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Comparative Public Management

Comparative Public Management

Introduction

            The role that is played by the public sector in governance and general administration is no doubt a critical one. The public sector, unlike the private one, comes in for a lot of monitoring from the public because it is directly financed by funds from the taxpayers. This sector, which is essentially the government, has to put in place all the systems that are capable of ensuring that everything goes according to plan. The success of any country is the sum total of the successes of all its sectors. This is in spite of there being certain sectors that are considered key to the success of the government like health, education, and industrialization (Geva-May 2002). The management systems of different governments differ across the globe depending on, among other factors, the specific programs that are due for implementation and on the priority areas that are to be tackled. This paper discusses various aspects of public management systems that are being implemented in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

The Importance of Networks, Markets, and Hierarchies in Public Management

Hierarchies

Hierarchies are very common features in the public sector where there is a sort of centralization of every activity and a

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literal control over all that takes place in the industry. Hierarchies tend to enhance accountability such that every player in public sector management is able to be held accountable for actions committed or omitted (Tensenbal 2005). This is so because there are ranks which mean that every person is responsible or answerable to a certain superior who reserves the right to determine the courses of action at the level where one is supervisor. Given that public sector management is not very easy an issue owing to the tendency for laxity among players due to equally lax rules, hierarchies have helped tighten the rope and close the loopholes through which mismanagement has often tried to get in through (Tensenbal 2005).

In order to prove that the public sector management can get just as efficient as the private sector one which has quite often than not been lauded as being an epitome of good and efficient management, governments have been applying hierarchical systems to enhance efficiency and promote accountability. Hierarchical management systems emphasize the management aspect more than leadership and so ensure that tasks which are complex are executed a lot more quickly and in the correct way (Tensenbal 2005).

Markets

            Public sector management would most likely become too regulated and centralized if there were no market systems used (Tensenbal 2005). Markets are able to ensure that the main motive of engaging in many public sector approaches to management is to enhance production of goods and services with the aim of using them to create value or profit. The profit motive has in turn come in to make the public sector to employ markets as ways of ensuring that there is freedom of choice and that although there are hierarchies in some cases, the markets allow for more appropriate setting of market prices at a point that best allows for competition in the market – where more players can take part (Geva-May 2002). Markets, therefore, help promote private-public sector partnerships which in turn enhance service provision, given that the role of the public sector is largely to provide services to its citizens.

Networks

            Networking is essentially joining hands and working together for the sake of achieving a common goal. Networks are ideal in public sector management in that they help ease the relations between different social groupings (Wise 2002). They also are critical in ensuring that there is clearer coordination between the economic and political lives within the involved nation. Networks have been known to enhance loyalty, cooperation, and trust among players in the sector. The overall aim of networking or applying the use of networks in public sector management is to ensure that there is no missing out on a worthwhile cause just because one lacks the ability to join hands with other players who have more might and/or willpower to accomplish that goal a lot better.

Networks are able to bring to public management the autonomy that is deficient in hierarchies, thereby ensuring that all players have a level of independence and can make their own decisions without undue coercion (Geva-May 2002). Networks, therefore, create a situation where cooperation is relied upon for successful management. On the whole, the blend of markets, networks, and hierarchies has ensured that public sector management is able to be as successful as it can get through the incorporation of the many aspects of management and leadership (Geva-May 2002).

Public Management Reform: Altering Hierarchies, Markets and Networks (1980 to 2010)

            Public management has historically been inclined towards the use of hierarchies, markets and networks in virtually all its applications (Thynne 200). This is because there has remained to be a lot of focus and emphasis on the three and how they can create value when integrated well enough and when they are applied in view of the benefits endemic in each one. The synergistic effect of all the three, therefore, has been seen as never being capable of being equaled. But with the emergence of new ways of doing things and with a lot of focus being placed on the public sector and the need to have it being more responsive to the needs of the public through enhanced service delivery and general creation of value, the continued application and use of hierarchies, markets and networks in public management has become an issue of consideration (Thynne 200).

This is largely because of the view that the public sector has failed to deliver real value to the public as it is expected (Geva-May 2002). For instance, there has remained to be lots of inefficiencies and a lot more bureaucracies which have caused the confidence of the public in public sector management to wane to very low levels. Although the public sector is mainly charged with the duty of providing services, redistributing these services, and acting as the chief regulator of all activities, the performance of these duties has been a lot below the expectations of the people. Therefore, public management reform has tended to come in to change the ways things are done or managed in the public sector.

Reforming the public sector is usually a decision that is politically motivated as opposed to what happens in the private sector where reforms are greatly as a result of strategy change or public policy (Thynne 200). Policy frameworks that are put in place by different governments have specifically been at the forefront in bringing about public sector reform. However, it is also worth noting that even within the same economy, there are bound to differences in the way reforms in the public sector are approached and implemented. This explains why it is ideal and critically important to focus on specific countries and specific sectors within those countries in order to clearly explore how hierarchies, markets and networks are being altered through reforms. The education and health sectors – key sectors for any economy – are considered in this analysis of the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

The Need for More Efficient Service Delivery

            Service delivery in the health care sector of the UK has historically been poor because of gross inefficiencies. It has been very difficult in the past to have people attended to in public hospitals as quickly as they require owing to many procedures that had to be followed. In essence, there had to be a way in which processes are performed faster and more effectively. Most of the social care in the United Kingdom has come to be offered by independent service provides although the funding has remained a solely government duty (Thynne 200). A key reform in this approach is that in order to overcome the bureaucracies caused by the hierarchies, consumers are given a lot more chance to choose through having many providers of services who are not necessarily doing it for the sale of making a profit because there is a separate funding agency – the government – whose rates are predetermined (Ritter 2007).

Another critical reform to the hierarchies, markets and networks has been the introduction of tendering and/or outsourcing of certain services. In the health care sector, the National Health Services (NHS), cleaning and catering services are together being outsourced to other providers in a bid to reduce inefficiency, cut public sector spending, and ensure that bureaucracies are reduced. In latter years and also in different other cases, outsourcing could be substituted by ensuring that the health care system was wholly restructured so that it could be able to provide the services as efficiently and with similar savings on costs as the outsourcing.

 Outsourcing and tendering ensured that there was an access to expertise that the sectors under consideration could not lay their hands on (Wise 2002). It also served as a way to reduce the dominance of the public sector in matters of the economy; a trend that had seemed to be disliked by many people. Finally, it helped create a pool of resourceful personnel who could be used on a long-term basis and so prove that the public sector was indeed keen on varying its mix of personnel as time went by. The introduction of user charges in education in the United Kingdom is another typical way through which public reform has been taking place (Thynne 200). Quasi markets came into being to replace the markets that were not fully owned and controlled by the government. Quasi markets allowed for more regulation although with a level of decentralization to allow competition to thrive by breaking the dominance or monopolistic tendencies of the state.

Privatization

            The United Kingdom is known to have embraced privatization as a tool to help reform the industrial sector (Welch &Wong 1998). The aim of privatizing, undertaken in the 1980s through to the 1990s, was to ensure that there was an enhancement of the economic performance of the country and also as a tool to help fight deep-seated corruption that was endemic in the system. The then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was so moved with reforms through privatization that it was almost her political policy (Thynne 200). Privatization aimed to get rid of the problems related to hierarchies – which in turn created a lot of bureaucracies in both the education and health sectors.

Through privatization, efficiency was enhanced as there were no unnecessary delays occasioned by having to follow strict channels or ranks in order for any decision to be implemented (Wise 2002). The UK railway sector was restructured and later privatized in a move that, although seen later as one of the privatization moves that did bear the least fruits, proved the value that reconstruction prior to privatization can bring to a government. In essence, multiple reforms are critical to successful implementation of public sector reforms (Curry et al 2008).

Regulation

            The hierarchies, markets and networks tended to allow for a lot of exploitation of consumers due to emergence of monopolies in key sectors like that of health and education. In the United Kingdom, it was necessary that some form of regulation be introduced to curb monopolistic tendencies (Thynne 200). Health care provision was to be solely controlled by the government through a rule that required that all people have health insurance schemes to avoid being denied health care services. Government ownership and regulation of health care services has proved to work because now no-one can be overcharged for any service as happened when the private sector had the say and dominated the sector.

Encouraging Competition

            Hierarchies, markets and networks tended to hamper competition in the public sector. Therefore, given that competition not only enhances efficiency but also improves the quality of services and so helps in creation of value, encouraging competition has been a common reform strategy used to alter hierarchies, markets and networks. In New Zealand, for instance, there has been a plan to ensure that there are no monopolies in the power generation sector which is critical to the industry (Vigoda 2002). The result was that there were different players doing the generation f power, its transmission, as well as its distribution. Although this was a well-meant move and although enhanced competition works to reform public sectors, this particular one failed to work. The outcome was that although many different players were involved, natural monopolistic tendencies remained and consumers were still overcharged for their power consumption (Wise 2002).

This is a typical example of how reforms that factor in competition alone can most likely fail. There ought to have been some other reform approaches like restructuring before allowing in other players (Vigoda 2002). A common approach to enhancing competition is through liberalization where the government cedes its monopolistic powers to other players to allow for either free market tendencies or even perfectly competitive market systems where there is totally no state involvement. Deregulation has also proved to be a way that is deemed ideal in reducing bureaucracies in the hierarchical structures of public sector management (Vigoda 2002).

Leadership Instead of Management

            For a long time, the focus of hierarchies, markets and networks has been to achieve an effective management of the public sectors. However, reformists argue that the public sector is too focused on the aspect of management that it is losing a lot. Instead, the focus has to be on leadership because it is leadership that sets things in motion before management can oversee them (Lawlor 2008). The reform agenda has emphasized leadership development in the public sector. The leader has to be there to show the way and to have others following. Without a leader, management cannot gain a lot because it can just be presiding over what is not right. Therefore, the focus has been on having the right kind of personnel in public sector organizations so that skilled people with good leadership ability and greater potential to direct the public sector towards a path of success are recruited (Wise 2002). Recruitment process are therefore being reformed to change from following traditional methods to more user-specific approaches, including seeking to understand  the motivation that potential employees have and their visions for the sector (Lane & Wallis 2009).

 Another reform agenda has been the alteration of the working conditions of staff once hired. This is aimed at ensuring that the image of the public sector is changed from what it has traditionally been (Lawlor 2008). For example, university education in the United Kingdom is being made more attractive by ensuring that there is a lot of public confidence in the infrastructure there. This has also included ensuring that staff is well remunerated and so motivated to work harder. Most public organizations have also been restructuring in various ways with the aim of improving their general appearance to the public (Lawlor 2008). For instance, in order to save costs, there has been cutting down on the number of staff so that only a few who are efficient enough are left.

Measurement of Performance

            Another critical aspect through which reform in the public sector has come in is performance measurement – the assessment of the performance rate of not only individuals but also organizations and programs. The aim has been to ensure that there is a lot more accountability especially on the part of regulatory agencies, patients, as well as the general public. It also facilitates market mechanisms and improves the performance of the players and so the sector as a whole (Mannion, Davies & Marshall 2005). Usually, targets are set and players rated based on their ability to meet them. In some cases, incentives are given to motivate players towards achieving the set targets. This method has come to be widely used in the education sector in the United Kingdom where universities; schools; and practitioners like lecturers, and teachers have been targeted for performance assessment. The health care sector is also included, with physicians and nurses taking part with the aim of improving service delivery to patients and generally being efficient (Bovaird & Russell 2007).

A typical example is the rise in the number of NHS managers from 300 to a 23,000 between 1985 and 1995; and the giving of shorter contacts to managers because what matters is not the length of time spent at an organization but what one is able to deliver within a given time frame (Wise 2002). In universities, league tables and score cards have been used to assess performance. Specifically, teaching quality, level of research, and the satisfaction of the recipients of the services has been used to assess performance. In hospitals, the waiting times by patients before they could be attended to have been used to measure performance (Bevan & Hood 2006). In addition, the quality of care has been used. In New Zealand, there are programs to review schools to ascertain their performance. These are then classified as excellent, well, adequate, or poor. The review is conducted at fixed times – at least once every three years. Most of these public sector reforms in the United Kingdom and New Zealand have taken place over a period of 25-30 years, starting from 1980 (Johnsen 2005).

The Tendencies of the Two Countries

            Based on this discussion and analysis, it can be noted that both New Zealand and UK tend to converge to only one aspect of approach in reforming their public sectors (Vigoda 2002). This, then, means that while the past has seen the use of hierarchies, markets and networks as key systems in public sector management, the trend is slowly but surely changing to the use of aspects like more privatization of state-owned assets; more liberalization of business and trade to reduce state monopoly and enhance competition; the movement away from management approaches to leadership approaches with a focus on improving human resource development; and the use of restructuring of public assets and sectors to be more appealing, either for purposes of privatizing them or simply improving their appearance (Gregory & Christensen 2004).

There is also a convergence by both countries to a system of measuring the performance of the public sector where different methods, including scorecards, are being used to rate programs, organizations, as well as individuals to ascertain their level productivity and/or performance. Both countries hake applied this system effectively and successfully in their health and education sectors. There is also a use of regulatory approaches in the UK’s reform agenda, where the aim is to ensure that key sectors like health and education are not taken over by private operators in order to protect consumers from exploitation through overcharging and provision of poor or even substandard services (Vigoda 2002). Therefore, although a little less dominance is being sought, regulation is still fairly being retained in these critical areas. In conclusion, therefore, it appears that hierarchies, markets and networks will eventually give way to other reforms in these countries in another thirty years.

            Word count: 3,147

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