Unlike many of the other writing assignments done thus far, this paper will be providing brief synopses for several essays on issues involved with the study of public management. Although it might be possible to state that the ideas and theories presented in these texts are either true or false, it will be the goal of this writing to take the simple approach and focus on the thoughts that are presented are still relevant in modern practice of public management.
However, it is first important to point out that even today there is no aggregated view for weighing or measuring the success of public managers. This is because in part due to the various ways in which the agencies manage themselves, for example whether or not they chose to follow national performance review (NRP) response or a total quality management (TQM) method. Another problem is that often times today a management policy that has been set up and successfully tested for the private sector is either grafted to the, or imposed over the management policies of a public enterprise.
The issue that this brings up is that, depending on the agency, that there is no clear idea on who the ‘customers’ are, nor what ‘product’ is that the public agency is trying to appease. Meanwhile, the management theories that are being imposed on to them, are based on a quantifiable examination as to rather they are successful or not. Simply put, there is no easy or standard way for researchers of the field of public administration to be able to clearly differentiate between the successful management styles of one public administrator to another.
In fact, researching this problem is the very thing that our first author is calling for in his essay. Graham T. Allison attempts with his article, “Public and Private Management: Are They Fundamentally Alike in All Unimportant Respects? ” to both collective and summarize the prevailing ideas on public management at the time (1979). In addition, he highlights several areas in which the academic thinkers were struggling with and arguing over.
Allison point out everything from the similarities of “How are Public and Private Management Alike? ,” to charting out the functions of general management, and to the ‘current’ research being done to answer several questions that these topics have been brought up since Woodrow Wilson now canonized first article on the subject (1979,p 397) (1887). Allison’s call for research in this field is still greatly needed and sought after today as we shift from one management style to another, seemingly distinctive, in today’s public agencies.
One example of the reason that this research is needed can be found in comparing the resent style swing to the NPR, from the more ‘traditional’ management style outlines in Louis Brownlow, Charles E. Merriam, and Luther Gulick essay, “Report of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management” (1937). In their essay, they were working under the assumption that the management side of public administration could be, and was, separate from the political decisions and policies that directs the public service sector.
Under this assumption, they crusaded for more power and control over the public management process, on the behave of the executive branch. Some of their ideas included allowing the president to hire powerless, sector concentrated, secretaries that would assist the president with gather necessary information from the public bureaus under their area of concern and to pass back the decisions that the president makes back to the effected agencies.
These authors go on further to state that all major decisions on the functions of personnel, fiscal, organizational, and planning management should be given directly to the sole control of the president (1937, p 94). The first problem is that fiscal management falls under the authority of the congressional branch of government. In addition, with the shifting towards NPR, and other acts of congress, we see congress taking a greater role in the personnel management of public administration.
The biggest fallacy in this article is the assumption, that the management of public departments is separated from the politics and decisions that are made in Washington. In fact, everything about the various departments falls under the control of the very people who the authors are trying to separate them from. Now with a slight deviation from the previous topics on public management, let us take a look at the trend in public administration that involves the movement of bringing traditionally public sector jobs into the private sector. The Privatization Movement, once simply a group of scholarly outsiders, has come of age” (1987, p 469). Our look into privatization will be through the work done by, Ronald C. Moe and his essay, “Exploring the Limits of Privatization” (1987).
Moe’s essay explores several cases like McCulloch v. Maryland, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the entities like ‘Freddie Mac’ that fall under the Federal Home Bank Board, to point out the various issues that are involved with the privatization of public offices. While the issues range rom the organizational and budgeting management, to the legal and authority problems that these privatized companies face, Ronald Moe hones in on the latter two issues as to the reasons why privatization will not work with the public sector. The government of the United States has the right, as a sovereign power, to impose taxes, fines, and laws on its citizens. The issue that Moe in concern with is does this, and should this sovereignty be passed along to a governmental contracted company that does not necessarily fall directly under the direct control of the government?
Moe listed several attributes that are inherent to a sovereign government to help his claim; these, summarized attributes are, sovereign possesses the legitimate right to use coercion to enforce its will, “only a sovereign may legitimately go to war with another sovereign,” “sovereigns can do no wrong,” “a sovereign is indivisible. A sovereign cannot assign its attributes to a private party and remain a sovereign,” a sovereign has the right to set forth rules for the protection and transfer of property, and finally a sovereign can disavow but not go bankrupt with its debts. (1987, pp 473 – 474).
The turn of the century fall of ‘Freddie Mac’ and other banks and the subsequent ‘bail-out” of these privatized firms would be an example of a major problem with the concept of privatization of a public sector firm. Are these banks private property and therefore fall under the state and federal rules for bankruptcy? or are do they belong to the public sector and fall under the attribute that protects the government from going bankrupt? Moe correctly claims that by not specifying where this very fine line fells leads to the kinds of corruption and miss-appropriation of public funds that we saw with the resent collapse of the housing market.
Finally, he calls for a review to be done on identifying the differences between the private sector and the public sector firms before contracting our government duties to a private interest. However, this involves assigning some sort of value to the how the public service works, which is the topic of the next article. In his essay, “Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government” Mark H. Moore discusses the problems in nailing down a single method of measuring the output of public managers and their agencies (1995).
One of these problems is as simple as the fact that public agencies are involved in not one public program, but instead they are usually involved in several different programs that may or may not intersect with one another. This being the case, than why not just take the average? Because these programs, like the money that is used to fund them, are designed and supplied by not the managers themselves, like you would see in a private venture, but rather, these things are handed to them by the political process and the managers are there simply to see that the job gets done.
In the private sector, one can use the financial success of a firm to determine if the manager for that firm is successful or not. For example, if their product has value to it than the customer will buy it and the company will show a profit (1995, p 549). However, since the ‘customers’ of many of the public agency are either compelled to use, and/or they do not pay for the service at the time of use, than this type of assessment is not a valid way to judge the value of the public management styles, nor are they very useful for analyzing the programs themselves.
According to Moore, often what is done is that some type of cost-benefit analyses is done either before and/or after the program is started and this information is then compared to a similar service in the private sector to determine the effectiveness of the management style. The two problems with this approach is that, first it only show the effect that the program that the political leadership has implemented and not that of the management itself, and second that comparing an often vague value system to a very finite one is not easy task.
An analogy of this problem would be in using data from a 30 meter image and then merging the information with the visual effect of a 1 meter image. One might be able to get the information into the smaller image, but so much of the data is skewed and lost that it becomes worthless for any kind of analyses. The same thing happens with the data from this type of public sector analyses. You do not just get the effect of just the manager on the project; you also get the public officials that draft the project, the reaction by the public to the project, and the result of the project into one aggregated value set.
This set of values is simply too diluted to be useful as a measurement against the values from the private sector. Instead, Moore suggests that research in a cost-effectiveness approach may be a solution to this problem (1995, p 553). All of these essays end up with the same major issue concerning measuring the successful public management style, from one that is not successful. In one form or another both Moore and Moe have called for research in finding some standard in analyzing the public sector.
In any analysis standard, the effects that politics has in its creation cannot be ignored. If as Woodrow Wilson claim is true, and the goal of these public administrators is to find the most cost-effective and the most efficient method to implement the political oriented policies; then why not come up with a measurement on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness to be used for passing judgment on them?