Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The New Architecture of State Government Administration: Key Questions and Preliminary Answers

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The New Architecture of State Government Administration: Key Questions and Preliminary Answers

Article excerpt


How are we to understand the changing architecture of state government administrative reform? To do so, the article poses the following basic questions about what has changed, why it changed, the implications for management, and what the future will look like.

* What are the patterns of administrative reform among state governments?

** What explains the adoption of administrative reforms?

* What are the implications of the constrained model of administrative reform?

** Can managers make use of the new model?

** What factors foster the use of performance management reforms?

** What are the potential negative impacts of the constrained model?

* What is the future of administrative reform?

** Will the market model will lead to more gaming and opportunistic behavior?

** Will the market model crowd out intrinsic incentives?

** Will the market model foster partisan goals over management values?

** Will the market model lead to better motivation and higher performance?

** How might state governments reconsider authority?

I draw on my own research and that of others to offer preliminary answers to the above questions. Where these answers fall short and are speculative, there is a pressing need for additional research. A primary goal of this article, therefore, is to consider the research agenda for state government scholars interested in administrative reform.

This article proposes that the pattern of administrative change in state government reflects a constrained model of reform. Aspects of New Public Management (NPM) doctrine that emphasized building performance information systems were adopted by state governments, while doctrinal recommendations for increasing managerial authority were largely overlooked. Performance information systems offered an attractive reform for elected officials who valued the symbolic benefits of reforming government, but who were reluctant to engage in a more contested fight to dismantle the traditional civil service. This left state managers with a constrained model of management, with new expectations in terms of performance but little additional authority to fulfill those expectations. Managers can make use of the constrained model, if they have sufficient resources and can find a way to tie performance information systems to their broader policy and management agenda.

It is possible that the constrained model of reform will remain in place for some time, but there are indications that state governments have found ways to weaken traditional employee protections without directly overturning civil service legislation. This suggests the displacement of the constrained model with a market model of administration. The market model is expected to lead to better performance and increased motivation, although some evidence suggests that it will not always do so. The market model also brings dangers, including gaming of performance measures, greater politicization of the public service, and the crowding out of intrinsic motivation. Some of these dangers might be averted if governments grant managerial authority to career employees when there is a demonstrable benefit, rather than granting large swathes of discretion to political appointees without a clear sense of how this authority will be used. The article concludes by considering some of the methodological challenges facing scholars of administrative reform.

What are the Patterns of Administrative Reform among State Governments?

Arguments about administrative reform have been characterized as a series of doctrinal claims (Hood and Jackson, 1991). Doctrines are a theoretical explanation of cause and effect, often presented as factual and widely applicable, and designed to prompt actions consistent with their preferred explanation. In recent decades, public management doctrines have argued that traditional bureaucratic structures were essentially broken, and should be replaced. …

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