Calls for “government reform” are perennial. A panel of the National Academy for Public Administration has been studying since 2006 the elements of management capacity the next president needs in order to effectively deliver on his agenda. NAPA has begun to release a series of issue papers summarizing the insights of some of the panel members. As part of that panel, I drafted a piece that attempts to provide a framework for understanding the various perspectives and competing advice a president may receive in regard to developing his government reform agenda.
What I found in developing that paper is that the definition of “good public management” is premised on a set of underlying principles, values and assumptions. Oftentimes, these are never clearly articulated. And when they are, there is rarely consensus on any single approach.
Past government management reform efforts have been rooted in different principles, values and assumptions that reflected a president’s perceptions of how the world works and how other people behave, popular management trends of the day in the private sector, and/or the political environment.
At least four different perspectives of “good public management” have served as the unstated underpinnings of reform efforts undertaken over the past 50 years:
· The “traditionalist’s” perspective sees public administration from the standpoint of hierarchical, centralized, integrated control by the president.
· The “market-based” perspective sees public administration relying on commercial management approaches such as competition, choice, customers, incentives, and contracts.
· The “civil society” perspective sees society as being comprised of voluntary civic and social organizations that act collectively on behalf of the larger community.
· The “collaborative” perspective has adapted approaches from the previous three perspectives. It is based on the development of common goals and extended, or peer-to-peer, relationships across hierarchical boundaries.
Each of these perspectives reflects different management approaches and the potential basis for new initiatives. For example, supporters of the traditional hierarchical perspective would advocate stronger central controls as an approach to increasing accountability while the collaborative perspective would advocate stronger transparency as a preferred approach for achieving increased accountability.
Over the next few days, I’ll highlight each of these perspectives, and potential policy initiatives a president might take if he subscribed to that perspective. Of course, a president will likely “mix and match,” depending on what seems to be the most pragmatic way of getting things done!
Also, as the various Academy papers become available, I’ll highlight them in future blog postings.
Tags: Add new tag, bureacracy, civic engagement, civic society, collaborative, government reform, hierarchy, market-based, National Academy of Public Administration, Public Administration, traditional