Here are two photos from the celebration:
After a dozen years, the book series, PUBLIC MANAGEMENT AND CHANGE, is coming to an end. While the existing books will continue to be on the Georgetown University Press list, no new books will be published. There will be 33 books in the series – many of which have won awards and become widely cited volumes. When I created the series I had hopes that it would represent important issues and approaches in public management. I was not disappointed. Some of the authors in the series celebrated this contribution during the Public Management Research Conference in Washington in June, 2017.
Here are two photos from the celebration:
As a result of the 2016 election, many Americans are examining the very core of the American democracy and attempting to determine the vulnerability of the U.S. institutional structure to radical change. For many citizens, the deconstruction of constitutional democracy that has emerged from the Trump administration suggests a real attack on this structure. It is difficult to make such an assessment without recognizing that the responsibility for this set of developments may have emerged from different quarters from those who orchestrate Trump's agenda. Indeed, there may be a large group of citizens who have argued for changes that have made our democracy more vulnerable.
One of the contradictions built into the American system involves the relationship between the values of the public sector and those of the private sector. This relationship was an important part of the concept of American exceptionalism. The founders of the American democracy were always skeptical of concentrated power in government (such as that which emerged in monarchies, religious orders, or other non-democratic systems).
We know that our complex shared power system was designed to keep any part of the shared power structure from destroying the autonomy of another part. Another important part of that design was an acknowledgment that there is a difference between the values tied to the public role and those tied to the private sector. Public sector values emphasize social justice, fairness, equity, and the quality of public services. Private sector values emerge from a desire to run government like a business, focusing on efficiency and the profit motive. In addition, the public sector operates more openly with unclear boundaries about its participants’ authority.
The appropriate balance between public and private has always been under dispute. Economist Albert Hirschman provided a creative approach to this issue by defining the balance not as a clear sorting out of the roles of the two sectors but as a dynamic process. Calling this process “Shifting Involvements,” he focused on the changes in technological, social, or economic conditions that cause a shift in the balance between public and private. He describes this process as “disappointment”—one that occurs because citizens find that their expectations have not been met and thus they swing from one sector to the other. This dynamic is often caused by external events (such as economic crises, wars, revolutions) and seems to explain the changes that have occurred within the United States. And it explains the contradictions that always seem to be present in the American society.
For more than 25 years, the swing in the United States has been toward a predominance of values that emerge from the private sector. Today—in contrast to the dynamics of the 1930s—economic conditions and fiscal scarcity have pushed efficiency values to the top of the list, overpowering both equity and effectiveness values. The problems created by the Wall Street crash did not generate increased reliance on the public sector. It is assumed—although not always understood—that the experience of the private sector is directly transferable to the public domain.
This pattern is expressed directly in interesting ways. Public sector employees use the term “company” to describe their public sector organizations. Analysts assume that quantitative data that mirrors the concept of profit margins is the way to determine whether public sector policies are effective. And perhaps most importantly, they assume that contracting out formerly public sector–provided services will adequately address public sector roles. Private sector contractors expect that their views about proprietary information carry over to their government contracts. At times, even nonprofit organizations have a hard time competing with for-profit contractors.
We are now in the midst of what is perhaps the strongest belief that the private sector can be the way to deconstruct the public sector. It is time to confront this set of assumptions. Public administration scholars and practitioners owe the public some hard truths about the unfortunate realities of its predilection for excessive reliance on the private sector.
First published in Public Admin Review, Volume 77, Issue 3, May/June 2017, Page 325.
I am very pleased to participate in this celebration of the publication of the book, Policy Analysis in Israel, that is a part of the international series published by Policy Press. I’ve already used several of the volumes in my work and have found them to be incredibly useful. Its important for us all to thank Iris Geva May and Michael Howlett for their leadership in conceptualizing the series and giving us the opportunity to have a picture of the breadth and depth of the field of policy analysis. Without works like this one, we would all be limited to our separate and unique views of the field. Like the Sufi story of the blind men and the elephant, each of us is limited by our own experience. Thus when the individual blind men describe an elephant one describes a trunk, another a tail, still another a foot. Yet each of them has no idea that their view is only one part of the total elephant.
My remarks today represent my attempt to look beyond one experience with our field and suggest some patterns that may transcend political borders. As some of you may know, I have seen my role as a chronicler and documenter of the field of policy analysis. As someone originally trained as a historian, I have tried to watch the changes that have occurred in this field both in the academy and in the field of practice. Both editions of my book Beyond Machiavelli represent my attempt to describe different eras within the field, first largely inside the US and then in the 21st century when the field clearly moved to recognize global experience. I am always on the lookout for changes in what we all call policy analysis yet those two words are used to encompass very different behaviors.
The second theme that underlies my remarks is more personal and focused on the Israeli context and my relationship to this country. I am a first generation American Jew who was brought up in South Dakota -- an unusual place for someone with my family’s background. My family was attentive to the creation of the state of Israel and my first trip to Israel took place nearly 50 years ago, before the Six Day War. My subsequent trips allowed me to observe the changes that have occurred in this country. My last trip took place in 2013 when I spent a week at Tel Aviv University where Gila was the chair of the policy program; I was there as a visiting faculty member. I do not pretend to be an expert in Israeli policy analysis but I have some familiarity with some of the issues discussed in the book. I found a number of themes in the volume we are celebrating that seem to support an interesting pattern.
I realized that there was a different approach to policy research when Uncontrollable Spending for Social Services Grants was published in l975. As someone who was just a few years younger than Martha Derthick, reading her work allowed me to discover a person who looked at federal policy in a new way. I too was trying to deal with the role of the federal government and find an approach that respected federalism, the world of practice, and communicated findings to a broad audience.
In the years that followed, it was clear to me that we were often on the same wave length. While we didn’t always agree on policy approaches, Martha’s work became the cornerstone for me. I’d like to emphasize the themes in her work that especially resonated with me.
First, Martha did not demean the world of Washington. She did not belittle those who had caught Potomac fever. She was able to understand the reality of those who operated inside the federal bureaucracy, the Congress, and the world of interest groups. Her work reflected her ability to listen to informants in a way that respected their reality. She was not uncritical but clearly heard their concerns and depicted their issues. Her perch at Brookings gave her a wonderful vantage point for this effort. At the same time she understood that not everything comes from Washington.
Second, Martha was able to move the study of federalism away from narrow legal and structural approaches to an approach that defined the field as intergovernmental relations. Along with others (such as Deil Wright) her work gave us a model for understanding the complexity of the US shared powers system. By focusing on policy impacts of federalism, she showed us how important it is to analyze intergovernmental relations with sensitivity to the differences between policy areas.
Third, as the daughter of a journalist, Martha had an unusual ability to communicate her analysis in an accessible way. Her books and articles are very readable. One has the sense that she was trying to broaden her audience and speak not only to other scholars but also to the individuals who were her practitioner informants. She never tried to obfuscate her findings in narrow academic language. At the same time, her work clearly reflected her familiarity with essential theories and a broad base of literature.
I cannot conclude my remarks without acknowledging that Martha was one of the very few women in the policy and federalism field. While she was not usually thought of as a feminist, she was someone who was accessible to other women. I knew that she was someone I could talk to – whether about social services policies or our individual research on the Social Security Administration or other current work. We shared sources when our work intersected. I still love looking at her citations in the Social Security book where she cited items from Beryl Radin’s archives. We would often catch up at APSA at federalism sessions.
My last contact with her occurred when I received the Gaus award and sent her a copy of my remarks. I had noted that she was one of the two women who had received that award before me. She called me and thanked me for that acknowledgement. She is missed.
To appear in Public Adiminstration Review 2015
The death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore has made many of us search for the reasons that led to that horrible conclusion. Many explanations have been advanced that are important and seek to help citizens understand what led to that event. The issues that have been raised are not new: here was a population that was forgotten and suffered in terms of jobs, housing and educational opportunities. The result is a lost generation that has been denied opportunities in the US. These are structural problems that even the best efforts by community groups cannot tackle on their own.
But there are also less obvious explanations for this tragedy. It is very ironic that efforts to make government more effective have sometimes led to increased problems for this population. The press coverage since Gray’s death has pointed to administrative policies and processes put in place by former Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley that some feel contributed to the explosion we have witnessed on the streets of Baltimore. But O’Malley’s efforts are not unique. What O’Malley brought to Baltimore actually mirrored efforts in NYC that became the model for public administrators across the country who have tried to respond to citizen concern about the effectiveness of public programs. While much of the attention today is on the criminal justice system, similar problems have emerged from other sectors.
O’Malley’s effort – called Citistat – was built on an effort in New York City entitled COMPSTAT (short for complaint statistics). This was a management technique based on private sector concepts that was designed to lead to crime reduction and efficient use of resources. The process emphasized accountability of staff to the top officials in the organization and was used to map crime and identify problems in the criminal justice system.
Staff from local precincts met with top officials weekly and discussed ways to reduce crime. Each local precinct was required to develop a statistical summary of the week’s crime complaints and experiences. They were also required to submit a weekly report describing significant cases, crime patterns and other relevant police activities.
While this process gave the participants the impression that they were improving the delivery of services to the community, there were hidden traps within that process. A number of these attributes are found in other attempts to develop performance assessment efforts.
First, there was a tendency in that process to think about the city as a centralized unit and to develop expectations that applied citywide. This is sometimes called a “one size fits all” approach. This process minimized attention to the special needs of different populations and the way those populations perceived the police and, conversely, how the police perceived them.
Second, the reliance on quantitative data minimized attention to qualitative assessments of the service, particularly issues related to the quality of treatment. When the New York City police department initially emphasized stop-and frisk, it produced 50,000 stops a year. The department decided that these stops were a good metric for productivity and the annual number ultimately exceeded half a million stops. Many police officers acknowledged that this policy produced many unjustified stops.
Third, most of the measures that were used in the process were based on attempts to maximize efficiency in the delivery of service. Increased efficiency was often expected to lead to budget reductions. There was little attention to the effectiveness of programs or equity aspects of the service delivery. Some have described this as worshipping the gods of efficiency and ignoring issues of equity.
Fourth, the process that was put in place created pressure on individual police officers to meet the centralized expectations. Salary decisions were sometimes linked to these assessments. At least one assessment of the NYC experience found that a number of retired police officials complained that pressure from department brass prompted widespread statistical manipulation of CompStat data, specifically by downgrading reports of serious crimes to less serious offenses.
Management strategies such as Compstat clearly have positive motivations behind them. However, the unanticipated consequences of these efforts cannot be ignored. The belief that managing only what you can count can be misleading. The Baltimore tragedy suggests that we need different techniques that acknowledge the complexity of many programs. We must acknowledge that what may work in one setting is not helpful in another.
This is not an easy problem to solve. It is clear that relying only on quantitative measures has real limitations. The challenge is to find a way to strike a balance between quantitative measures and qualitative assessments. This brings us back to one of the basic issues in the public administration field: acknowledging that management is both an art as well as a science.
By Paul L. Posner and Beryl A. Radin
In July, President Obama told his Cabinet that management of the federal government would take top priority during the remainder of his administration. The pattern is familiar—presidents run for office not to manage the government but to champion and create new policy. The first part of their presidency is preoccupied with marshaling support for broad policy agendas that served as the rallying cry for the political coalitions that got them nominated and elected. Having achieved electoral victories, they then proceed to get mugged by reality—bedeviled by a host of unanticipated management problems that never registered on the political radar screen.
Presidents who bask in the policy limelight are surprised and puzzled when their support erodes. While the line between campaigning and governing has blurred, most citizens grasp the difference when there is a failure to provide the most basic services they expect from federal agencies.
President Obama achieved policy victories in his first two years that, for the most part, public opinion ignores. The passage of national health reform after a nearly 100-year battle will stand as a lasting achievement for the ages. Financial regulatory reforms in the Dodd-Frank legislation may not have solved financial bubbles forever, but the regulation of financial institutions is on firmer footing than before. The Recovery Act, passed in the first month of Obama’s presidency, provided $800 billion in stimulus through spending and tax cuts that economists give credit for staunching the loss of jobs and helping save the economy from the ravages of a depression.
Yet the Obama administration has been victimized by a litany of management failures. More than 50 percent of Americans now say they question the management competence of the president. They point to the Veterans Affairs Department’s cover-up of failures to see patients in a timely manner, the IRS’ use of questionable criteria to ban certain groups from tax exempt status, the failures of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service to impose regulatory limits on oil companies (contributing to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill), the widespread cheating on tests mandated under No Child Left Behind, and the botched rollout of health insurance exchanges across the country.
These kinds of problems are not unique to this administration. George W. Bush—the MBA president—followed a similar pattern. His early policy victories included tax cuts in 2001, No Child Left Behind, Medicare prescription drug coverage, and the war against terror following the Sept. 11 attacks. In the wake of these policy initiatives, however, his administration became waylaid by all manner of management problems.
Multiple factors seem to explain this dilemma:
We wish there were a fix for these issues, but many of them are woven into the fabric of our governance system and its incentives.
Ironically in recent years, the growing presidential management portfolio has been accompanied by a corresponding growth in attention to management capacity. The White House Office of Management and Budget has fortified the “M” by recruiting a deputy director specifically for management. Financial, performance, information systems and human capital management have been bolstered by reform legislation and the appointment of chiefs responsible for those management functions at each federal agency. So, the president has some help from dedicated civil servants and appointees—he is not managing alone. But only the president can marshal the forces to achieve policy goals in a fragmented political system where power is diffused and shared among numerous federal, state, local and private organizations.
Deep-seated management challenges require an engaged White House to instill the urgency and institute the reforms needed to head off future Hurricane Katrina and VA scandals. Despite the crippling blow that such problems can deal to their administration, presidents are reluctant to make this investment of personal time and energy.
One modest change would be for media, punditry, academics and even White House staff to develop a perspective on public administration that acknowledges the complexity and contradictions within the American political system. Actually delivering on bold policy promises will require leaders and managers to take the unique challenges of delivering complex programs through a multilayered federal system seriously.
Let’s relieve ourselves of the myth that public management is like a machine—put your money in and get your services at the push of a button. Implementing complex programs is more aptly described as a new stage of politics and policymaking where the losers in the legislative fights often feel empowered by instant replay. Whether it be advancing infrastructure or collecting taxes, public management calls for more realistic expectations, effective partnerships with other sectors, and political investment by our elected officials.
Paul L. Posner is director of the Public Administration program at George Mason University and Beryl A. Radin is a professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.
I thought my recent trip was a simple one hour flight from Ottawa to Washington, D.C. But it turned out to be an unpleasant interaction with the US customs and border protection agency that gave me a glimpse of the way that non-US citizens are treated by our customs and immigration staff.
Flying from Canada to the US involves going through US customs and immigration on the Canadian side of the journey, not on landing in the US. Once through Canadian security, one is handed a customs form and required to fill it out before going through US immigration.
Unlike the system within the US, US citizens and noncitizens are not separated from one another. The staff treats all passengers as aliens, interviews them and clearly makes the assumption that everyone is suspicious. I was shocked that they thought a 70 plus year old professor who was US citizen and was returning from an international academic conference in Canada had not answered their questions adequately. Thus I was ushered into the secondary screening area and from there taken into the supervisor’s office where the same questions were asked and my passport was photocopied. When I asked the supervisor for his card, he said he did not have one but gave me a comment card form.
My transaction involved three people, all of whom were rude and clearly trained to be verbally abusive to passengers. The comment card noted that there are multiple reasons why a passenger can be chosen for a secondary inspection but evidently it is not considered to be appropriate to let that person know why that choice was made.
When I returned to Washington I continued to be puzzled by the reason why I was “selected” for this treatment. But I found that my experience was similar to that of two friends who had recently returned from Canada (one from Toronto and one from Niagara Falls). There is something clearly wrong about the process used by the staff of US Customs and Border Protection and the training they receive to prepare them for this job.
The problem that I experienced could be viewed as simply the behavior of “bad apples” in the agency. However, I believe that it represents abuse that goes beyond individual behavior and speaks to policy determinations by the organization and its investment in training and transparency.