Public Organization Theory
Discuss the history of public organization theory beginning with Woodrow Wilson and ending with a discussion of networks, collaboration, and the New Public Service. Be sure to include a critical analysis of New Public Management.
Public Organization Theories
Organizations today are consistently exposed to various difficulties emerging from their internal and external surroundings; therefore, settling on ideal choices under these conditions is a colossal worry to managers. In line with these difficulties’ steadiness, organizations are made to consistently change themselves and endeavor to adjust regularly to address climate, survival, and prosperity (Christensen, 2019). Researchers have affirmed that organizations experience fast changes in the physical environment emanating from the elements of globalization, constant competition, ethical and social responsibility-related issues, workplace environment, digitalization, and variety, among others. These changes are clearly defined by the two main public administration theories: Classical Public Organization Theory and New Public Management Theory. In line with these theories, this essay explains their history and how they have been suggested and applied in different scenarios to support the development of different organizations in the public.
As time passes, the challenges affecting organizations also change since every year has a different experience from the other. Relatively, organizations are dynamic as they regularly change with the presented situation. This way, as organizations transform and shift to suit the current need of the surrounding, organization theory also evolves to define the functioning, structure, and performance of organizations (Denhardt & Catlaw 2014). The transformation correlates with the behavior of people and respective groups within the same environment and how the correlation between the external world and the organization influences it entirely.
Definition of Public Organization Theory
Public organization theory refers to the combination of history, social theory, political theory, organization theory, and related fields that explain the meaning, structure, and functions of public service in general. This theory always relates to major historical foundations for studying epistemological and bureaucracy issues and public services as an academic and a professional field (Ferdous 2016). Other scholars have considered this analogy a set of proclamations that are undesirable to others but can be utilized to establish predictions regarding empirical events. In an earlier attempt, others defined this philosophy as a knowledge system that focuses on explaining the building blocks of any organization, including every individual’s behavior within the setting.
There are two main distinct approaches to conceptualize public organization theory: Classical Public Organization Theory and New Public Management Theory. Prominent public organization theorists expressed the essence of values when formulating a public organization theory. Nevertheless, an idea cannot be a derivative of empirical observations; instead, it should be developed using value judgment that determines one’s empirical observations and then determines the specified observations’ interpretations (Denhardt & Catlaw 2014). Values are imperative for developing public organization theories since they take into account the evocative ethical philosophies and principles of as culture, which ascertain appropriate theory practice. These theories are considered or put to practice through different strategies: Collaboration, Transfer, or Parallel approach. Each method can transfer knowledge between scholars and practitioners.
History of Public Organization Theory
The origin of organization theory can be drawn from the generalization of concepts that began in the early1850s. Even so, its origin as a philosophy can be traced to Gulick’s first formal research where he wrote “Notes on the Theory of Organizing.” There was little research done on the same topic until the 1950s when a philosopher, Herbert Simon, outwardly promoted the ideology in his works on “Comments on the Organization Theory,” “A Comparison of Organization Theories,” and Modern Organization Theories.” Relating to Simon’s previous descriptions, Starbuck supported the fact that public organization theory is a vast field encompassing human resources management, psychology of small and large groups, industrial engineering, industrial psychology, scientific management, strategy, among others.
Public organization theories are offshoots of organization practices, which tend to help the same techniques to function effectively. Nonetheless, the philosophy has changed with time since organizations operate in a swift surrounding that causes them to change their model and operations to be relevant constantly (Christensen, 2019). This alteration makes organization theory advance along with it to meet its current need. Historical data are vague on the chronological progression of organization theory, especially before the pre-historic age.
Classical Public Administration Theory
The majority of discussions on the history of organization theory begin with classical organization theory whereby organizations had existed for centuries to the effect that management as a model can be traced to 2800 BC when Egyptians controlled their working environment and built the pyramids (Roberts 2018). The first philosophers to study the pre-classical era suggested conceptual frameworks, which later formed the foundation on which other organization theories are rooted.
The classical analogy comprises of three leading schools of thought: scientific management- (focused on the best way to complete work), bureaucratic control- (focused on hierarchy, procedures, division of labor, and rules), and administrative management- (focused on transmitting information from one organization to the other) (Grimmelikhuijsen et al., 2017).
One of the renowned contributors was Woodrow Wilson, who was referred to as “The Father of Organization Theory.” In his book The study of Administration, published in 1887, the philosopher argued that bureaucracy should be conducted like any other business (Roberts, 2018). According to Wilson, sympathy can instigate a downfall in an administration, meaning that pragmatism should be an element of the bureaucracy. He promoted ideologies such as a non-political system, professionalization, and merit-based promotions.
To support his theory, Wilson considered public administration a comprehensive and systematic implementation of public law, whereby he divided government organizations into separate groups, politics, and administration. According to the theorist, politics was to be dealt with questions and policy formulation related to it (Grimmelikhuijsen et al., 2017). The administration was to be equipped with the necessary tools to carry out the suggested policies. Wilson was convinced that the theory of public administration existed because of apparent technicalities.
New Public Management Theory
Wilson’s assertions were very applicable during the 18th century. However, the introduction of Industrial Revolution that occurred between the 19th and 20th centuries, supported by technological and social changes led to the emergence of complex and more detailed organization theory, which is the new public management theory. This theory, well supported by Dr. Lester M. Salamon, is a set of practices that interpreted current development in public administration. According to Lester, researchers should focus on New Public Management as a philosophy than a fad (Salamon. 2000). This theory is part and parcel of the massive intrusion of free-market value in the public domain and has threatened to eradicate all political matters. With this, it is evident that the new public management theory is the inverse of the ideology that political values should be assimilated into personal space to establish a democratic society. Salamon (2000) adds that the new management theory is supported by a network of relationships between the government and the public. Four primary tools support these networks:
- Pluriformity engages a mirage of organizations and their diverse functions, especially those with limited knowledge and experience of liaising with each other.
- Self-referentiality explains how preferences from different actors could be conjoined to serve the public domain’s interests.
- Asymmetrical independencies justify that actors from different networks depend on one another to achieve the set goals.
- Dynamism states that all organizational features change every time, even as the identified network aims to disseminate its mission
Despite its relevance, critics have bashed the new management theory citing its failure to address political queries eloquently. Salamon (2000) views public administration as a derivative of capitalism and associates it with global capitalism. Premeditated or not, this theory appears to be serving the interests of the elite class, especially those in the corporate business (Merkus & Veenswijk 2017). This perception had assumed the ability of different governments to suit the needs of the public. Furthermore, the theory has taken the role of uplifting the apolitical governance of free traders and other supranational corporations, which have fully incorporated the political theory of economic rationalism and management.
Public administration theory has significantly evolved in the postmodern era. Huge Miller and Chuck Fox are the two core contributors to this theory. They were able to determine the current condition and how it will affect public policy and public administration (Hyndman & Lapsley 2016). The theorists suggest that traditional applications to public administration hinder philosophers’ freedom, the independence essential to develop more emancipating conditions of governance and work.
Miller introduces a network model that depends on economic utility, which would help explain events better than traditional methods to public administration. The theorist states that strategic networks necessitate methods of processing dissention, raising effective policy implementation strategies, and articulating values. The prevalence of good networks helps government and private organizations collaborate in formulating policies that will support a defined community’s growth (Merkus & Veenswijk 2017). Scholars on public networks have established that complex general issues require productive collaboration from different sectors, organizations, and professions. Also, they have confirmed that collaborative strategies provide inherent advantages, benefits, and opportunities over traditional methods, which a bureaucratic government hierarchically controls. Some of the facets introduced by the increase of networks and collaboration include regulation of economic, political, social trends, devolution, and privatization.
One of the cons associated with this theory is that it is rooted on a slippery slope of relativism. However, researchers have proposed that the approach gives individuals the necessary tools to rebuild their social order and symbolism infrastructures. Also, the theory answers big questions such as what is considered right or wrong and tries to explain the ways to find solutions to relativity and anomie (Hyndman & Lapsley 2016). This theory’s main component entails the attempt to reproduce or establish discipline and performance motivation in the market surrounding controlled by the public service. This practice is mainly done by the assertion that these practices are beneficial in line with efficiency in revealing the public sector’s activities to the apparent pressures in the market to appease the general public.
In conclusion, public management theories: Classical Public Organization Theory and New Public Management Theory, have been deemed an essential tool in explaining the challenges organizations face in a dynamic environment. Despite their disadvantages, such as instigating relativism, theorists such as Dr. Lester, Miller, and Wilson have supported the notion that public management theories have helped solve the differences between governments and organizations existing in the society.
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