The decade of the 1980s was traumatic for many organizations in the United States. It was a turbulent decade for federal government organizations because of wide funding fluctuations and changes in definitions of the proper role for government. Major cutbacks were made in most federal civilian agencies in the early 1980s. Many of these cutbacks extended as well to state and local governments, which received funding from their federal counterpart. At the same time the defense agencies were required to absorb and manage large budget increases that turned to budget reductions in a few short years. These new directions in funding were the result of changes in the view held by elected officials and the public at large concerning the proper role of government.
In the private sector as well, the 1980s were a time of major changes and the emergence of new trends. The growth in sales by foreign firms in the U.S. domestic market reached new highs. Many domestic firms saw their traditional markets shrink as foreign competition forced them to reassess their internal management and strategic relations. A feeling emerged that the United States may have lost its competitive edge, and there has been a frantic search for a way to regain momentum.
During much of the past decade the public sector turned to the private sector in its search for organizational and managerial "excellence," while the private sector turned abroad, notably to Japan. Many government organizations have sought to apply private-sector notions of competition, user fees, and privatization. Meanwhile, in private firms