Comprehensive Administrative Reform Implementation: Moving beyond Single Issue Implementation Research
Chackerian, Richard, Mavima, Paul, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Comprehensive state government administrative reform(1) is relatively rare (Chackerian 1996; Garnett 1980). The most prevalent type of reform tends to be simple and incremental, leading to small changes mainly in intraorganizational structure, compensation plans, information systems, and civil service rules.(2) However, when comprehensive reform does occur, it has far reaching consequences. Whether or not it succeeds or even whether or not it is fully implemented, it typically absorbs vast leadership resources and administrative effort and shapes the public's perception of government capacity. The episodes of reform vary in form and cut across a variety of methods, but typically they are justified as means to greater efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness (Conant 1986).
Our understanding of comprehensive reform rarity is based on inferences from the general theory of policy implementation. From this perspective the rarity is largely a function of the general skepticism about the likelihood of comprehensive reform success. Kingdon (1984), for example, emphasizes that policy adoption is besieged by random intersections of problems, solutions, participants, and choice opportunities, thus making success very uncertain. Mazmanian and Sabatier (1981) similarly argue that policy implementation involves a large number of veto points and complexities related to inducements and capabilities of those who are involved in implementation. Ring and Perry (1985) add the hazards of "shaky coalitions," policy ambiguity, media influence, and executive turnover. Incrementalism (Lindblom 1959), mixed scanning (Etzioni 1967 and 1986), and more recently "goal groping" (Behn 1995) have all been offered as both descriptive of typical change patterns and normative statements of how change should occur. It is little wonder that comprehensive reforms are infrequently attempted.
In spite of this skepticism, comprehensive administrative reforms have emerged episodically in state governments (Garnett 1980; Conant 1993; Chackerian 1996). When they do emerge, however, they provide an invaluable opportunity to better understand the more general process of administrative change implementation. Our interest in comprehensive administrative reform lies in the opportunity it provides to examine the normally unexamined interactions among reform components and thereby to add to our understanding of administrative change as one type of policy implementation. We will argue that much can be learned about administrative change and implementation if the interactions--more specifically the synergy, tradeoff, or avoidance among reform proposals--are examined. Our major argument is that these interactions, if seen in their institutional context, are an important element in reform implementation success or failure.
A comprehensive reform effort was started by Florida's governor, Lawton Chiles, in 1990. It had been more than twenty-five years since the last major overhaul of the state's administrative and constitutional system. The governor's package of reforms included total quality management (TQM), organizational restructuring, decentralization, deregulation, downsizing, strategic planning, civil service reform, innovation and productivity incentives, and performance-based budgeting (Berry, Chackerian, and Wechsler 1999).
Lawton Chiles was reelected governor for a second term in 1994, but even then it was quite clear that the episode of comprehensive administrative reform was largely over. The subject hardly came up in the 1993 gubernatorial campaign. Further, the 1997, 1998, and 1999 legislative sessions were virtually silent on administrative reform, except for performance budgeting and restructuring. In the last days of his term, Governor Chiles died and the new governor, Jeb Bush, did not mention administrative reform in his inaugural speech other than the need to more fully explore contracting state services. It has been ten years since Governor Chiles initiated his landslide of reforms. …