Magazine article Government Finance Review

Public Services and the Limits of Specialization: The Challenges Facing Today's Governments Require a Management Approach That Cuts across Disciplines and Departments

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Public Services and the Limits of Specialization: The Challenges Facing Today's Governments Require a Management Approach That Cuts across Disciplines and Departments

Article excerpt

As the world has grown more complex, government leaders have responded by constructing their organizations to leverage specialization. Today's local governments, for example, have separate departments for police, fire, recreation, engineering, public works, social services, and the like. But is this the best way to produce the best service-delivery outcomes?

Over the past few years, the International City/County Management Association has examined feedback obtained from resident surveys to identify the issues that matter most to people. Six emerge as most important: jobs and the economy; education; safety; health care; the environment; and infrastructure, including transportation. What these issues have in common is that they require a multi-sector, multi-disciplinary, and intergovernmental strategy.

It's helpful to examine this question through the lens of a single area of public service.

I recently participated in a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) that examined the leadership issues police agencies are dealing with. The BJA's first-phase report (available at http://icma.org/Documents/ Document/Document/305176) focuses on how the management approaches that characterize many of today's police departments--a command-and control structure; territorial, function-based silos; and single-jurisdictional service delivery--are being profoundly challenged. These issues include:

* Severe economic pressures, which necessitate reductions in funding and core-area staff and affect how agencies are organized to provide services.

* Diverse community socioeconomic and demographic complexities, which require inter-agency collaboration with outside groups such as housing authorities and non-profits.

* Differing, and often competing, service needs within regions and sub-regions.

* The increased pace of change, particularly in the areas of technology and communications.

* A transforming workforce, including multi-generational staffs with often competing values and expectations.

To address these pressures, many public-safety organizations are employing not only aggressive cost-cutting strategies but also new ways of collaborating, such as shared services and consolidations, according to the BJA report. …

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.