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What makes public organizations distinctive, impact of political power, values & motives, teamwork, etc.
When terrorists crashed jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center
and forced the term 9/11 into the American vocabulary, the attack
ignited a drive in the United States and other nations to organize ourselves to repel
such atrocities in the future. Within a year, the president proposed and Congress
established the new Department of Homeland Security, which involved a vast reorganization
of the federal government to bring together twenty-two existing federal
agencies and 170,000 employees into this new agency.
The attack also drew attention to the people, the essential component of any
organization, who work in public service. Around the nation citizens donned baseball
caps and T-shirts bearing the initials of the New York City Fire Department
and the New York Police Department. Wearing these caps and shirts, people came
together in vigils and ceremonies to commemorate all of the people lost in the
attack, but also to pay tribute to the self-sacrificing heroism of the emergency personnel
who rushed into the burning buildings at the cost of their lives. Commentators
andjournalists around the world praised the leadership of the mayor
of New York during the crisis.
Intense public discourse swirled around questions about how these terrible
events could have been prevented. Journalists and public officials demanded to
know whether the terrorists' success exposed weaknesses in the way agencies such
as the CIA, the FBI, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service were
organized and managed. Congress launched a special investigation into these
apparent lapses. An FBI agent received national publicity and testified before Congress
after she alleged that a memorandum warning of suspicious activities had
not made its way up the hierarchy of the FBI and had not received serious attention
at higher levels. Thus, an organizational and managerial problem-inadequate
communication and handling of crucial information that needs to move
up and through organizational channels-allegedly contributed to the September
In state and local governments in the United States, and in the governments
of other nations, similar inquiries sought to assess how effectively these governments
were organized to combat terrorism. One of the great organizational challenges
in responding to the threat of terrorism involved how to coordinate
disparate and far-ranging organizations.
As Congress, the president, the media, experts, and interest groups deliberated
over how to design the new Department of Homeland Security, they debated
many questions long familiar to public administration scholars and practitioners.
How much authority should the leaders of the new agency have? Should
the employees of this agency have employment rights and protections under the
civil service rules of the U.S. government? If so, would the agency's leaders be deprived
of the flexibility they would need to hire, remove, and transfer employees,
and hence impede the performance of the new agency? How should the new
agency be structured so as to bring together the necessary activities and coordinate
them while at the same time dividing up responsibilities in the appropriate
way? The debate over these questions illustrated the issues and values that infuse
the processes of organizing and managing in government. These issues include
how to ensure the effectiveness of the organization and its accountability within
the political system, and how to protect the public interest. These concerns about
power and authority and about democratic processes and values translated into
specific practical concerns in the organization and management of the new agency.
The president asked for flexibility in the hiring, assigning, and discharge of employees
of the Department of Homeland Security. This involved relaxing the rules
of the federal civil service system that govern such processes and provide civil service
employees with various protections. Public employee unions and some members
of Congress opposed the loss of these protections for employees of the new
agency. The president and others argued that flexibilities would help the leaders
and managers of the new agency rapidly place the best people in jobs, motivate
them, move them around, and remove them if necessary. The opponents of these
flexibilities pointed to the threat of abuses by superiors in the agency and to the
need to protect the rights of the employees.
In sum, the response to one of the greatest crises in American history focused
on the organization and management of government activities and the people
in them (Wise and Nader, 2002). The response thus illustrated a central theme
of this book: government organizations and the people in them perform crucial
functions, and their effective organization and management are essential to the
well-being of the nations and communities they serve. While the September 11
attacks underscore this point in a dramatic and terrible way, the topic has a long
history. Governments in the United States and in other nations, and the organizations
within those governments, have followed a continuing pattern of organizing,
reorganizing, reforming, and striving to improve performance (Kettl, 2002;
Light, 1997; Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2000). In the process, they have operated within
a context of constitutional provisions, laws, and political authorities and processes
that have heavily influenced their organization and management.
Toward Improved Understanding
and Management of Public Organizations
All nations face decisions about the roles of the government and private institutions
in their society. September 11 slowed some parts of an antigovernment trend
around the world during the last several decades that has influenced decisions about
the role of public organizations. This trend has spawned a movement in many
countries to curtail government authority and replace it with greater private activity.
This skepticism about government implies that there are sharp differences
between government and privately managed organizations. During this same period,
however, numerous writers have argued that there has been too little sound
analysis of such differences. They have contended that the elaborate body of knowledge
we have on management and organizations has paid too little attention to the
public sector. At the same time, they have said, the large body of scholarship in political
science and economics that focuses on government bureaucracy has had too
little to say about managing that bureaucracy. This critique has elicited a wave of
research and writing on public management and public organization theory by experts
and researchers who have been working to provide more careful analyses of
organizational and managerial issues in government.
This chapter elaborates on these points to develop another central theme of
this book: we face a dilemma in combining our legitimate skepticism about public
organizations with the recognition that they play indispensable roles in society.
We need to maintain and improve their effectiveness. We can profit by studying
major topics from general management and organization theory and by examining
the rapidly increasing evidence of their successful application in the public
sector. The evidence indicates that the governmental context strongly influences
organization and management, often sharply constraining performance. Just as
often, however, governmental organizations and managers perform much better
than is commonly acknowledged. Examples of effective public management
abound. These examples usually reflect the efforts of managers in government
who combine managerial skill with effective knowledge of the public sector context.
Experts continue to research and debate the nature of this combination, however,
as more evidence appears rapidly and in diverse places. This book seeks to
base its analysis of management in public organizations on the most careful and
current review of this evidence to date.
Ambivalence Toward Government
The proposal to bestow vast authority and responsibility on the massive new
Department of Homeland Security is strikingly ironic given the prevailing opinion
about public organizations and their actions during the last several decades.
Nations around the world have pursued privatization policies by selling state-owned
enterprises to private operators. In the United States, contracting out of
government services to the private sector has increased sharply at all levels of government
(Savas, 2000). Antigovernment sentiment has swept the United States.
Opinion surveys have revealed seething resentment of taxes and the widespread
conviction that government operates in wasteful and ineffective ways. Angry criticisms
have focused on the government with such intensity that the term bureaucrat
bashing has come into use. Both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan attacked
the federal bureaucracy in their election campaigns. President Carter pressed
for deregulation of industry, reduction of federal red tape, and major civil service
reforms to combat alleged sloth and inefficiency among federal employees. President
Reagan more aggressively impugned government and sought reductions
in funding and authority for many federal programs and agencies. When Bill Clinton
won the presidency from George Bush, the change suggested some weakening
of the antigovernment trend, because Clinton was the more liberal and
progovernment of the two candidates. Nevertheless, President Clinton initiated
the National Performance Review (NPR), a major review of the operations of the
federal government, claiming that the federal government worked poorly and
needed a drastic overhaul. In addition to eliciting many presidential directives and
congressional actions aimed at achieving such reforms (described in Chapter Fourteen),
the NPR cut employment in the federal workforce by about 11 percent, or
over 324,000 employees. George W. Bush has led the drive to strengthen the
role of government in homeland security and antiterrorism, but at the same time
has pushed for privatization of social security. He issued the President's Management
Agenda, which announced as one of his major priorities increased "competitive
sourcing," in which federal agencies would open their functions to competition
from private sector providers.
These presidential policies, mirrored by similar ones at other levels of government
in the United States and in many other nations, reflect the assumption
that government activities differ from those of the private sector and that government
performs less effectively and efficiently than private sector organizations.
In the United States, these beliefs have served as fundamental principles of the
political economy. Many political ideologues and economic theorists have treated
them as truisms, and surveys have found that the majority of citizens accept them.
Americans regard government with more ambivalence than hostility, however.
Government in the United States, at all levels, stands as one of the great
achievements of the nation and as one of the most significant institutions in human
history. No major nation operates without a large, influential public sector. Government
in the United States accounts for a smaller proportion of the gross national
product than do governments in most of the other major nations of the
world, including economically successful ones. Taxes in the United States are low
by international standards; as a percentage of the gross domestic product, the taxes
levied by governments in the United States are among the lowest of the major industrialized
nations. The contention that government in the United States is a
massively ineffective, expensive, wasteful, overweening institution is not supported
by international comparisons. Americans show an implicit recognition of this fact.
Some of the same surveys that find waning faith in government also find fundamental
support for a strong governmental role (Lipset and Schneider, 1987; Katz,
Gutek, Kahn, and Barton, 1975). Even as the antigovernment trend just described
has played out, demands for a strong and active government have continued and,
as illustrated repeatedly in the chapters to follow, government organizations and
employees have often responded by performing very well.
Hirschman (1982) has argued that sentiments for and against government activity
wax and wane cyclically in the United States and other countries. It remains
to be seen whether September 11 will lead to a fundamental shift in the way Americans
regard their government. Certainly they will continue to play out the time-honored
paradox of conferring massive funding and responsibility on government
agencies and officials even as they castigate and ridicule them (Whorton and
Worthley, 1981; Sharkansky, 1989). Thus, the United States will continue to struggle
with a complex version of the dilemma faced by all nations. We know that
both government and private activities have strengths and weaknesses and that both
are crucial. The challenge lies in designing the proper mix and balance of the two
and in doing what we can to attain effective management of both (Lindblom, 1977).
General Management and Public Management
This book proceeds on the argument that a review and explanation of the literature
on organizations and their management, integrated with a review of the research
on public organizations, supports understanding and improved management of public
organizations. As this approach implies, these two bodies of research and thought
are related but separate, and their integration poses a major challenge for those interested
in public management. The character of these fields and of their separation
needs clarification. We can begin that process by noting that scholars in
sociology, psychology, and business administration have developed an elaborate body
of knowledge in the fields of organizational behavior and organization theory.
Organizational Behavior, Organization Theory, and Management
The study of organizational behavior had its primary origins in industrial and social
psychology. Researchers of organizational behavior typically concentrate on
individual and group behaviors in organizations, analyzing motivation, work
satisfaction, leadership, work-group dynamics, and the attitudes and behaviors
of the members of organizations. Organization theory, conversely, is based more
in sociology. It focuses on topics that concern the organization as a whole, such as
organizational environments, goals and effectiveness, strategy and decision making,
change and innovation, and structure and design. Some writers treat organizational
behavior as a subfield of organization theory.
Excerpted from Understanding and Managing Public Organizations
by Hal G. Rainey
Copyright © 2003 by Hal G. Rainey.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
PART ONE: THE DYNAMIC CONTEXT OF PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS.
1 The Challenge of Effective Public Organization and Management.
2 Understanding the Study of Organizations: A Historical Review.
3 What Makes Public Organizations Distinctive.
4 Analyzing the Environment of Public Organizations.
5 The Impact of Political Power and Public Policy.
PART TWO: KEY DIMENSIONS OF ORGANIZING AND MANAGING.
6 Organizational Goals and Effectiveness.
7 Formulating and Achieving Purpose: Power, Strategy, and Decision Making.
8 Organizational Structure, Design, Technology, and Information Technology.
9 Understanding People in Public Organizations: Values and Motives.
10 Understanding People in Public Organizations: Theories of Work Motivation and Work-Related Attitudes.
11 Leadership, Managerial Roles, and Organizational Culture.
12 Teamwork: Understanding Communication and Conflict in and Among Groups.
PART THREE: STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING AND IMPROVING PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS.
13 Managing Organizational Change and Development.
14 Advancing Effective Management in the Public Sector.
Posted January 21, 2010
No text was provided for this review.