowledge.
At my school we are once more revising our curriculum to prepare our students better to create value from information. One proposal is to organize our program's core around two year-long course sequences, each oriented to one of the key value creating processes: exchange with customers, regulators, and the public; internal transformation; and supply chain management. The content of these courses would be comprised of the same basic chunks as our current core, with financial reporting, information technology, economics, finance, and quantitative methods and statistics taught as service courses.
There are two salient difference between what we do now and this proposal. First, all the chunks having to do with one of the three value creating processes would be taught together. For example, Value Creation through the Organization would combine chunks from Budget and Control (managerial accounting), Organization Theory and Design, Human Resources Management, and Operations Management. Customers, Markets, and the Public would combine chunks from Marketing, Economics, Government, Business, and Society, and Organizational Policy and Strategy. I don't know for certain what, aside from negotiation, would be included in supply Chain Management.
Second, we would make dramatic changes in the way we deliver instruction. We would make a commitment to multi-disciplinary teams [utilizing students as well as faculty] and experiential learning [problems, projects, and cases] in each of the three course sequences. The faculty would also cross-train each other -- so that every faculty member would be qualified to teach and comfortable teaching every single chunk in the core, at least to the skill level needed by our graduates.
However, public management scholars will probably want to continue to focus their research studies on a more specialized subject matter.
HOW TO STUDY
There are two ways to approach the study of management. In both instances, the unit analysis is the manager. But in one instance the manager is the subject of study; in the other the manager is its object. Most observers distinguish between these two approaches with the adjectives positive and normative. Positive analysis is concerned with identifying rules decision makers are likely to follow, given their incentives, with predicting what managers will do under specified circumstances or, at least, explaining why after the fact. Normative analysis is concerned with identifying rules that would lead decision makers to make decisions that are optimal from the standpoint of the citizenry at large, with telling managers what to do and how to do it. I come down on the normative side of this question, but it is hard for me to get worked up over it. While our proximate goal must be prescription rather than prediction, you cannot really have one without the other. Where the positive model is formulated as solution to an extremuum problem and we have consensus as to arguments of the utility function being optimized, a good normative model is merely a good positive model run backwards.
There is a second distinction that is often drawn between the two approaches: science vs. engineering (Behn, 1996). Bluntly put, the distinction here is between explaining choices and solving problems. Because I am of the opinion that public management researchers should be concerned primarily with how to questions, I come down solidly on the engineering side of this issue. Our clients are much more interested in diagnosing and treating administrative problems than in pursuing Herbert Simon's project of building an administrative science. Again, however, it appears that we have something of a false dichotomy, solving problems requires a solid understanding of how things work. Our knowledge of management tools, especially those concerned with the higher level managerial functions, rest on extremely shaky evidentiary foundations. Who could object to empirical verification of the safety and efficacy of our prescriptions?
I think the real conflict is between pure (irrelevant) and applied (relevant) research, between armchair theorizing/statistical hypothesis testing and clinical investigation/case and field study, and between doing social science, primarily economic or political science, and studying managerial processes, functions, and tasks. Social scientists build elegant, logically consistent models; public managers deal with messy, real-world problems. Indeed, it can be argued that economists, for example, prefer rational choice theories to models that incorporate bounded rationality primarily because they are conclusive, not because they are right. Decision makers can be approximately rational in a nearly infinite number of ways; they can be rational in only one.
This difference between social science and management is illustrated by the problem of voluntary provision of collective goods. Economists define a collective [or public] good in terms of two properties: jointness of supply and impossibility of exclusion. This definition implies that once a collective good is supplied by some of the members of a group, it may be enjoyed by all. From this premise it may be deduced that the decision of some of the members of a group to provide the good or some quantity of it for themselves presents each of the other members with an opportunity for strategic or shirking behavior. Since the other members of the group can profitably engage in strategic behavior, economists conclude that they will. If the other members of the group can share in the good regardless of their contributions, economists predict that they will withhold or reduce their own contributions to its provision. Hence, the decision by some of the members of a group to supply a quantity of a collective good leads other members to "free-ride" on their contributions -- which is to say that, if contributions are voluntary, collective goods will be under provided or, in the extreme, not be provided at all.
Crime control aptly illustrates this situation. Citizens can affect the level of crime in their community in two ways: by limiting their exposure to risk and protecting their property, and by helping the police fight crime. If their possessions or personal security matter enough to them, individuals may see a direct material benefit from investing in locks, guns, guard dogs, or security systems. They may even see the benefit from participating in volunteer citizen block-watches or banding together to patrol their own streets or financing a private security force to do so. The authorities can encourage these kinds of activities by providing guidance and technical assistance, by passing out police whistles, by urging people to mark their property so that it can be more easily identified when stolen, by helping to organize block watches, by setting up emergency call systems tied to rapid response, and by positioning themselves to provide back-up to private efforts.
However, self-defense alone will not control crime. Criminals must be identified, apprehended, and convicted. The police necessarily depend upon the citizenry to alert them to crime and to aid them in the conviction of criminals. Unfortunately, only where their safety or that of their loved ones is at risk or where their property is threatened will private citizens realize a direct benefit from intervening to stop in crimes in progress. And even where they have been personally victimized, citizens rarely individually benefit from helping the police identify, apprehend, and convict their assailants, since the harm has already been done and the criminal justice system seldom provides restitution. In these instances, the behavior expected of citizens, though of great value to their community, is not personally rewarding in an obvious way. Hence, individuals often shirk these onerous civic responsibilities, trying to free-ride on the efforts of their neighbors.
Many social scientist insist that, in the presence of collective goods, citizens must be coerced to perform their civic responsibilities; otherwise jointly provided services will necessarily be undersupplied. Where economists are concerned, this mind set may reflect their propensity to confuse a perfectly useful analytic construct, economic man, with living, breathing humans. Economic man is a rational fool. Given the opportunity to ride free, he will. Since economic man will not voluntarily cooperate with his neighbors to provide public or collective goods, he must be forced to do so. This mind set may also reflect a propensity to overlook the vitality of human ingenuity in designing social arrangements and to ignore the availability of motivational alternatives to coercion.
In contrast, public managers recognize that citizens often free-ride on the efforts of their neighbors, but they interpret this as problem to be solved rather than a necessary fact of life. Beekeeping provides the classic example of the failure to distinguish between economic theory and reality. Once upon a time, social science taught that beekeeping is a collective good and that, since fruit growers can rely on their neighbors' bees to pollinate their blossoms, most growers will. Hence, beekeeping must be undersupplied.
S.N.S. Cheung, then an assistant professor of economics at the University of Washington, did something that was rather extraordinary: he left his armchair to find out whether beekeeping is actually undersupplied (Cheung, 1983). As the result of a careful field study of beekeeping and apple-growing practices in Washington State, Cheung found a long history of contractual relationships between apple growers and beekeepers. These contracts provided for beekeepers to be compensated for their contribution to the growers' apple crops. He also found that apple growers implicitly covenanted with their neighbors to keep the same ratio of bees to trees. Apple growers who did not abide by the covenant were ostracized and treated to inconveniences by those who did. Consequently, Cheung concluded that free riding may not be a serious problem among real apple growers and beekeepers.
The primary point that Cheung was trying to make is that real people are not rational fools. They often do contribute voluntarily to the provision of collective goods. Furthermore, social conventions or group norms can discourage free-riding and reduce shirking. These conventions can take the form of ethical precepts, regularities imposed by institutions, or simply fixed rules of thumb for individual behavior. Moreover, group norms can be collectively enforced through the ostracism of those who fail to contribute and praise for those who do.
A second lesson to be drawn from the fable of the bees is much more relevant to our concerns here. The fact is that neither community norms nor the collective enforcement of those norms just happened. Knowledge of what to do and how to do it was provided by field agents of the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Extension Service. This information gave apple growers a solid technical basis for group norms governing the behavior of individual growers. The field agents determined how many hives were needed and fairly apportioned responsibility for their provision. They also played a role in monitoring compliance with group norms and in passing that information along to growers. In so doing, the field agents could identify shirkers and the subsequent shortfall in the provision of bees that had to be made good by the rest of the community. Moreover, the USDA provided growers with a powerful collective sanction against free riders in the form of marketing orders and quota. Free riders were not merely subject to social ostracism; they could have been denied access to their most lucrative markets.
The point is that voluntary contributions to the provision of public goods don't just spontaneously occur; opportunities for collectively beneficial action must be identified, individual contributions negotiated, performance monitored, and defectors sanctioned (Heckathorn & Maser, 1987). In other words: voluntary provision can be organized and must be managed. Because management implies a manager, it follows that someone, usually a public official, must be charged with mobilizing the community on the behalf of the public good, organizing provision of the good, creating incentives, and supervising enforcement of community norms (Powers & Thompson, 1994).
Zhiyong Lan and David Rosenbloom (1992) recently claimed that the study of public affairs is undergoing a paradigm shift and that a rational-choice, economics-based paradigm has now emerged preeminent in the field. There is a kernel of truth to this claim. Many in the field now reject the traditional bureaucratic paradigm; that is a significant change. Moreover, the rational choice disciplines, especially economics, seem much more directly relevant to the concerns of public managers than in the past. There are three not unrelated reasons for these changes: changes in the environment of public management, advances in economic science, and changing styles in political science.
Changes in the Environment of Public Management
Public management in the United States has been influenced by the "new public management." The new public management emphasizes "performance appraisal and efficiency; the disaggregation of public bureaucracies into agencies which deal with each other on a user-pay basis; the use of quasi-markets and contracting out to foster competition; cost-cutting; and a style of management which emphasizes amongst other things, output targets, limited term contracts, monetary targets and incentives, and freedom to manage" (Rhodes, 1991: 11; Dunleavy & Hood, 1994). The new public management is a widespread movement (Rhodes, 1991; see also Hood, 1991; Schedler, 1995; Osborne and Gaebler, 1992; Barzelay, 1992). Herman Schwartz (1994), for example, argues that government is undergoing "a profound shift toward a new kind of regime .... not simply a shift towards less state, but also a shift to a different kind of state." He attributes this shift to international market pressures. He stresses that many of the governments that have embraced the new public management are or were dominated by social democrats. New Zealand, which under Labour governments went further than any other country in its embrace of the new public management, is a prominent example.
Advances in Economics
While the business-management literature is central to the new public management, two bodies of economic literature have also profoundly influenced its reception and its implementation: public choice theory and the new economics of organization. Public choice involves the application of economic logic -- methodological individualism and rational, self-interested decision making -- to questions and issues that had traditionally been the concern of political scientists and public administrationists. Public choice theory has been one the great success stories of modern social and economic science. Arguably, it has changed the way we think about government and how it works. Moreover, in explaining the rules that voters, elected officials, and bureaucrats are likely to follow given their incentives, public choice theory has given public administrators some useful new normative information. Nevertheless, when public administrators look to advances in economic science for help, it is not primarily to the public choice literature that they turn to, but the new economics of organization.
The new economics of organization focuses on incentive and control structures and on the allocation of property rights and asset ownership so as to minimize intraorganizational externalities or spillovers. It comprehends concepts like the Coase Theorem, transaction costs, externality, asymmetric information -- including agency theory, moral hazard, and adverse selection, contract theory, incomplete contracts, implicit contracts, incentive contracts, search and signaling theory, team theory, and incentive compatibility that are directly relevant to managerial problems. It provides the new public management with the solid analytical foundation needed to understand how, when, and where to delegate authority, replace rules and regulations with incentives, develop budgets based upon results, expose operations to competition, search for market rather than administrative solutions, or use quasi-markets and contracting out to foster competition.
The economics of organization has already influenced the design of a variety of institutional arrangements [ranging from emissions trading and "bubbles" to outright deregulation of the airlines and interstate trucking] in the United States and the privatization and securitization of an astonishing array of government-owned assets (and some liabilities) in Europe. Moreover, the evidence is accumulating that these arrangements work. It is partly because of this evidence that the ideas of the new public managers command the attention they do.
It is, perhaps, not too strong to say that a rational-choice, economics-based paradigm has emerged preeminent in American political science, including bureaucracy and public policy, subfields that are closely related to public affairs. In my opinion this is a healthy turn of events. An unbiased observer would have to acknowledge, however, that political science, like most of the humanities and social sciences, is prone to academic fads. They come and they go, often leaving little or nothing behind in the way of accumulated knowledge. It is natural that we think of ourselves as the tip of progress's arrow, but intellectual history demands a more humble interpretation. Just as academics of past generations usually seem wrong-headed to us, so too are we likely to appear to the next. Nevertheless, for good or ill, when political science sneezes, public affairs more often than not catches a cold. Political science has sneezed. (That rational choice thinking often seems to have come to public management via a detour through political science is a rather curious situation. We might be better advised to go directly to its source disciplines.)
Nevertheless, there is no way that doing social science, or even economic science, can substitute for studying managerial processes, functions, and tasks, or that armchair theorizing/statistical hypothesis testing will wholly replace clinical investigation/case and field study. There are several reasons for this fact. One of the most important is that administrative science remains remarkably inconclusive. Unlike the subjects of the physical sciences, human beings make choices that confound analytic designs. For example, I believe that a variety of institutional innovations -- decentralization, employee empowerment, principle-centered leadership, cycle-time burdening, and transaction cost accounting -- can make substantial contributions to organizational performance. I know that some organizations have used these ideas to improve their performance dramatically and that many other organizations have embraced them. But management scholars can rarely show a straightforward, unambiguous cause-effect relationship between innovation and performance improvement.
Consider decentralization. Most of us believe that the effectiveness of large and complex organizations improves when authority is delegated down into the organization along with responsibility. Decisions are then made by those with the most pertinent knowledge of the situations and with the highest stake in their outcomes. However, only a handful of studies show any kind of a statistical relationship between performance and decentralization, and they don't tell a coherent story.
I don't mean to say that good administrative science is not being done, or even that good public administrative science is not being done. For example, the best explanation I have seen of the micromanagement cycle is found in the work of Howard Frant (1993, 1996a, 1996b), who argues that constraining rules are used to control opportunism, that opportunism can be controlled via a range of institutional alternatives, and that the alternative chosen may depend crucially on the self-interest of politicians, which, in turn, depends on how well citizens control politicians. In "Rules and Governance in the Public Sector: The Case of Civil Service," Frant subjected these notions to rigorous statistical assessment and obtained highly persuasive results that corroborate his theoretical story. In "Politics and Effectiveness in the Design of Public Organizations," Frant looked at how public organizations with seemingly similar missions ended up with strikingly different designs. He found that their designs reflected information asymmetries between citizens and politicians arising out of the characteristics of the services that the organizations provided.
Frant's research is methodologically sound; it explains an important phenomenon; it is, perhaps the best public management research we have; but, so far at least, it is not very useful. To be useful, science must be powerful enough to yield new solutions to new problems -- e.g., it wouldn't just explain what causes micromanagement, it would help to fix it. The best public administrative science cannot do that. Moreover, managers are right to be impatient with academics who tell them to wait for scientific understanding -- i.e., with rules that tell them it is far worse to say a thing is true when it is not, than to say it's not, when it is. To managers, the proof is in the putting.
What public management scholars can do is describe what managers do and try to explain what works and what doesn't. This kind of information often has practical utility. Practical reason in most fields is hermeneutic (Behn, 1996). People figure out what do by interpreting situations, deciding which facts are important, searching memory for similar fact patterns with known solutions, matching those known solutions to their interpretation of the situation, and applying the solution to the problem at hand. If that doesn't work, they start over. By describing what works, we enlarge the array of fact patterns with known solutions at the disposal of managers -- the bigger their tool box, the more likely it will contain the right tool for the job.
That, in fact, is what most of us actually do. We shouldn't be ashamed of it. Public management research often fails in practice, not because it is descriptive, but because it is theoretically silly, looks at the wrong things, or just plain careless.
Anthony, Robert N., and Herzlinger, Regina E. Management Control in Nonprofit Organizations. Homewood, IL: R. D. Irwin, 1975.
Archer, Stephen H., Choate, G.M., and Racette, G. Financial Management: An Introduction. New York: Wiley, 1979.
Axelrod, Robert "The Place of Policy Analysis in Political Science: Five Perspectives," American Journal of Political Science. 6/1 (March 1975) 418-436.
Barzelay, M., with Armajani, B.J. Breaking through Bureaucracy: A New Vision for Managing in Government. Berkeley: University of California Press (1992).
Behn, R. "Public Management: Should it Strive to Be Art, Science, or Engineering," Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. 6/1 (1996), 91-193.
Behn, R.D. "The Big Questions of Public Management," Public Administration Review. 55/4 (1995), 313-324.
Black, E.L., and Walker, K.B. Reengineering the Business Core Curriculum: Aligning Business Schools with Business for Improved Performance. Department of Accounting, College of Business Administration, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR , 1997.
Block, Peter "Rediscovering Service: Weaning Higher Education from Its Factory Mentality," The Educational Record. 76/4 (Fall 1995). 6-13.
Borins, Sandford Government in Transition: A New Paradigm in Public Administration A Report on the Inaugural Conference of the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management, CAPAM, Toronto CA (Oct 1994).
Borins, Sandford F. "The New Public Management is Here to Stay," Canadian Public Administration. (Spring 1995), 122-132.
Bower, Joseph L., Christenson, Charles J. Public Management: Text and Cases. Homewood, IL: R. D. Irwin, 1978.
Bruggeman, Werner, "The Impact of Technological Change on Management Accounting," Management Accounting Research, 6/3, (Sep 1995) 241-252.
Bunce, Peter, Robin Fraser, and Lionel Woodcock, "Advanced Budgeting: A Journey to Advanced Management Systems," Management Accounting Research, 6/3, (Sep 1995) 253-265.
Chandler, A. Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of Industrial Enterprise. Cambridge MA: MIT Press (1962).
Cheung, S.N.S. "The Fable of the Bees," Journal of Law & Economics. 16 (April 1973), 11-33.
Cohen, Eliot A. and John Gooch Military Misfortune: The Anatomy of Failure in War. New York, The Free Press (1990).
Cohen, Steven and William Eimicke The New Effective Public Manager: Achieving Success in a Changing Government. San Fran-cisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers (1995).
Drucker, Peter The Practice of Management. New York: Harper & Brothers (1953).
Drucker, Peter Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. New York, Harper & Row (1974).
Drucker, Peter "The Deadly Sins in Public Administration," in Current Issues in Public Administration, 2nd ed. Frederick S. Lane ed. New York: St. Martin's Press (1982).
Dunleavy, Patrick, and Christopher Hood "From Old Public Administration to New Public Management," Public Money & Management. 1/3 (July-Sep 1994), 9-16.
Evans, P.B., and T.S. Wurster "Strategy and the New Economics of Information," Harvard Business Review, (Sep-Oct 1997) 71-82.
Garson, G. David, and Overman, E. Samuel Public Management Research in the United States. New York: Praeger (1983).
Gore, Al From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government that Works Better and Costs Less, Report of the National Performance Review. New York: Times Books/Random House (1993).
Gulick, Luther Halsey, and L. Urwick eds. Papers on the Science of Administration, New York, Institute of Public Administration, Columbia University (1937).
Frant, Howard, "Rules and Governance in the Public Sector: The Case of Civil Service." American Journal of Political Science, 37/4 (1993), 990-1007.
Frant, Howard, "High-Powered and Low-Powered Incentives in the Public Sector," Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory. 6/3 (1996a), 365-381.
Frant, Howard, "Politics and Effectiveness in the Design of Public Organizations," Unpublished manuscript, School of Public Administration and Policy, University of Arizona (1996b).
Fountain, Jane, "Comment: Disciplining Public Management Research, " Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 13/2 (1994), 269-277.
Gates, Bruce L. Social Program Administration: The Implementation of Social Policy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ : Prentice-Hall, 1980.
Hammer, M "Reengineering Work: Don't Automate, Obliterate," Harvard Business Review. (July-August 1990), 104-112.
Hargrove, Erwin C. and Glidewell, John C. (eds.) Impossible Jobs in Public Management. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1990.
Heckathorn, Douglas D., and Maser, Steven M. "Bargaining and the Sources of Transaction Costs: The Case of Government Regulation," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization. 3/1 (Spring 1987) 69-98.
Herzlinger, Regina E., and Nitterhouse, D. Financial Accounting and Managerial Control for Nonprofit Organizations. Cincinnati, OH: South-Western Pub., 1994
Hood, C. "A Public Management for all Seasons." Public Administration vol. 69/1 (Spring 1991), 3-20.
Juran, Joseph M. Bureaucracy, A Challenge to Better Management: A Constructive Analysis of Management Effectiveness in the Federal Government. New York: Harper & Brothers (1944).
Kaplan, Robert S. "The Topic of Quality in Business School Education and Research." Selections. (Autumn 1991), 13-21.
Kotler, Philip Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975.
Kotler, Philip , and Andreasen, Alan R. Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1987.
Lan, Zhiyong and David Rosenbloom "Public Administration in Transition?" Public Administration Review. 52/6 (Nov-Dec 1992), 535-537.
Landau, Martin "The Proper Domain of Policy Analysis," American Journal of Political Science. 21/2 (May 1977) 418-425.
Lapsley, Irvine "Responsibility Accounting Revived? Market Reforms and Budgetary Control." Management Accounting Research. 5/3,4 (Sep-Dec 1994), 337-352.
Lovelock , Christopher H., and Weinberg, Charles B. Public & Nonprofit Marketing. Redwood City, CA: Scientific Press, 1989.
Lynn, Laurence E., Jr. "Public Management Research: The Triumph of Art over Science," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 13 (Spring 1994), 231-259.
Lynn, Laurence E. Public Management as Art, Science, and Profession. Chatham NJ: Chatham House (1996).
Masujima, Toshiyuki and Minoru O'uchi, eds. The Management and Reform of Japanese Government. Tokyo: The Institute of Administrative Management (1993).
Milgrom, Paul, and John Roberts, Economics, Organization, and Management, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall (1992).
Miller, Gary J. Managerial Dilemmas: The Political Economy of Hierarchy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Moore, Mark Harrison Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (1995).
OECD Budgeting for Results: Perspectives on Public Expenditure Management. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (1995).
Osborne, D. and Ted Gaebler Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Transforming the Public Sector from Schoolhouse to Statehouse, City Hall to the Pentagon. Reading MA: Addison Wesley (1992).
Otley, David, "Management Control in Contemporary Organizations: Towards a Wider Framework," Management Account
Powers, K. A., and Fred Thompson, "Managing Coprovision: Using Expectancy Theory to Overcome the Free-Rider Problem," Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 4/2 (1994) 179-196.
Quinn, James Brian Intelligent Enterprise: A Knowledge and Service Based Paradigm for Industry, New York: Free Press (1992).
Reschenthaler, G.B., and Thompson, Fred "The Information Revolution and the New Public Management." Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. 6/1 (1996) 125-144.
Rhodes R.A.W. "The New Public Management." Public Administration. 69/1 (Spring 1991), entire issue.
Rosenberg, Nathan , and L.E. Birdsall How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World. New York: Basic Books (1986).
Rosenbloom, David H. "Have an Administrative Rx? Don't Forget the Politics!" Public Administration Review, vol. 53 (Nov-Dec 1993), 503-507.
Schedler, K. Ansatze einer Wirkungsorientirten Verwaltungsfuhrung: Von der Idee des New Public Managements (NPM) zum konkreten Gestaltungsmodell. Bern: Verlag Paul Haupt (1995).
Schwartz, H. "Small States in Big Trouble," World Politics. 46/4 (July 1994), 527-555.
Shewhart, Walter A., and Deming, W. Edwards Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control. Washington DC: The Graduate School, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (1945).
Simons, Robert, Levers of Control: How Managers Use Innovative Control Systems to Drive Strategic Renewal, Boston: Harvard Business School Press (1995).
Stanbury, W.T., and Thompson, Fred "Toward a Political Economy of Government Waste," Public Administration Review. 55/5 (Sept/Oct 1995) 418-427.
Trebilcock, Michael J. The Prospects for Reinventing Government. Toronto: C.D. Howe, Institute (1994).
Thompson, Fred "The New Public Management," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 16/1 (1997) 165-176.
Verville, Anne-Lee "What Business Needs from Higher Education?" The Educational Record. 76/4 (Fall 1995) 46-50
Vining, A.R. and Weimer, D. "Government Supply and Government Production Failure: A Framework Based on Contestability," Journal of Public Policy. 10 [March-April 1990], 54-90.
Weimer, David Leo, and Aidan R. Vining, Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992.
Wildavsky, Aaron "Principles for a Graduate School of Public Policy," The Journal of Urban Analysis. 3/1 (January 1976) 127-152.
Womack, James P., Daniel T. Jones, and Daniel Roos The Machine that Changed the World: Based on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5-Million Dollar 5-Year Study on the Future of the Automobile. New York: Rawson Associates (1990).
World Bank Bureaucrats in Business: The Economics and Politics of Government Ownership. New York: Oxford University Press (1995).
Zuboff, S. In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power. New York: Basic Books (1988)
LYNN: Hold it. How can you call for more clinical research? Public management is dominated by "Look, Ma! I'm an Innovator!" case analysis. Fortunately, there is an increasing emphasis on heuristics derived from theory (primarily rational choice theory). This seems like a wholly salutory movement to me.
Where do you come out on the scholarly agenda? What should public management scholars be doing? If you could create a shop, what would it be up to?
THOMPSON: What should public management scholars be doing? I believe in focusing on the development of tangible process and functional skills that can be successfully transmitted via the case method to students. How do we learn about these things? Clinical research. Clinical research has often had real world payoffs and has inspired some effective theorizing (e.g., the effect of Just-in-time inventory management on our understanding of overhead costs and responsibility accounting). Besides, administrative practice is usually well ahead of current academic research and teaching (see Kaplan, 1991). I don't even want public management research to be administrative science. There has been almost no practical payoff to administrative science.
Revisit the last four or five issues of Academy of Management Journal or Administrative Science Quarterly. Then ask yourself, have you learned anything that might conceivably be considered useful from the "scientific" articles. This is an enterprise that has been ongoing for over a generation and it has been largely barren. Then go look at Management Accounting or Financial Management and ask yourself the same question. I'd be surprised if you didn't encounter a number of useful, practical insights.
So, your shop would do clinical research and teaching cases. That's cool. I wouldn't expect you to abandon experiential and mixed media approaches to understanding complex managerial contexts and issues or subtle, multi-faceted, even narrative inquiry. I love that stuff and have an active case writing and teaching life.
I agree that useful Academy of Management kind of positive science is hard to do with respect to the kinds of issues and problems that managers must contend with. But if you are willing to be as hard-nosed toward the experiential oeuvre as you are toward the weenie positivists, you'll have to admit there is a ton of bad stuff out there, ideology masquerading as "truth", selection biases that are just too glaring to ignore, just plain sloppiness, work that is not even remotely analytical. Face it, a lot of clinical, so-called best practice research is junk research. I don't believe the field can feature the methods leading to this kind of junk research as its main methods of inquiry.
Alas, that is the problem with clinical research, it is so damn hard to tell a visionary from the sham who looks and sounds just like him/her -- to distinguish the gold from the dross, Freudian therapy comes to mind here. We would all be better off if the fads that come out of clinical research (not to mention the ravings of charlatans) were subjected to smart, hard headed evaluation.
Where I think we disagree is on weights and priorities. I say, give managers some practical, useful tools, they'll come back for theory and science. Give them only science and you have the basis for a good arts degree. Remember that Deming and Juran tried to give quality management to public administration in 1940s (Shewhart and Deming, 1945; Juran, 1944) and their offer was rejected as uninteresting. What we got from embracing theory and "science," is contemporary public administration, which is neither very practical nor scientific.
I don't know. I think Gaus, Gulick, White, Waldo hold up pretty well, and they begat Herbert Simon, and Vickers and Mosher and Landau and J.Q.Wilson and Martha Derthick, who begat Gary Miller, and Jack Knott and Tom Hammond and John DiIulio. That's not "giving them only science." But I digress. In your article, there is on page one some quasi-syllogistic reasoning that I cannot follow. The conclusion seems to be: "public management scholars don't give students the tools they need." The major premise seems to be: "outstanding public managers don't read PAR or JPAM." I take it that the minor premise is implicit: "public management scholars publish their products in PAR and JPAM." But I may misunderstand you.
No, that is the implicit syllogism I had in mind. I would put it slightly differently: that is where they would publish public management research, if they published it anywhere. Both JPAM and PAR set out to be crossover journals, which would speak as much to the practitioner as to the academic. Given the objective of speaking to public managers, both are flops
So, you would do clinical studies and teaching cases and you create a new journal for practitioners to read because PAR, J-PART and JPAM won't do. But I h ope you don't assume that what we publish is what we teach to master's students. If that is what we do, then that is an indictment of our teaching, not our scholarship. Our publishing in JPAM and PAR may be evidence of our neglect of practitioners but only insofar as we fail to publish in the journals they do read. As Dick Zeckhauser was saying to me at APPAM, "I play bridge and I do economics, and I do both things well, but I don't confuse one with the other. So you train doctoral students to do scholarship and you teach masters students to practice, and you aspire to do both well, but you don't confuse the one with the other. Every professional field, including finance and accounting and information technology and communications has an arcane literature, and scholars in all professions spend time talking to each other in dialect. That's not evidence of neglect; it's evidence of professionalism.
I thought that was my point! Teaching professional masters and doctoral students are two different things entirely and call for different kinds of scholarship (scholarship serves teaching, no?). In finance, one finds academic journals such as the Journal of Financial Economics that are pretty arcane and are largely opaque to practitioners, but that are of signal importance to researchers. One also finds practitioner oriented journals such as Financial Management that describe state of the art tools to professionals. The same is true in accounting. There are academic journals such as the Journal of Accounting and Economics and practitioner oriented journals like Management Accounting.
I believe that faculty teaching in professional programs should direct their work primarily, although not exclusively, to practitioner oriented journals. Research and teaching oriented to professional students must be different from that which nourishes doctoral programs and a fortiori doctoral programs in the liberal arts.
One of the problems with public management is that we have neither excellent academic journals nor excellent practitioner journals. In public administration, J-PART may someday fill the void on the academic side. I hope that the International Public Management Journal will partly fill the same niche with respect to public management. However, we will still need good practitioner journals.
Well, but let me get to what seems to be your main point, which is that public management scholarship should be about generic tools. So what are these tools? Well, you say they are "things that work." Here I'm reminded of Gene Bardach's distinction between principles, rules, and checklists. Principles are universal truths; they always work. Thus, "pay attention to people." "Do first things first." "Do what has to be done." Rules are contingent propositions: if you encounter a problem of the form X, do X*. But don't do X* if the problem is Y, because it won't work.
In other words, rules are based on distinctions that, ideally, are robust. We develop theory to deduce distinctions, we do empirical work to test their validity with real data (not simulations with MBA students!), and then we teach the resulting rules to our students, making certain that, if they are curious, they can find out how the rules were produced.
So my generic tools are analytic tools, enabling students to tell X from Y and to know what to do, X* or Y*, or what questions to ask, in each situation. There is a section in my book Public Management as Art, Science, and Profession that shows concretely what I am getting at (130-138).
By generic management tools I too mean analytic tools -- such as job-order and activity-based costing, hedonic and Ramsey pricing, market segmentation, staff and line, CAP-M, etc. We might disagree about the utility of various tools, but we don't disagree about what a tool is.
Wow! Job-order costing! Ramsey pricing! And you're on my case for preaching information asymmetries and moral hazard. Look, if the New Public Management has a message, it is that performance in the context of a political economy (let me emphasize the last seven words) is everything and what is irrelevant to performance is irrelevant. To show "what works" in terms of aggregate performance, you have to do a lot more than talk to practitioners about Ramsey pricing. (OK, I don't know what Ramsey pricing is.) You have to assemble data, put together some models, and do some "positive" work. Don't you?
Right. To find out what works one must "assemble data, put together some models, and do some 'positive' work." One cannot discover best practice by looking at a single delivery system or organization. Even if one looks at an entity over time, the best that can be done is baseline analysis. Oh, and I wasn't on your case about information asymmetries and moral hazard. I think those are exremely useful concepts/tools, adverse selection too.
How can you say that and still say, firmly, that you prefer normative, best-practices-grounded approaches and tools that come out of the study of how things work in the field rather than out of what you call arm-chair theorizing? (I suppose that Williamson, Coase, Alchian and Demsetz, North, Shepsle, et al would be classified as armchair theorists?) So, Fred, I'm confused. Tell me where you think I am wrong.
A lot of what passes for best practice research in public management is careless and even sloppy. But clinical research doesn't have to mean sloppy research. (For an example of superior best practice research, see Womack, Jones, and Roos The Machine that Changed the World ). It merely says that the proper focus of public management research is public management.
How does one goes about finding a good tool? You implicitly say, "start with an aphorism," a principle generally acknowledged to be true. You mention several. Let me cite another: The best way to get rich is to buy low and sell high. Clinical research in the 50s showed that mutual funds that followed the rules of portfolio balancing developed by V.A. Dodge in the 1930s, on average, generally outperformed other investment strategies. Dodge's rules constitute a pretty good management tool. Modern portfolio theory derives from a rigorous analysis of those rules
I have heard that option pricing has a similar etiology. Financial managers started with an aphorism: run your gains, cut your losses. A couple of them (I have heard names mentioned, but I don't remember them) developed some rules for puts and calls that best practice research in the 60s showed worked. Black, Scholes, and Merton formalized those rules and integrated them with the body of financial theory, winning the Nobel Prize for economic science and, not incidentally, making themselves very wealthy
The difference between my approach and yours, if there is one, is that I presume that we ought to look for rules in practice rather than deducing them from first principles. Good clinical research is the logical way to identify good rules. Once one has good rules to work with, good theorizing can (and probably will) follow.
Alchian, Coase, and North are not merely arm chair theorists, by the way. Far from it. Their work reflects a solid experiential/empirical base. I would bet that Williamson has actually gotten involved in how organizations really work too. I don't know about Demsetz and Shepsle. Besides, those guys do research that is relevant to public management. They don't do public management research.
Now we're just swapping anecdotes. Clinical research doesn't have to mean sloppy research, no, and positive social science doesn't have to mean trivial regression coefficients, either. Why can't a social scientist have a useful insight? To doubt it is reverse snobbery.
Good social scientists do have useful insights, but only when they ask useful questions. We are awash in theories of all kinds; what our students need are more and better tools and what we need to give them those tools is clinical experience. You can't possibly deny what I am saying with a straight face. You run one of the best case writing and analysis programs in the country. You wouldn't do that if you didn't agree that it is critically important.
Let me put my point this way. Mark Moore, one of the clinical crowd, distinguishes between managing outward, managing up, and managing down. Most of the Kennedy School preoccupation is, or at least used to be with managing up and out, not managing down. But a serious emphasis on results/performance/outputs/outcomes, an emphasis I am coming to regard as wholly salutary, requires a much larger body of theory and applications than we have now concerning managing down, where the units of analysis are variously whole agencies, programs, policies, and networks of organizations and where management, which fundamentally has something to do with exercising discretion, is recognized as occurring at the executive (center), middle (including functional), and field/supervision levels. I would like to see more efforts to measure and identify variances and covariances in results/outcomes and explanatory factors, whether they are concerned with the character of regimes of rules, organizational and administrative structures, resources, policy designs, or "managers" as skilled individuals exercising discretion.
My idea of positive science isn't just following standard quantitative protocols on behalf of a pseudo rigor to get published in second-rate journals. To me, positive science means attempting some conceptual discipline, making assumptions explicit, suspending disbelief, and formulating disconfirmable propositions. It's being scrupulous and careful and exposing your arguments to the possibility of being wrong and being discovered to be wrong by someone other than yourself.
If positive science means attempting some conceptual discipline, making assumptions explicit, suspending disbelief, and formulating disconfirmable propositions, if it's being scrupulous and careful, I am all for it. However, aside from a hint of Popperian bite, this doesn't sound to me like positivism. You seem to be saying that our work ought to be professionally competent. Who is for professional incompetence?
Let me cite some of my favorite books about management: How the West Grew Rich by Nathan Rosenberg and L.E. Birdsall, Military Misfortune: The Anatomy of Failure in War by Eliot Cohen and John Gooch, Economics, Organization and Management by Paul Milgrom and J. Roberts, Peter Drucker's Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, and anything by Alfred Chandler. They all meet your standards, although they are all works of synthesis, primarily of the experiential oeuvre. I have already mentioned The Machine that Changed the World as a fine example of what best practice research ought to look like (it also cost an arm and a leg to carry out); Military Misfortune is a fine example of comparative case analysis. It is also relevant to real problems.
OK, I'll see your Peter Drucker, who is too didactic for my tastes (his stuff on nonprofits betrays him, I think -- this is a sector that badly needs critical analysis, and he is little more than a hero worshiper) and raise you Rosabeth Moss Kanter, my favorite writer of this genre, also Lee Bolman and Terry Deal and Bill Ouchi, who is bitextual. I'll take Paul Light too; he, too, is appreciative of "cases," is sincerely committed to government improvement through innovation, and trusts his intuitions (I like his notion of Preferred States of Being as a summary concept for complex blends of factors predisposing an organization to innovativeness) but brings a critical and skeptical intelligence to bear on his observations precisely because he is, like you (and me) committed to putting useful tools and ideas into the hands and heads of managers. But I like John DiIulio and Anne Khademian and Jerry Mashaw and Irwin Hargrove and Evelyn Brodkin and Gene Bardach and all kinds of people who like clinical detail but who show every sign of having been trained as social scientists.
This is, after all, the point -- you and I agree: how can we help managers? My point is that I see too many of the really skilled and wellintentioned managers groping for tools and models and sound advice and we give them "pay attention to people." Shame on us. Professional competence requires, absolutely requires, that we use "what works" as far as research methods are concerned. I learn a lot from, and admire, really good social science, or at least social science that is careful and takes some intellectual risks. Some of it is even in ASQ. The body of stuff that Jim Heckman and his colleagues are producing from the national JTPA study is brilliant social science: meticulous conceptualization, deep respect for institutional detail, and cutting edge empirical modeling, all on behalf of important, practical questions of program design and administration. It doesn't get any better than this.
What is the difference between your program and what the "weenie positivists" of AMJ and ASQ have been trying to do for over a generation? You agree that they haven't given us much that's useful (although they have given us a lot that is interesting).
I don't think blind adherence to social science canons is the issue. Good social science can produce persuasive evidence, bad social science cannot, and there is more bad than good. Grounded theory can be insightful or awful, and there is too much awful stuff.
I look for good stuff anywhere I can find it -- and obviously, so do you -- but a reflexive skepticism toward any particular discipline -- economics, for example -- or methodology seems quite beside the point. What is the good stuff? Yes, it's careful and honest, adheres to canons of fair argument, is fresh. More, it's driven by interesting and important (not necessarily fashionable) questions and it displays what to my taste is good analytic, conceptual judgment and, often, a bit of intellectual daring.
What you say is pure poetry. Why do you think we have so much trouble producing and identifying good stuff?
The difference between you and me? Give me somone who has good social science training, and I have a chance of seeing an insightful public management scholar emerge who can give tools to managers. Give me someone who goes around listening to innovators tell their stories, and I'll have a story teller, great for inspiration and light entertainment but not for heavy lifting. The field lacks depth. There is no critical mass at any one place, only at conferences. There are few "public management" positions and research centers and stuff. Consequently, the field lacks an ongoing intellectual dialogue, lacks reasons for listening to each other and criticizing each other's work toward increasing the value of research and, ultimately, lacks standards. That's why we have to connect to intellectual communities that have standards and that have traditions of calling Junk by its proper name. Otherwise it's just "I'm OK, you're OK. I know good management when I see it."
The Kennedy School could provide the critical mass needed, but it hasn't. It is seductive to the young, then absolutely thwarts their incentives to do sustained, good scholarly work by pressing them into service on ill-considered, trendy projects and entirely too much "community service" and by cutting them off from Harvard's intellectual resources. Many of the best young scholars get drawn into normative work, cheerleading for reinvention or some such and sitting around the campfire telling tales of how I did it in Ypsilanti.
You and I started out to be economists and one might say we were seduced by ill-considered trendy projects.
Moi? I was seduced by government service. Would do it again in a New York minute. Don't get me wrong about "trendy." Seeing the larger picture, or, even better, guessing or speculating or having visions about a larger picture, about movement and change and its motivators and vectors, is great fun and enormously important to an intellectual community. I decry those who chase foundation money that supports the "merely trendy," flavor-of-the-month stuff in superficial ways: document this or that TQM story or reinvention or "alleged innovation."
The point is that we, you and I, started out with intellectual standards that we internalized and must continue to meet. We must not imply that moving into public management means moving away from intellectual standards. As my former boss, Mr. Richard M. Nixon, put it, that would be wrong. It would also be faithless to young academics who must still earn tenure in the old fashioned way (even at the Kennedy School).
Right. So, aside from some quibbles about emphasis, are we agreed?
Not so fast. I note that you do not mention public policy (other than in reference to schools) even once. Your frame of reference seems quite traditional: the organization, however flattened, hollowed out, or hyperarchical it may be. I see organizations as means to ends, and, in the public sector, those ends have to do with meeting societal goals, accomplishing the aims of public policies.
Again, a good point. But can one have management without organization? I guess my answer is no. Management is concerned only with those things that can be managed. Its scope is properly restricted to things like production, logistics, and service delivery.
I am inclined to distinguish public managers from policy analysts and even public administrators. Policy analysts and public administrators are found in policy shops and central control agencies, they run regulatory agencies and they are concerned with public health and safety, income distributional issues, and the criminal justice system, foreign policy and strategy, etc. They are integral to the performance of the core functions of the minimalist state. In contrast, public managers are responsible for making things or fixing them, delivering goods, or providing services, either directly to citizens or to other government bureaus and agencies, e.g., managing depot maintenance or spare parts for the military. They serve the contingent state rather than the minimalist state, i.e., they do the things government does only because it does them better or more conveniently than can business or the not-for-profit sector (on the presumption that the choice of governance arrangement varies systematically with transactional attributes).
One can more clearly draw the line between the minimalist and the contingent state (and between policy analysts/public administrators and public managers) now than previously, because increasingly the two spheres are being separated -- in some places quite radically (e.g., New Zealand), in others incrementally. In the US, for example, government has transformed itself by getting out of the business of regulating price and entry control in the delivery of almost all goods and services -- for heaven's sake, rent control is even threatened in Berkeley, Cambridge, and New York.
I get a bit anxious when I hear people talking about societal goals though. Where did they find a social welfare function? What are the aims of public policies and how do we know them?
I published a book called Managing Public Policy, and like most of my books, its a collectors' item, so maybe you're right. But no, the "people talking about societal goals" happen to be the citizens who vote and pay taxes and have expectations about their governments. You sound like a technocrat: out with all that vague policy-wolicy stuff, let's make airplanes and ships. Part of my skepticism with narrow versions of NPM is that they ignore all kinds of other things that matter in a democracy: fairness, local justice, distribution, responsiveness, pluralism, neutral competence, etc. The function of scholarship is to stand back and see larger pictures, to challenge the conventional wisdom and firmly held convictions of practitioners. Warfare is too important to be left to the generals and all that.
I think Georges Clemenceau said it was War, not Warfare, that was too important to be left to the generals (he also said that when a man asks what is meant by action he proves that he isn't a man of action). Even so, your point is well taken. Someone should worry about fairness, local justice, distribution, responsiveness, pluralism, neutral competence, etc. However, just as I am not in the business of preparing scholars, neither am I training 'statesmanship' -- an art. I train "generals" -- a profession.
Most of your caveats about the political narrowness of NPM reflect your conception of public management. If I meant the same thing as you do by the term public management, I might agree with everything you say. But your public managers aren't mine. I would never define public management, as you do in Public Management, as the intersection of public policy and public administration. Certainly, a lot of the public part of public management falls in that domain, but according to my understanding of public management, the intersection of public policy and public administration comprehends a great deal that is public but not also management.
At the same time I would argue that the domain of public management comprehends a great deal that is not included in the intersection of public policy and public administration: tools from the management disciplines of marketing, finance, accounting, etc. Indeed, I would argue that this should be the largest part of the domain.
Oh, what delicious conceit! Real managers are accountants! Straight out of Monty Python. Look, I think I know the difference between a public manager and a policy analyst, a county commissioner and an assistant secretary (and a hawk and a handsaw), and, let me be normative for a minute, your public managers ought to be mine, i.e., in the words Chris Argyris supplied me to characterize my concept of action, cognitive/emotional actors, able and willing to think, THINK! about what they are doing in other than superficial ways but sentient, committed, and emotionally involved in their worlds, too.
Academics tend to compartmentalize themselves to shield themselves from distracting noises from other camps. As I wrote, that's what happened in public policy schools, where the policy analysis/economists and the public management/political scientists decided to seal themselves off from each other. An hermaphroditic economist/public management type had no place to fit in until recently, when the membrane became more porous. Now you are trying to re-compartmentalize public management, to turf out the domain so you don't have to talk to me because I do yucky policy (with a glass of chardonnay, perhaps?).
Here is a golden opportunity for genuine interdisciplinary research, for testing the comparative power of the ideas of different disciplines. I've felt all along that many of the founding members of the International Public Management Network didn't really want to have vigorous intellectual debate about NPM or identify a scholarly agenda. NPM is an institutionalized belief system, yet another social construction. "We know who we are and who they are." Allowing too many intellectual challenges is distracting; you've got a world to reform.
It may be fair to accuse me of circulatory reasoning. It is certainly fair to accuse me of turf claiming. I think it necessary to delimit the boundaries of each discipline if we are to make sense of our intellectual landscape. And I am prepared to carve out from existing disciplinary fiefdoms a new domain for public management. I thought our disagreement was over the territories to be included -- and their relative importance. I thought that what you wanted was greater interdisciplinary integration on the part of the disciplines currently represented in most schools of public policy or affairs, whereas I wanted a much more gerrymandered domain -- one that would comprehend the disciplines of marketing, accounting, finance, information technology, etc. and at the same time reduce the relative importance of political science and, perhaps, economics as well.
Instead you seem to be saying that I am wrong to set boundaries, that the analytic enterprise cannot recognize the limits of any field, but must follow problems wherever they go. Who could disagree with such a sentiment? I am not trying to cut off inquiry. I am certainly not trying to inhibit interdisciplinary thinking or research. Frankly, I have worked in about as many disciplines as anyone I know. I am merely suggesting that, when you are in hot pursuit of a problem, it is useful to know where you are: that this belongs to political science, this to accounting, and that to information technology, and, yes, this belongs to public policy, this to public administration, and that to public management.
Well, now I understand what we are arguing about. And we do have a clear disagreement. Yes, I don't accept your gerrymandering of the domains as either consistent with the evidence or normatively helpful. It's arbitrary with respect to the domain of public management as I understand it. In a very real sense, more policy making is done by the people you describe as managers than by the people you describe as policy makers, at least at the state and local levels of government and especially in the production of collective goods.
I will also admit that, to the extent that functional management is policy neutral, it doesn't interest me. The fact that it so often isn't policy neutral is what does interest me. I don't think that the NPM-inspired efforts to separate the domains will succeed (in other than relatively small jurisdictions where the classic council/manager form of government can succeed, but is even this model as appealing as it once was?). The prospects are less now than they ever were, in my opinion, with the growing popularity of the socalled rule of law; that's a far more beguiling notion to the builders of states, I think. Moreover, I am not sure why we would want efforts to separate to succeed. Technical efficiency? Not good enough for me.
Efficiency works for me, so long as allocative and dynamic efficiency are not forgotten (see Stanbury and Thompson, 1995). After all efficiency goes directly to citizen tastes and preferences. That, however, is another argument. The basic concern that motivated my essay is that most academics, who are interested in public management, are interested in PUBLIC management. In contrast, I argue that they should get interested in public MANAGEMENT. My beliefs are, of course, beside the point. But that public managers seem to be a lot more interested in public MANAGEMENT than in the PUBLIC management should give one reason for pause.
Whether or not my view is consistent with the evidence or is normatively helpful comes down to a question of fact and a question of interpretation. The question of fact: are public managers primarily interested in learning more about management? The question of interpretation: in designing a program of training and research to serve public managers, should their interests trump ours?
Let me divide the world into program managers and functional managers, and let me divide agency outputs into collective goods (nonexcludable, nonrival) and private goods (excludable, rival). This gives us a two by two matrix with four cells. I believe that management is different in each of these four cells: functional management is founded on technical skills and will look like public MANAGEMENT, whereas program management is founded on substantive expertise/organizationspecific skills and will look like PUBLIC management. The technical demands of functional management in an agency producing collective goods are going to be different from the technical demands of functional management in an agency producing private goods: output controls will be more effective for producing private outputs, whereas input/process controls will be more effective for producing collective outputs; program management of private outputs will look like public MANAGEMENT, whereas program management of collective outputs will look like PUBLIC management (see figure).
Why do I say public management is PUBLIC management? Because my biased sample over represents program managers in agencies producing collective goods (human services and other collective goods agencies at state and local level) and the collective goods dimensions of what government does (national security is not airplanes and ships; inernal security is not police manpower and technology.) My sample has lots of people in it who do "impossible jobs" (in the sense of Glidewell and Hargrove, 1990).
Why do I persist in my biases? Because I think that the intellectual and training challenges of PUBLIC management are intrinsically more interesting than the intellectual and training challenges of public MANAGEMENT. Life would be simpler if we simply declared that collective goods should be managed like violent felons and put in maximum security enclosures (some versions of the New Zealand solution sound like this). I don't want to go that way because I'm a liberal. In fact, when government is caught producing private goods and distributing them according to ability to pay, I wonder why. If there is not a collective dimension to agency output, turn it back to the private sector.
Another contingent view of public management is derived from the work your colleague Steve Maser has done with Douglas Heckathorn (e.g., Heckathorn & Maser, 1987). If the manager's problem is information asymmetries among workers, my approach to management is coordination; if the problem is conflicts of interest, my approach is bargaining; if the problem is defection and free riding, my approach is regulation and enforcement. The mix of problems I face will depend on what I am called upon to produce (if there are a lot of team products, e.g., continuity of care, integrated services, wraparound services, then I will have a lot of team production problems). Thus, when I say that your gerrymandering isn't consistent with the evidence or normatively helpful, I am asserting, based on my biased sample, that most management is PUBLIC management and that teaching PUBLIC managers about public MANAGEMENT is prescriptively unhelpful to them.
Now we are back to where we started, perhaps. Your managers aren't mine and mine aren't yours because they represent different cells on a grid. If your resources and constraints were such that you could train either program managers or functional managers but not both, which would you choose? If the performance of functional managers turns out to have a lot of programmatic impact, maybe even more, on some margin, than the performance of program managers (who may have been rulebound by legislators), then I'll get more interested in functional managers and public MANAGEMENT.
That's fair. The way you divide up the world of public management makes perfect sense, although I would say generic rather than functional management. Besides, I can't dispute intrinsic interest. Who in their right mind would claim, for example, that financial accounting is inherently more interesting than environmental policy? I wouldn't even claim that generic management is more important than program management. It is not. In most substantive fields, substantive expertise and organization-specific skills are fundamental to mission performance/value creation in ways that generic management tools are not. Again, who in their right mind would hire an MBA to design a computer or build a bridge, let alone fight a battle or solve a crime? My claim for the primacy of public MANAGEMENT in public management education rests on the assumption that the necessary substantive expertise and organization-specific skills are already in place or are better provided elsewhere.
There's a proposition for our colleagues to savor. Let's publish this.