Testing How Management Matters in an Era of Government by Performance Management

D. P. Moynihan
2004 Journal of public administration research and theory  
Public administration finds itself in an era of government by performance management, which is reflected in the widespread assumption that management is a key determinant of performance, and that it is reasonable to expect managers to measurably improve organizational effectiveness. This article joins a growing literature in seeking to conceptualize and empirically test how external environmental influences and internal management factors combine to create performance, relying on data from the
more » ... g on data from the 2002-2003 National Administrative Studies Project (NASP-II) survey of state government health and human services officials. We categorize managerial efforts to facilitate organizational performance as determined either through their interactions with the organizational environment, or through employing workable levers to change internal organizational culture, structure, and technology. Among the external environmental variables we find that the support of elected officials and the influence of the public and media have a positive impact on effectiveness. Among internal management choices, the ability to create a developmental organizational culture, establish a focus on results through goal clarity, and decentralize decision-making authority are all positively associated with organizational effectiveness. Downloaded from and government by managers (the post-1937 era). The era of government by the efficient treated administration as a science led by the goal of efficiency: the best management system was that which most efficiently performed a specific task (Taylor 1919; Wilson 1887). The era of government by managers placed greater emphasis on management expertise and generic management principles. It recognized that public management was usually more complex than simple time and motion studies allowed. In theory, the application of the generic principles raised government performance. However, such approaches were largely untested or made contingent on context, allowing Simon (1946) to characterize them as "proverbs" rather than principles. Mosher's historical account of public administration in America, thoroughgoing in most respects, did not recognize the trends that were only beginning to emerge when the last edition of the book was published in 1982. One of these emergent trends was an emphasis on outcomes and performance, giving birth to a new management era in the public sector: that of government by performance management. This era reflects a fusion between the key values of the previous two, efficiency-now redefined more broadly as performance-and management. The expectation of this era is that the public sector demonstrate that it can perform well and consistently seek to change management systems in ways that foster performance. The concept of performance has become increasingly the central goal of public management, but the emphasis on management expertise continues. Professional training of public administrators has become more and more common, with master's degree programs continuing to emphasize generic management skills. But these managers face increased calls to justify their management choices in the context of performance. This call is reflected in both actual reforms and in a growing public management literature. The most frequent and widely adopted reforms of the last quarter century have focused on the concepts of performance and effectiveness (Ingraham and Moynihan 2000). Reforms that have incorporated pay-for-performance, total quality management, strategic planning, performance measurement, benchmarking, contracting out, increased managerial flexibility, and decentralization have consistently claimed the improved performance of the public sector as their ultimate goal. The clear assumption of these reform movements, whether classified as New Public Management (NPM) or reinvention, was that changes in management systems could and should be made in ways that enhanced performance. MANAGING THE ENVIRONMENT AND FINDING WORKABLE LEVERS A burgeoning literature also reflects this era of performance management. A common assumption across this literature is that management matters to performance and effectiveness, and that performance is the ultimate goal of public management systems and actions. As indicated above, a widely known literature associated with government reform and the NPM was based on these assumptions (Barzelay 2001; Brudney, Hebert, and Wright 1999; Gore 1993; Osborne and Gaebler 1993). A variety of approaches have been undertaken that seek to develop theories that explain organizational effectiveness in the public sector (
doi:10.1093/jopart/mui016 fatcat:gry3woctzbbtfde5epa3knubri