Academic journal article Public Administration Review

"Reinventing" Government: Does Leadership Make the Difference?

Academic journal article Public Administration Review

"Reinventing" Government: Does Leadership Make the Difference?

Article excerpt

What makes management reform or reinvention successful? The operating principle of the Clinton-Gore reinvention model for changing the federal bureaucracy is that an organization's culture is a major determinant of organizational performance. The Clinton-Gore model was operationalized in 1993 when President Clinton announced, "Our goal is to make the entire federal government both less expensive and more efficient, and to change the culture of our national bureaucracy away from complacency and entitlement toward initiative and empowerment" (Gore, 1993, 1. Emphasis added.) This article examines leadership as the most significant variable that affects the operating principle underlying the Clinton-Gore reinvention model of management reform.

Inability to change the culture has been identified as the most serious obstacle to change in the federal government (Kettl, 1994; Carroll, 1995; Carroll and Lynn, 1996) and simultaneously criticized as too simplistic and unrealistic in its approach (DiIulio, Garvey, and Kettl, 1993; DiIulio, 1994; Moe, 1994). While this article assumes, along with Wilson (1989), Barzelay (1992), and many others, that organizational culture does affect organizational performance, it examines what a leader does in a specific type of organizational change.

From the clearly defined role of leaders in public sector organizations described by Robert Denhardt (1993) to the broadly applicable examples of the role of the leader in the private sector collected by Hesselbein, Goldsmith, and Beckhard (1996), the argument has been made clearly and strongly that leaders have a tremendous effect on individual organizations and on the performance of those organizations. The key question for empirical validation of those intuitions appears to be, "How can any observable effects of leadership on organizational culture and performance be identified and recorded?"

This article approaches the issue of evidence by offering empirical observations organized around the four competencies of leadership developed by Bennis (1993) as the independent variable, organizational culture as the intervening variable, and two measures of reinvention, the dependent variable. The two measures used are National Performance Review (NPR) implementation and organizational performance. The observations lead to the conclusion that the most effective leaders foster, support, and sustain organizational cultures that facilitate the type of management reform envisioned by "reinventing government" and the attendant increases in effectiveness and efficiency.

Reinvention Is a Major Initiative of the Clinton Administration

Reinvention as a type of executive management reform remains a major initiative of the Clinton administration. The reinvention effort was launched in 1993 by the work of 200+ members of the federal bureaucracy who prepared and published, under the leadership of Vice President Gore, the NPR. The review identified specific and general changes required to improve efficiency and effectiveness in each executive department and agency. It also provided the philosophical basis for those changes--changing the current organizational culture, described by the President as one of "complacency and entitlement," (Gore, 1993, 1), to one of initiative and empowerment. The National Performance Review asserts that organizational culture plays a large role in bringing about improvements in efficiency and effectiveness. Although few recommendations of the review specifically address organizational culture, most assume changes in organizational culture once implemented.

The purpose of the first phase of this research was to test the Clinton-Gore model relationship between organizational performance and organizational culture explicit in the President's 1993 statement. If such a relationship exists, how does organizational culture contribute to a government that works better and costs less?

The first phase found a strong relationship between organizational culture and performance, but many ambiguities remained. …

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