Resource Allocation in the Public Sector: Values, Priorities, and Markets in the Management of Public Services

Resource Allocation in the Public Sector: Values, Priorities, and Markets in the Management of Public Services

Resource Allocation in the Public Sector: Values, Priorities, and Markets in the Management of Public Services

Resource Allocation in the Public Sector: Values, Priorities, and Markets in the Management of Public Services

Synopsis

This book examines the competing values that underlie the public service ethic, including the role of markets and quasi-markets in deciding on how resources are allocated.

Excerpt

A.J.P. Taylor, the prolific historian of the twentieth century, once remarked that when he came upon a subject of which he knew and understood little he would write a book about it. This book on resource allocation had a similar origin. In 1980 I started a job as a management trainer and I became responsible for running courses for managers in local authorities and health authorities. As a result of listening to public sector managers’ problems it struck me that the issues they worried about were either concerned with managing people or with difficult resource allocation choices. There was no problem finding training material to help them with managing people but this was not the case with resource allocation. If I looked in the text books and the manuals of training material there was little which could help managers improve their skills in resource allocation. I was of course making the naïve assumption that it was a matter of skill. But this gap in the range of available training material started me thinking about how trainers might be able to help public sector managers with resource allocation. The first question to be answered was—how do managers make resource allocation decisions? I hoped that the answer might lead to the development of training material.

The concept of heuristics, taken from the psychological literature, proved helpful in understanding resource allocation decision making. Heuristics are mental rules of thumb, or tricks of the trade, which people learn from various sources, which function by reducing the complexity of the decision to be made. They are cognitive swords used to cut Gordian knots, but the image must be right. They are not fine rapiers with stiletto tips, they are two-handed broad swords used for slashing through the thickets of decision making. Heuristics function as part of a person’s way of looking at the world. They are a set of values, which are used to edit competing demands upon attention rather than tools for fine forensic dissection of policy dilemmas.

The idea of heuristics will play an important part in this chapter. In the first part, the context will be set by sketching the main arguments about the role of values in public decision making. The next section will provide an analysis of the heuristics and values managers use to approach a management

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.