NPM has become a standard international model for public administration reform. The term NPM originally came from New Zealand, describing the reforms initiated there in the 1980s. Nowadays, NPM is used as a generic term for the movement of similar public management reforms spreading around the world. The distinct feature of all those reforms is the shift from input to output orientation (Schedler and Proeller 2000:5). NPM reforms started out in Anglo-Saxon countries, like the UK, USA or New Zealand. In the meantime the name as well as the basic ideas of NPM are in discussion in most Western industrialized nations. Also, in continental Europe many municipalities claim to have launched NPM reforms.
It is no secret that there exists no such thing as one NPM reform model. NPM is a generic term, for some even a paradigm. Löffler (1997:4) states:
For analytical purposes, the NPM paradigm can be considered to the function of a meta-catalogue of principles to be valid for the public sector. Administrative modernization means the translation of those abstract principles into modernization programs, management models and law by political and administrative actors. Modernization strategies … are the concretization of these still rather abstract policy objectives.
This article will take a closer look on NPM modernization in continental Europe. It will examine what kind of reform initiatives are designated 'NPM reforms', and what characterizes the different national modernization models. Thereby the analysis will focus on the developments on the local level. The article argues that NPM modernization strategies are shaped in reaction to perceived challenges. This understanding leads to the approach underlying this article and illustrated in Figure 10.1. On the one hand, NPM delivers a supply-driven concept of theories that led to a 'NPM tool-box'. On the other hand, local governments demand remedies against particular problems they are facing. The supply of instruments through NPM and the demand to counteract specific problems are matched by varying the priority of certain NPM elements within