Governance and Performance: New Perspectives. – book review

Hal G. Rainey

Carolyn J. Heinrich and Laurence E. Lynn, Jr., eds. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000. 349 pp. $65.00, cloth: $23.95. paper.

While the term “public management” has been used in the field of public administration for a long time, in recent decades the topic has received increasing attention from researchers interested in the theory and practice of managing and organizing in the governmental sector. Some researchers in public administration have employed the rubric in expressing their conviction that their field needs a richer base of theory and empirical research, akin to that of organizational psychology and sociology as applied in research on business management (e.g., Perry and Kraemer, 1983). Public administration scholars note that political scientists have generally shown little interest in matters managerial, sometimes scorning the “bureaucracy” as insignificant. As authors in the present book note, even public policy analysts usually treat government agencies and programs as a “black box” in government. As Lynn (1996) described, still other scholars associated with prestigious schools of public policy and public affairs want ed to dissociate themselves from the field of public administration, which they saw as too concentrated on matters at lower levels in organizations, such as the details of personnel administration. They wanted to develop public management as a fund of knowledge that would support advising top leaders in government about management the way that economists advise them about the economy.

This loosely organized movement has led to such developments as a series of National Public Management Research conferences that has given birth to a new professional association and many books and journal articles. Heinrich and Lynn and many of the contributors to their book serve as leading scholars in this movement. This assemblage of authors and some of their best and most recent work in itself makes the collection significant to those interested in public management, and the uniformly high quality of the contributions bolsters this importance. The chapters present models of the factors relating to performance of public programs, organizations, and managers, often with statistical analyses testing the models. Hardly light reading for a day at the beach, the book is nevertheless well written throughout. Strong proponents of qualitative verisimilitude will grumble about the narrowing of focus and the omission of many important considerations in the quest for explicit models and quantitative measures. The bo ok will nevertheless be essential reading for scholars and very advanced students in public administration and public policy programs, as well as researchers on management and organizations who have an interest in the public and nonprofit sectors or in modeling and statistical analysis of organizational performance.

In their title and opening chapter, Heinrich, Lynn, and Hill frame the effort in terms of a broader concept of governance, rather than public management. This broader focus sets the public management topic in a more comprehensive framework as part of the laws, rules, structures, and processes of government, and appropriately so, since those interested in public management typically cite the political and institutional context of government as the basis for the distinctiveness of the topic. Many recent writers on public management have delivered case descriptions of the “best practices” of governmental leaders and organizations, often leading to aphoristic prescriptions. While acknowledging the value of qualitative research, the scholars in this book develop explicit models of the performance of public programs, especially models with organizational and managerial variables, and subject them to quantitatively rigorous empirical tests. Under a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, a special research symposium f or this purpose was held at the School of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Arizona, where the papers presented became the chapters for this book.

Illustrating the work they sought to foster, Heinrich and Lynn present an analysis of the performance of the Job Training and Partnership Act (JTPA). They model the outputs/outcomes of JTPA (post-program earnings and employment) as a function of environmental factors, client attributes and behaviors, treatments or primary work processes, organizational structure, and managerial roles and practices. They operationalize these factors using a large data set on the JTPA and test relations among them using a Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) technique that analyzes the data across two levels, the individual and the site level. This technique is particularly interesting given that most government policies and programs involve multiple levels of authority and activity outside the purview of any particular organization. Heinrich and Lynn’s analysis indicated that organizational structure and managerial strategies showed important influences on program outcomes.

Four additional chapters follow this lead by modeling the factors that influence performance of government human services programs. Roderick, Jacob, and Bryk provide another HLM analysis, of a program to end social promotion in the Chicago schools. They find that governance variables show important relations to outcomes for students. Jennings and Ewalt report a multivariate analysis of welfare policies in 44 states aimed at reducing welfare caseloads. They find a strong influence of states’ policy choices and administrative actions on caseload declines. Analyzing welfare-to-work programs in counties in Michigan, Sandfort implicitly assesses the role of managerial variables by showing that the counties’ choices of service delivery structures and technologies influence the success of the program. James Riccio, Bloom, and Hill then describe their plans for another study of welfare-to-work programs, using large data sets and HLM analysis similar to that of Heinrich and Lynn and including measures of organizationa l climate and managerial processes. Each of these chapters indicates the importance of managerial and organizational variables. With Heinrich and Lynn’s, these chapters provide strong evidence of the importance of looking into the black box.

The other chapters diverge into a variety of approaches to governance and performance. Knott and Hammond develop a highly formalized spatial model that posits conditions under which congressional committees can foster or block changes in government policies and apply the model to four case studies of deregulation policies. The chapter illustrates the application of such models to public management, since legislative committees can figure as such important influences on public managers.

Most government programs and policies involve complex networks of organizations and actors, and networks have received much attention among researchers interested in public management. Provan and Milward (1995) have published their empirical examination of network effectiveness in this journal. They contribute a conceptual chapter on governing networks that emphasizes distinguishing between governance through contractual relations and governance through trust and collaboration and the importance of a network’s stability to its effectiveness. Also working on networks, O’Toole and Meier have published a series of articles in which they develop and test a formal model of managers’ effectiveness in managing networks. In their chapter, they present a formal model that distinguishes between networks and hierarchies and emphasizes the role of managers in exploiting “shocks” from the environment, but also in buffering the organization from shocks.

In their chapter, Ingraham and Kneedler Donahue refer to the black-box treatment that public management has often received in political science and public policy analysis and seek to “dissect” the black box through their work on a model of governmental management capacity. Their model posits that such capacity depends on the performance of four management subsystems–the financial, human resources, capital, and information technology subsystems-and the presence of a system of “managing for results.” They further propose sets of assessment criteria for each of these subsystems. Part of a large ongoing research project, the model has received a lot of national attention at least in government circles. Assessments of state governments and federal agencies using this model have been published in professional periodicals for government executives.

Commendably, the final chapter avoids ending as some collections do, with a kindly blessing on all that has gone before. Ellwood provides a challenging discussion of the contributors’ efforts, observing that there is good news and bad news. The good news comes from the excellence of the contributors’ work and the hope that they can continue to progress by taking advantage of improving access to data about public programs and improved analytical techniques. The bad news, Ellwood says, comes from his concerns that, especially due to the absence of economic market information available to private firms, the goals of government have inherent complexities that will impose severe challenges for those who seek to model and analyze the performance of government activities. This pessimistic note actually contributes to the air of gravity and honesty that pervades this book, in which the authors present their work without excessive claims or proselytizing for their approaches, and often with acknowledgement of the limi tations and difficulties. Yet similar challenges confront all researchers in the social sciences, and the contributors to this book justify a determination to continue interesting and valuable work such as theirs and to continue to improve models, measures, and analyses of governmental performance.


Lynn, L. E., Jr.

1996 Public Management as Art, Science, and Profession. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.

Perry, J. L., and K. L. Kraemer, eds.

1983 Public Management: Public and Private Perspectives. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield.

Provan, K. G., and H. B. Milward

1995 “A preliminary theory of interorganizational network effectiveness: A comparative study of four community mental health systems.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 40: 1-33.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Cornell University, Johnson Graduate School

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

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