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Article Summary

Feldman, Martha & Anne Khademian (2001). Principles for Public Management Practice from Dichotomies to Interdependence. Governance and International Journal of Policy and Administration 14(3):339-361.

Feldman and Khademian believe that it is possible to create more flexible and responsive local administrations. They stress responsiveness to the demands of the taxpayers and accountability for administrators. Management has to make every effort to seek out citizen opinion and act on it.

The idea of flexibly bureaucracy is an old one, but it has never been implemented on a broad scale, perhaps because simply understanding the system doesn''''t lend itself to leading it flexibly and openly. The authors argue that first, managers should not separate the demand for accountability from smooth operations. They should satisfy the need for flexible decision making processes by allowing more direct input from citizens. Secondly, by changing teaching and policy, there is a way to link flexibility in decision making and accountability for services into a new organizational system by which they support each other.

One current theory on public management has three basic principles: The first is that managers need to create public value. The manager gains insight into the publics opinion by way of an election. Second, the manager must have a set of clear goals in mind, and manage this mission. Lastly, managers should hold the concept of continuous self improvement close to heart. In sum, if you know what the people want, and constantly work towards it, your mind should be open to ways to do it better.

In contrast, Peter Aucoin proposes specific structural changes to promote the goals of accountability & flexibility. His reforms have three basic principles: first, the separation of policy making from the operations that implement services. Second, the bottom line should be critical in evaluating organizations, making it very obvious what is working financially and what is not. Lastly, Aucoin suggests that smaller groups form within organizations to achieve short term, easily measurable tasks. These ideas come together into Performance Based Organizations (PBOs).

In practice, Feldman & Khademian push managers to be more inclusive not only when planning out how to accomplish goals, but also when they attempt to piece together problems and missions. This allows them to get ideas from those outside of the box, and better understand the problems of the area they are dealing with. The authors also emphasize primacy of process. It might be necessary for the process or administration to be redesigned to better accomplish the mission. Taking a step back and seeking input on the goals of the government is also important. The inclusiveness of a modern administration causes the public to be more appreciated, and this in turn, means that they will hold those in charge that much more accountable.