2012 APSA Herbert Simon Book Award to Moynihan’s The Dynamics of Performance Management

August 8, 2012

The Public Administration Section of the American Political Science Association has awarded their 2012 Herbert Simon Book Award to Donald P. Moynihan’s The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform. Drawing on research from state and federal levels, The Dynamics of Performance Management illustrates how governments have emphasized some aspects of performance management—such as building measurement systems to acquire more performance data—but have neglected wider organizational change that would facilitate the use of such information.

In Moynihan’s analysis of why and how governments in the United States have made the move to performance systems, he identifies agency leadership, culture, and resources as keys to better implementation, goal-based learning, and improved outcomes.

How do governments use the performance information generated under performance systems? Moynihan develops a model of interactive dialogue to highlight how performance data, which promised to optimize decision making and policy change for the public’s benefit, has often been used selectively to serve the interests of particular agencies and individuals, undermining attempts at interagency problem solving and reform.

A valuable resource for public administration scholars and administrators, The Dynamics of Performance Management offers fresh insight into how government organizations can better achieve their public service goals.

2012 Best Book from the Academy of Management, Public and Nonprofit Division: How Information Matters

August 6, 2012

Kathleen Hale’s How Information Matters: Networks and Public Policy Information has won the Academy of Management’s Public and Nonprofit Division’s 2012 Best Book Award. This award-winning book examines the ways a network of state and local governments and nonprofit organizations can enhance the capacity for successful policy change by public administrators. Hale examines drug courts, programs that typify the highly networked, collaborative environment of public administrators today. These “special dockets” implement justice but also drug treatment, case management, drug testing, and incentive programs for non-violent offenders in lieu of jail time. In a study that spans more than two decades, Hale shows ways organizations within the network act to champion, challenge, and support policy innovations over time. Her description of interactions between courts, administrative agencies, and national organizations highlight the evolution of collaborative governance in the state and local arena, with vignettes that share specific experiences across six states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee) and ways that they acquired knowledge from the network to make decisions.

Congratulations to Dr. Hale!

Rethinking Federal Management Reform

March 12, 2012

Proposals for reform have dotted the federal management landscape in the United States for more than 50 years. Yet the results of these efforts have frequently failed to produce lasting results. The public management field’s prescriptions for reform have become too formulaic and have largely ignored lessons from the mediocre results that have been seen from many previous efforts. In her new book, Federal Management Reform in a World of Contradictions, renowned public administration scholar Beryl A. Radin reveals what may lie behind the failure of so many of these efforts at government management reform.

The book examines three basic sets of contradictions between the strategies of the reformers and the reality of the US federal system: contradictions in the shared powers structure, contradictions in values, and contradictions between politics and administration. Too often the prescriptions for reform have tried to directly apply techniques from the private sector or a parliamentary system that do not transfer well to the structure of the US federal system, to this country’s democratic traditions, or our complex political system. Radin then uses these contradictions to explore six types of reform efforts—contracting out, personnel policy, agency reorganization, budgeting, federalism policies and procedures, and performance management.

Carsten Greve, of Copenhagen Business School, calls Federal Management Reform in a World of Contradictions “essential reading for all who want to understand why public management reform does not always work as intended, but nevertheless continues to attract politicians’ and citizens’ attention. . . . A thoughtful and well-researched reminder of why politics and reform are bound together. This book places the public management reform agenda in its proper historical perspective.”

Mindful of the ineffectiveness of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, Radin does not propose a single path for reform, but calls instead for a truly honest assessment of past efforts as today’s reformers design a new conceptual and strategic roadmap for the future. Norma M. Riccucci, of Rutgers University, Newark, applauds the book, saying that it “challenges the way in which academics as well as practitioners have tackled the problems associated with public management reform. . . . [E]xtraordinarily insightful.”

Norma Riccucci’s book wins American Society of Public Administration Book Award

March 7, 2012

At the American Society of Public Administration’s Annual Meeting this past weekend, Georgetown University Press book Public Administration: Traditions of Inquiry and Philosophies of Knowledge won the Best Book of 2012 Award from the Section on Public Administration Research. This book by Norma Riccucci examines the intellectual origins and identity of the discipline of public administration, its diverse research traditions, and how public administration research is conducted today.

Craig Thomas, of the University of Washington, has applauded the book calling it “a sweeping and inclusive examination of the epistemic foundations of public administration theory and methods.” He goes on saying, “Riccucci convincingly demonstrates that the field is better served when research questions drive methodological choices, rather than methodological commitments driving the questions we ask. Hence, this book should be a standard text for graduate seminars on the logic of inquiry and research design in public administration.”

We at the press are very proud of Dr. Riccucci’s achievement and pleased that ASPA recognized her truly excellent work!

Book Talk with William F. May, author of Testing the National Covenant: Fears and Appetites in American Politics

February 27, 2012

William F. May’s new book, Testing the National Covenant, published by Georgetown University Press, draws on America’s religious and political history and examines two concepts at play in the founding of the country—contractual and covenantal. He contends that the biblical idea of a covenant offers a more promising way than the language of contract, grounded in self-interest alone, to contain our runaway anxieties and appetites. A covenantal sensibility affirms, “We the people (not simply, We the individuals, or We the interest groups) of the United States.” It presupposes a history of mutual giving and receiving and of bearing with one another that undergirds all the traffic in buying and selling, arguing and negotiating, that obtain in the rough terrain of politics. May closes with an account of the covenantal agenda ahead, and concludes with the vexing issue of immigrants and undocumented workers that has singularly tested the covenant of this immigrant nation.

Fiscal Management Practices and Challenges in Suburban Government

January 12, 2012

While we might not often think about the financial health of our local government, should we suddenly not have clean water, or our trash stopped getting picked up, or police or firefighters didn’t respond when we called, we would likely be incredibly upset. With the Great Recession, local governments and their stakeholders are even more aggressively working to better understand what affects them financially and how they can operate with less revenue. Despite the critical involvement of local governments in our daily lives and strains on local budgets across the country, there are very few studies of how suburban municipalities manage their fiscal policies—even with half of the US population living in the suburbs.

Managing the Fiscal Metropolis, the first comprehensive analysis of the financial condition, management, and policy making of local governments in a metropolitan region, fills this gap. This groundbreaking study by Rebecca M. Hendrick, covers 264 Chicago suburban municipalities from the late 1990s to the present. In it she identifies and describes the primary factors and events that affect municipal financial decisions and financial conditions and explores the strategies these governments use to manage financial conditions and solve financial problems. Her study finds new evidence about the role of contextual factors—including other local governments—in the financial condition of municipalities and how municipal financial decisions and practices alter these effects. The wide economic and social diversity of the municipalities studied make its findings relevant on a national scale.

W. Bartley Hildreth applauds Managing the Fiscal Metropolis, saying, “Professor Hendrick provides a path-breaking examination of the financial health and fiscal decision-making strategies of suburban governments competing in a thriving metropolis. From front-page stories of government finance to many cursory academic studies, the common practice is to draw conclusions from a grab bag of indicators with weak theoretical connections. Tomorrow’s students and serious researchers should build their work on the comprehensive framework offered here if the goal is to truly diagnose and understand the fiscal heartbeat of local government finance.”

About the Author: Rebecca M. Hendrick is an associate professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Congressional Budget Office on BookTV

January 5, 2012

At the end of 2011, GU Press author Philip Joyce was interviewed by CSPAN’s BookTV to discuss his book The Congressional Budget Office: Honest Numbers, Power, and Policymaking. Joyce’s work is the first book-length history of the CBO. The book discusses this influential agency’s role in larger budget policy and the more narrow “scoring” of individual legislation, such as its role in the 2009-2010 Obama health care reform. It also describes how the first director, Alice Rivlin, and seven successors managed to create and sustain a nonpartisan, highly credible agency in the middle of one of the most partisan institutions imaginable. Watch the full video here!

Program Budgeting and the Performance Movement

November 3, 2011

Formal systems of comprehensive planning and performance-based management have a long if disappointing history in American government. This is illustrated most dramatically by the failure of program budgeting (PPB) in the 1960s and resurrection of that management technique in a handful of agencies over the past decade. Beyond its present application, the significance of PPB lies in its relationship to the goals and assumptions of popular reforms associated with the performance movement.

Program Budgeting and the Performance Movement examines PPB from its inception in the Department of Defense under Robert McNamara to its limited resurgence in recent years. It includes an in-depth case study of the adoption and effects of PPB at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The fact that program budgeting is subject to the same limitations today that led to its demise four decades ago speaks to the viability of requirements, such as those imposed by the Government Performance and Results Act, that are designed to make government more businesslike in its operations.

About the Author: William F. West is a professor and Sara Lindsey Chair in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Interest Group Politics: The Role Lobbyists Play in US Policy and How to Work with Them

November 1, 2011

On Capitol Hill, lobbyists seem to be everywhere, pushing for legislation on topics ranging from Arctic oil drilling and environmental conservation to regulating genetically modified foods, money laundering, and bankruptcy reform. The number of interest groups lobbying Congress has exploded in recent decades to the point where it is difficult to see how so many competing interests can be accommodated.

The new book by Thomas T. Holyoke, Competitive Interests, challenges the long-held belief that a small set of interests control large domains of the public policy making landscape. Called “the book on interest group competition in the United States” by Anthony J. Nownes of the University of Tennessee, Nownes argues that Competitive Interests “contributes to interest group scholarship in too many ways to count. It is an essential part of the interest group canon.”

Holyoke shows how the dramatic rise in the sheer number of new groups, and the broad range of ideological demands they advocate, have created a form of group politics emphasizing compromise as much as conflict. He goes on to offer answers about what kinds of policies are more likely to lead to intense competition and what kinds of interest groups have an advantage in protracted conflicts. Drawing from interviews with 83 lobbyists, the book discusses the negative consequences of group competition, such as legislative gridlock, and discusses what lawmakers can do to steer interest groups toward compromise.

Competitive Interests concludes with an exploration of greater group competition, conflict, and compromise and what consequences this could have for policymaking in a representation-based political system. Praised as “an innovative and robustly analytical, yet realistic, look at lobbying in the proper context” by Amy McKay of Georgia State University, Holyoke is also applauded for his “carefully drawn conclusions [that] are enlightening and important both for those who study interest group behavior and for those concerned about the effectiveness and legitimacy of American lawmaking.”

About the Author: Thomas T. Holyoke is an associate professor of political science at California State University, Fresno.

Fighting Crime: The Case for Emptier Prisons

October 27, 2011

 With the presidential election season already underway, we are prepared to hear the tried and true rallying cries from the candidates. A common credential advertized by local politicians are the number of people he or she put in jail. But why might voters be swayed by such a credential? George M. Guess and Paul G. Farnham investigate the issue in one of their case studies in the new third edition of their book, Cases in Public Policy Analysis.

America now imprisons more people than Russia. According to Walmsley (2005, cited in Rushefsky 2008, 260), 714 out of every 100,000 Americans are behind bars. And although blacks comprise only 13% of the population, they account for 40.7% of the country’s 2.1 million inmates (Harrison and Beck 2005). That is an increase in incarceration of 130% from 1980 to 1990 and 60% from 1990 to 2004 (Walmsley 2005).

It is true that the United States has more crime than other countries, and that black Americans commit too much of it. But these two factors do not explain everything. Black Americans commit about the same share of violent crime as they did in 1976, and the total crime rate has actually fallen since 1973. Total violent crimes and total victimizations in 2004 were lower than in 1973. The total number of violent crimes in 2004 was only about 45% of the 1973 number. Since the population of the United States increased in the same period, the crime rate has declined even faster (Rushefsky 2008, 260). Nevertheless, over this period, the number of inmates has tripled, and the proportion of black prisoners has increased.

Why, then, do Americans continue to vote for those who vow to lock yet more people away? One reason is that fear of crime does not diminish even when the incidence of crime falls. If one selects different base years, the violent crime rate has increased (14.3% from 1973 to 1981) and increased again (6.7% from 1982 to 1993). But this would be misleading for present policy analysis, in that the overall violent crime rate actually dropped 54% (1973–2004) (Rushefsky 2008, 253, citing US Department of Justice Statistics [BJS] 2005). The rate may have dropped from the deterrent effect of an increase in the rate of arrests compared to total victimizations and reported crimes (Rushefsky 2008, 252). Regardless of the explanation, the overall rate has dropped significantly. Law-abiding people naturally want murderers, rapists, and muggers caged. But this does not explain why the prison population has risen almost ten times faster than the rate of violent crime.

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