International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

This latter viewpoint was supported by the conclusions of the 1968 Fulton Committee established by Prime Minister Harold Wilson to inquire whether the Civil Service was equal to the tasks expected of it in a technically advanced and complex society. The committee's report concluded that there was a pervading and dominant philosophy of the amateur (generalist), that insufficient scope was given to specialists, and that too few civil servants were trained in management-the task of ensuring that a number of diverse activities are performed in such a way that a defined objective is achieved. ( Hughes 1992, p. 287). The Fulton Committee also recommended more training for specialists in management.

Despite the Fulton Committee proposals, the dominance of the generalist in the civil service hierarchy in the UK did not change materially for a number of years. Policymaking was still the preserve of the generalist administrator. Since the election of the first Thatcher government, however, the generalist administrator has been compelled to learn new managerial and budgeting skills ( Drewry and Butcher 1991, p. 221). In particular, with the adoption of the "Financial Management Initiative" (FMI) in 1982 and the "Next Steps" in 1988, there has been a shift from policy to management, with the focus primarily on efficiency and costs of service delivery, leading to an emphasis on quantifiable methods of performance, investment appraisal, and efficiency criteria ( Greer 1994, p. 8).


United States

In the United States the notion of a generalist had application in the creation under the Civil Service Reform Act 1978 (CSRA) of a senior executive service (SES) working in managerial, supervisory, and policymaking positions immediately below the President and his top policy appointees. Patty Renfrow ( 1989) has suggested that the model for this corps of versatile generalist managers was the British Higher Civil Service, although the U.S. model is based on program experts and specialists who have stayed in the one agency for most of their careers.

Mark Huddleston ( 1991, p. 182ff) refers to "separate service" and "separate track" plans, aimed to address what are seen to be the unique problems of scientists and engineers, as well as other specialists in the SES. Both plans share the assumption that technical specialists have needs that are distinct from and sometimes at odds with general managers.

The "separate service" proposals would aim to break scientists away from SES and create a separate, technically oriented senior personnel service or services. Unlike the separate service proposals, which would require legislative action by Congress to alter the structure of the SES, the separate track proposals would retain the general legal structure of the SES, while instituting distinct career ladders or tracks within the service for technical personnel.

Although these proposals for separating specialists and generalists have considerable surface appeal, a number of major issues would need to be resolved. These include such issues as the relative merits of a separate service as opposed a separate track system, the number of tracks that would be required, the level of government at which tracking would take place, and the relations between tracks.


Australia

In Australia, the concept was given credence in the establishment of the senior executive service in October 1984, in order to provide for a group of senior officers who (1) could undertake higher-level policy advice and managerial and professional duties in agencies and; (2) might be redeployed by agency heads within agencies or departments so as to promote the efficiency of the Australian Public Service. It was senior staff that Australian government ministers were closest to and the role that they played in policy advising that was regarded as most important. The governments of several Australian states have also each created a Senior Executive Service within their bureaucracies, wherein generalist appointees carry out the more-important higher-level policy advising functions or manage major functions of government and are interchangeable between these functions or policy advising.

No longer does the concept of the generalist as it originated in the UK Civil Service have application in major bureaucracies throughout the world. Instead, with the gradual evolution of managerialism in many countries and its emphasis on outcomes and accountability for results, senior bureaucrats must have not only policy advising skills but also management skills and experience of a high order so as to effectively promote and execute their missions.

ALEX. M. OWEN


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Drewry, Gavin, and Tony Butcher, 1991. The Civil Service Today. 2d ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwood.

Greer, Patricia. 1994. Transforming Central Government -- The Next Steps Initiative. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Huddleston, Mark. W, 1991. "The Senior Executive Service: Problems and Prospects for Reform". In Carolyn Ban and Norma M. Ricucci, Public Personnel Management -- Current Concerns and Future Challenges. New York: Longman.

Hughes, Owen, 1992. "Public Management or Public Administration?" Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol. 51, no. 3 (September): 286-296.

Oxer, Rosemary, 1990. The Senior Executive Service 1984-1989. Public Service Commission. Senior Executive Staffing Unit. Occasional Papers no. 7 (January). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

Renfrow, Patty 1989. "The Senior Executive Service -- An Assessment of the American Expenience". Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration 9 (August): 64-68.

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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