Public Administration
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Public Administration

An Introduction

Marc Holzer, Richard W. Schwester

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eBook - ePub

Public Administration

An Introduction

Marc Holzer, Richard W. Schwester

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About This Book

Marc Holzer and Richard W. Schwester have written a textbook that is distinct from the dozens of introductory public administration books now in the academic marketplace. Their vision is a unique blend of substance and style—a text that is both informative and enlivening, capturing the evolving nature of the field. The book explores the traditional, essential elements of public administration such as organizational theory, human resource management, leadership, program evaluation and policy analysis, budgeting, and the politics of public administration. Artwork depicts bureaucratic issues, reinforcing each chapter's themes and creating an informative and aesthetically engaging textbook, while charts, graphs, diagrams, and illustrations add dimensions to the text's overviews of public administration.

New to this edition are three sections that provide a natural flow and progression of the material. Section I provides the theoretical construct of public administration, section II provides actionable material for public administrators, while section III deals with the future of public organizations through the lens of performance improvement and the techniques available to achieve such improvement. Each chapter is complemented by key terms and supplementary readings, and video cases and simulations offer a gateway to engaging students, encouraging them to immerse themselves in virtual problem-solving experiences—testing theory and skills through real-time practical applications. Students will deal with issues related to unemployment, budgeting, the environment, crime and education.

The book is accompanied by a comprehensive online Instructors' Manual, complete with PowerPoint slides for each chapter, case studies, relevant YouTube videos to illustrate chapter content, additional artwork, webinars, and relevant films and tv shows to better engage students in important themes of public service. This text, then, is very much a dynamic learning system designed to enliven the teaching of public administration, improve the learning experience, and help motivate students of public service to become problem-solving public servants.

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In Section III of Public Administration: An Introduction, emphasis is placed on the improvement of public organizations. Chapter 10 examines strategies for improving public performance by measuring performance. Specifically, this chapter addresses the different types of performance measures and, more importantly, how to create a viable performance measurement system. In Chapter 11, the techniques of program evaluation and policy analysis are discussed in detail. Program evaluation is used when public administrators want to determine if a public policy or program is working effectively. The concept of policy analysis is different from program evaluation, but related in that if a public policy or program is determined to be ineffective, the policy analysis process is used to determine what alternative policies could be implemented to replace the policy that is not currently working. Students reading Chapter 11 will learn the intricacies of program evaluation and policy analysis. Chapter 12 is new to this edition and discusses the role of big data and statistical analysis in better informing public management decisions. Students are presented with examples of how to navigate big data resources, as well as how to analyze those data once they are compiled. This section concludes with Chapter 13, which discusses the role of technology in operating public organizations, as well as technology’s role in delivering services and enhancing citizen participation.
Image 10.1 “Knowledge Wins,” Daniel Stevens, 1918. Source: The NYHS Library Blog. Accessed 1/30/15.
Image 10.1 “Knowledge Wins,” Daniel Stevens, 1918.
Source: The NYHS Library Blog. Accessed 1/30/15.

Public Performance

In this chapter we will examine strategies for improving the performance of public organizations. After completing this chapter, you will understand the concepts of performance measurement, specifically the different types of performance indicators, how to create a performance measurement system, and the role of citizens in this process. We will then transition into a discussion of the many social factors that influence organizational performance and conclude with a discussion of the privatization of government services.

Improving Government Performance

The Importance of Knowledge Sharing and Training

There is undoubtedly a relationship between knowledge and performance. All “professionals” are expected to be current: Doctors must read the latest medical journals and attend professional seminars and conferences. Lawyers must understand changes in the legal field. Professionals must be innovative. There is significant innovation in government, yet there is also a significant amount of ignorance of innovation. Image 10.1 showcases a World War I campaign of the American Library Association. The overall message is that knowledge enhances performance, whether one is under fire or carrying out routine tasks. Too few of the truly successful projects have been replicated widely throughout the public sector. The fault lies to some extent with small-minded professionals who resist going beyond the borders of their own disciplines. Maybe they are lazy or arrogant or simply lack the foundational knowledge necessary for improving their performance. The fault also lies with a budget process that is overly political and shortsighted in terms of knowledge investments. Luxuries such as conferences, academic journals, and professional association memberships are thought to be needless or gratuitous and offer no clear payoffs. Knowledge investments have a difficult time surviving the budget process, losing out to more immediate needs. Professional knowledge, under the best of circumstances, is treated as a discretionary expenditure as opposed to a necessary investment. However, if public managers are not afforded access to timely and adequate information, we can expect that the same mistakes will be repeated in the future.
Public organizations need to learn from their successes and failures—but perhaps more importantly, they need to learn from the successes and failures of other public organizations. Strategies for government performance improvement are being reported in hundreds of publications and conferences. Public organizations need to unearth the mountains of available information by sharing experiences, participating in conferences, and joining Internet-based networks.
In addition to knowledge and information sharing, a trained workforce is indispensable. In many public organizations, however, on-the-job training is thought to be “good enough.” Many public organizations suffer from the mistaken belief that government work is simple—that it can be learned rather quickly by virtually anyone. In a postindustrial society, however, on-the-job training is insufficient preparation for a public sector with increasingly complex responsibilities. Still, public managers with only modest professional management training are often given the responsibility of running public organizations.

Measuring Performance to Improve Performance

Measuring government performance is a requisite tool for accountability and, consequently, for improvement. Generally speaking, performance measurement entails trying to answer questions such as:
  • Is the organization fulfilling its mission and accomplishing stated goals and objectives?
  • Is the organization producing unintended impacts?
  • Is the organization responsive to the people?
  • Does the organization keep within its scope of authority?
  • Is the organization productive?
  • Does it perform well?
Figure 10.1 Public-Sector Uses of Performance Management. Source: J. Wooley. 2006. School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University-Newark.
Figure 10.1 Public-Sector Uses of Performance Management.
Source: J. Wooley. 2006. School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University-Newark.
Performance measurement is implied when we ask questions that deal with the quality of government services: “Is the neighborhood dangerous?” “Are the streets dirty?” “Are the schools succeeding?” Citizens often answer these questions with tales told by friends and acquaintances, rumors, and personal experiences.
Public organizations need to know how well they are performing, and in doing so they must rely on hard data: “Crime is down 10 percent.” “The streets are 25 percent cleaner.” “Standardized test scores have increased by an average of five points in the last year.” Public organizations often possess the hard data to develop objective performance measures. As award-winning and innovative cases suggest, measuring public service quality is indeed feasible. Data are available, and the results need not be too complicated to use (EXSL 1989–1995). Performance measurement provides an opportunity to present “hard” feedback in place of “perceptions” that are often fueled by incorrect information, gossip, and conjecture. According to the US General Accounting Office (GAO 1992):
Managers can use the data that performance measures provide to help them manage in three basic ways: to account for past activities, to manage current operations, or to assess progress toward planned objectives. When used to look at past activities, performance measures can show the accountability of processes and procedures used to complete a task, as well as program results. When used to manage current operations, performance measures can show how efficiently resources, such as dollars and staff, are being used. Finally, when tied to planned objectives, performance measures can be used to assess how effectively an agency is achieving the goals stated in its long-range strategic plan. Having well-designed measures that are timely, relevant, and accurate is important, but it is also important that the measures be used by decision-makers.
Performance measures serve several purposes. To successfully operate their organizations, public managers need specific information. This applies to all management levels within all organizations. Performance measurement must be considered a requisite and critical part of the management process. Performance management is thought to contribute to the following:
  • Improved decision-making: Performance measures afford managers needed information to execute their control functions.
  • Performance assessment: The measures connect individual and organizational performance to the management of employees, serving as a means of motivation.
  • Accountability: The process engenders managerial responsibility.
  • Service delivery: The process fosters service performance improvements.
  • Public participation: Performance reporting can influence the citizenry to care more about public workers’ efforts to improve service delivery.
  • Improvement of civic discourse: This makes public discussions about public service delivery more factual.
While valuable to the full range of organizational personnel, performance measurement is especially valuable to staff analysts and auditors. Measures can be useful for both internal decision-makers (i.e., public managers and policymaking appointees) and external groups in improving their assessments of government. This is because such assessments are based on real performance data as opposed to anecdotal and unreliable information. Harry Hatry, an expert on performance management at the Washington, DC-based Urban Institute, was instrumental in cultivating and spreading public-sector performance measurement (Urban Institute 1974, 1980; Hatry 1977, 1979; Hatry et al. 1990). Public agencies, professional associations, research centers such as the Urban Institute, and academics have developed many performance measurement standards. In particular, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has published several volumes that recommend standards for Service Efforts and Accomplishments (SEA). “Doing more with less” has emerged as an enduring maxim directed toward all levels of government, and as such, performance measurement has become a vital tool for organizational improvement in the contexts of efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.

Types of Performance Indicators

Several different performance indicators are featured in a performance measurement system. The most common are: (1) inputs, (2) outputs, (3) outcomes, and (4) efficiency indicators.
Input Indicators. Inputs reflect the quantity of resources appropriated to a government organization, service, or program. Input indicators are typically contained within the budget, representing financial or personnel resources.
Output Indicators. Outputs are workload indicators. They reflect the amount of work done or the number of services provided by a government program.
Outcome Indicators. These indicators capture the results (or quality) of the services provided. Outcome indicators are essential to establishing whether an organization or program has met predetermined goals and objectives. They help answer questions about service quality and the impacts of service delivery. A measurable change in students’ test scores resulting from a government-funded tutoring program is an example of an outcome indicator.
Efficiency Indicators. These indicators examine the extent to which a public organization or program is performing in relat...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Public Administration
APA 6 Citation
Holzer, M., & Schwester, R. (2019). Public Administration (3rd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2019)
Chicago Citation
Holzer, Marc, and Richard Schwester. (2019) 2019. Public Administration. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Holzer, M. and Schwester, R. (2019) Public Administration. 3rd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Holzer, Marc, and Richard Schwester. Public Administration. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2019. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.