Friday, August 15, 2008

Introduction to Public Management: Clarification of Terms

by Alan S. Cajes

Theories of Public Management
Clarification of Terms

Felix A. Negro and Lloyd G. Nigro define public administration by summarizing its five (5) characteristics: 

  • It is a cooperative group effort in a public setting;
  • Covers all three branches of government – executive, legislative, and judicial – and their interrelationships;
  • Has an important role in the formulation of public policy and is thus a part of the political process;
  • Is different in significant ways from private administration, and
  • Is closely associated with numerous private groups and individuals on providing services to the community.[1]
The important terms in the above definition are: public, government, politics and administration. The term “public” pertains to or affects the people as a whole or the community, state or nation. In current usage, it refers to the interest groups or stakeholders broadly represented by the public sector, private sector and civil society. The term “government” is commonly defined in political science textbooks as the instrumentality through which the State[2] acts. It means the “political direction and control exercised over the action of” the citizens.

The term “politics” refers to the “art and science of political government.” It is an art because it can be practiced or put to use. It is also a science because it has a systematic body of knowledge from which the principles and conduct of government are derived, hence the term “political science.”

The term “administration” has a number of meanings. It could mean the 1) “management of any office or organization; 2) the function of a political state in exercising its governmental duties; 3) the duty or duties of an administrator in exercising his executive functions, and 4) the management by an administrator of such duties.” Dwight Waldo, however, distinguishes “public administration” from “Public Administration”. The former has to “with the administration of public organizations and public offices” while the latter covers the academic study of public organizations[3]. The former definition is akin to the definition by Nigro and Nigro.

From the above discussion of concepts, one can say that public administration is essentially the systematic process of putting government into action so that it can perform its roles and functions as the instrumentality of the State. Thus, public administrators are persons vested with authority to perform duties and responsibilities required of their respective occupied offices. Public administrators are, however, different from politicians whose job is to formulate the State’s policies, goals and values. Once the politicians have done their job, the burden of implementing the policies, achieving the goals and observing the values shift to the shoulders of public administrators.

Public Management and Public Administration

Public management is not synonymous with public administration although they are often used interchangeably in literature[4]. Public management is a tool of public administration. It may be defined as the application of management sciences in public administration[5].

Management sciences are “normative in character, and quantitative in their methodologies[6].” Their focal point is decision-making as a means in solving problems and improving organizational performance. Robert L. Joss’s discussion on the functions of a manager will help explain this point:
…A manager is responsible for seeing that his or her organization (or unit within the organization) performs – that it fulfills its purpose with sufficient effectiveness to warrant its continued existence. Managers inherit an organization’s past and its current capabilities, and are responsible for defining and delivering a better future. This usually required the organization to continually improve and innovate.
The unique feature of the management job is that the manager is responsible for accomplishing results though work with other people…They assume an accountability for the collective achievement of those under their supervision…
In this role, the important tasks which a manager must fulfill include selecting people, organizing their assignments and work, providing them the tools and training to do their jobs well, and giving the coaching and feedback necessary for people to know how they are doing and how they can improve. All this is done within the context of the defined ‘results’ which the manager has clarified for the organization to deliver[7].”
This extensive quotation aims to emphasize the distinct role of a manager so one can appreciate the various tools and techniques that a manager uses in his/her work. Among the tools, approaches and techniques, which the management sciences have partly or fully contributed to the field of public administration, are: operations research; model building; econometrics; urban planning; transport management; civil service management; natural resources management; planning, programming and budgeting system (PPBS); cost-benefit analysis; linear programming; decision theory; statistical decision-making; probability experimental design; simulation; programme evaluation and review technique/critical path method (PERT/CPM); queuing and sampling; game theory; information theory and cybernetics, among others[8].

[1] Felix A. Negro and Lloyd G. Nigro, Modern Public Administration 7th Edition (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Philippine copyright, 1992 by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.), 11
[2] “State” is the collective term of the citizens, the definite territory that they occupy, their government, which the international community recognizes and through which they render habitual obedience, and their exercise of sovereignty or freedom from internal or external control.
[3] See Dwight Waldo, “Public administration” in Marian Irish (ed.), Political Science: Advance of the Discipline (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 158-169. This work was cited in Danilo R. Reyes, “The Identity Crisis in Public Administration Revisited: Some Definitional Issues and the Philippine Setting” in Victoria A. Bautista, et. al (eds.) Introduction to Public Administration in the Philippines, A Reader (Quezon City: University of the Philippines and the College of Public Administration, 1993), 18-38
[4] Another confusing term for students of public administration and management is “governance.” Although governance deserves a lengthy discussion in itself, this writer adopts Joachim Ahrens’s definition of governance as "the capacity of the institutional environment" to manage the interaction among and between individuals and social groups, as well as the public agencies. See Joachim Ahrens, “Prospects of Institutional and Policy Reform in India: Toward a Model of the Development State?” Asian Development Review vol. 15, no. 1 (1997), 111-146. This writer also takes the perspective that governance is a method or system of public administration while public management is a tool of public administration. Thus, governance applies at the political level while public management applies at the organizational level.
[5] The application of management sciences to business administration is appropriately called business management.
[6] Division for Public Economics and Public Administration, Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Rethinking Public Administration: An Overview, 47
[7] Robert L. Joss, “Management,” Australian Journal of Management vol. 26, special issue (August 2001), copyright by the Australian Graduate School of Management.
[8] See Division for Public Economics and Public Administration, Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Rethinking Public Administration: An Overview, 46-47.

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