New Public Management: Current Trends and Future Prospects

By Kate McLaughlin; Stephen P. Osborne et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Explaining the New Public Management

The importance of context

Norman Flynn

Ferlie et al. (1996) made a four-part classification of NPM approaches, based on four diagnoses of the problem by government. Their models were the efficiency drive; downsizing and decentralization; 'in search of excellence;' and 'public service orientation'. Peters (1996) also proposed a four-part taxonomy of models of governing, market, participative, flexible and deregulated, which was also related to different diagnoses of the problems seen by governments. Our work (Flynn and Strehl 1996) of the same year shied away from trying to classify the management changes in seven European countries because we were still trying to identify the changes, their causes and consequences. We did, however, find some big differences among apparently similar countries and sought some tentative explanations for those differences. Ferlie et al. acknowledged different 'national type' contexts as well as sectoral differences while Peters's analysis, although geographically wide-ranging, emphasizes the differences between sectors as the main determinant of the applicability of each model.

Much of the debate about convergence and difference has been concerned with sub-groups of the OECD countries, the English-speaking countries sometimes referred to as Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-American (Kickert etc.) and Japan used as the only non-Western example. A parallel debate has been carried on in the literature on public sector management and economic development. Kiggundu (1998) for example examines the context in which civil service reform in Africa has rarely been successful. Discussing the institutional capacity for good government in six poor countries, Hilderbrand and Grindle (1997) produced a typology of the economic, political and social conditions, which they call the 'action environment', and the 'public sector institutional context' or the existing arrangements within the state.

McCourt and Minogue (2001) takes an explicitly contingency approach to the explanation of differences between approaches to management. He posits a four-part classification of approaches to public management, one of which is emerging and labelled 'strategic management'. The other three are 'Public Administration', the 'Washington Model' named after the 'Washington consensus' and NPM.

This chapter examines the proposition that different contexts generate different discourses, including different diagnoses of the problems that

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