Topics to be covered include:
New Public Administration
New Public Management
As noted in Lesson 1, public administration is both a profession as well as a field of study. As Lesson 1
explained, in its function as a profession, public administration refers to the daily business of government,
focused on using organization and management to implement and execute the laws, rules, and regulations
passed by legislative bodies and other authoritative agents. Management of government affairs is a
significant component of public administration’s function as a profession. According to Frederickson and
Smith (2003), public sector management refers to the formal, as well as the informal, policies and processes
that direct the actions and interactions of public administrators as they strive to accomplish the goals and
objectives of public organizations, including government agencies at all levels of government.
As discussed in Lesson 6, the management aspects of public administration have been guided by several
paradigms and theories. This lesson will review and discuss two more of these—new public administration
and new public management. This will include a discussion of neo-managerialism and its relationship to
New Public Administration
In the 1960s, scholars of public administration began arguing that in general, public administrators at all
levels of government practiced their profession in a way that was biased towards making government
services easily and readily available to middle- and upper-class individuals, particularly those who were
white. At the same time, minorities and others found it challenging to obtain government assistance.
Specifically, these scholars, led by public administration students at Syracuse University’s Maxwell
School, argued that by requiring citizens to complete long forms and follow multiple steps to be approved
for government services, public administrators were creating obstacles for minorities and others that
hindered, and sometimes prevented, them from interacting with government and obtaining government
services. This was furthered by the tendency of public administrators to be insensitive to the individual
needs of citizens, treating them impersonally (Meier & Bohte, 2007).
In essence, these scholars argued that public administration as a profession had, throughout its history,
routinely created inequities that afforded middle- and upper-class citizens with more power and influence
over the government. In addition, these classes of citizens received better services from the government.
These scholars felt it was necessary to correct injustices and promote social equity in the practice of public
administration. Social equity, as it pertains to public administration, can be defined as fairness and justice
in the provision of government goods and services, with all citizens having equal rights and equal access to
government. To achieve this, scholars recommended reforming public administration (Meier & Bohte,
This movement became known as the New Public Administration (NPA). The specific policies and
procedures that scholars recommended to reform government and implement the New Public
Administration included the following (Fry, 1989; Meier & Bohte, 2007):
PROVIDE SENSITIVITY TRAINING
Provide sensitivity training for public administrators who would use this
training to change their approach, treating citizens as individuals and being
responsive to their specific needs.
DECENTRALIZE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Decentralize government agencies, giving citizens better access to the public
administrators providing government goods and services.
ENCOURAGE CITIZENS TO PARTICIPATE IN THEIR GOVERNMENT
Encourage citizens to participate in their government, getting involved in the
government agencies and programs that provide goods and services important
ESTABLISH A REPRESENTATIVE BUREAUCRACY
As explained in Lesson 6, the representative bureaucracy theory argues that if
government organizations and agencies are staffed by a diverse group of public
administrators who demographically reflect the public they serve, they are
more likely to enact public policies and provide government goods and services
that appropriately serve the public interest.
REORGANIZE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Reorganize government agencies to develop public organizations that were
established and designed on a temporary basis to achieve a single task with
very specific goals and objectives. Once these goals are met, discontinue the
government agency or program. Advocates of New Public Administration
argue this provides better services for citizens. Also, since government
organizations would become temporary, this would eliminate public
administrators’ loyalty to agencies and offices.
CONTRACT OUT GOVERNMENT SERVICES TO CITIZENS
As appropriate, contract out government services to citizens who would be
responsible for using these contracts to provide the goods and services they
personally needed from government.
ABANDON THE INCREMENTAL APPROACH TO GOVERNMENT
Instead, continuously re-examine all goals, objectives, and budgets for all government agencies and
programs. This approach had two goals, as follows:
Ensure that citizens still needed the goods and services being provided.
Ensure public administrators were providing the goods and services in an effective and efficient
As noted in Lesson 1, the incrementalist approach to government and policymaking argues that when
confronted with problems, instead of establishing new policies, government officials make changes to
existing policies and programs that are intended to address new issues and concerns. This occurs because
the development of new policies and programs creates uncertainties and may lead to undesirable
Generally, the NPA approach strived to promote ethics in government, with an emphasis on social equity.
According to Meier and Bohte (2007), the NPA had two significant weaknesses. First, reforming
government agencies according to the NPA’s approach did not necessarily lead to greater social equity.
Second, social equity was a broad goal that could not easily be achieved. Ultimately, the NPA movement
was replaced by the New Public Management (NPM), which we will discuss next.
New Public Management
Public administration scholars and experts advocated New Public Management (NPM) during the 1980s.
The primary goal was to make government organizations and agencies function more like private sector
businesses, with efficiency, not earning a profit. Osborne and Gaebler (1992) outlined the basic premises of
NPM in their book, Reinventing Government. They proposed the following principles, which formed the
crux of NPM and were intended to stimulate government reform:
Government should steer instead of row
This means that public administrators need to seek alternative ways to accomplish government’s
goals and objectives, understanding that they have many options available. According to Osborne
and Gaebler (1992), managers who steer look forward and seek innovation, while those who row
rely on past practices and focus on a single objective.
Government should be owned by the community
Public administrators should work with and empower citizens, neighborhood groups, and
community associations to seek their own solutions to community problems rather than relying on
Government should be competitive
Public administrators should foster competition within government organizations, as well as
between different governments, such as different local governments. They also should foster
competition between governments and external service providers in the marketplace to find the
best and most cost-effective ways to deliver services.
Government should be mission-driven
When determining how to provide government goods and services, public administrators should
not focus on the government’s rules, which tend to be supported by rigid budgets and human
resource departments, but instead on their agency’s mission. Using this as guidance, they should
ensure their budgets, human resources departments, and other administrative components support
the government agency in its efforts to accomplish the mission by achieving specific goals and
• Government should be results-oriented
As opposed to funding inputs, which refers to the resources put into a government organization or
agency, public administrators should fund outcomes, which refers to the results that the
organization or agency achieved. To be results-oriented, public administrators should review each
outlay of public resources and determine what goals and objectives their agency achieved. These
results should be the focus of financial management.
• Government should focus on meeting the needs of the customer
Citizens should be regarded as customers, and providing the goods and services they need should
be government’s top priority.
Government should earn rather than spend money
Instead of raising taxes or cutting programs to finance operations, public administrators should
seek innovative ways, such as user fees, to increase funding for public services.
A user fee refers to a payment that a citizen makes when he or she receives a government good or
service. Citizens who do not receive such goods or services do not pay user fees.
• Government should seek preventions rather than cures
This means that instead of automatically providing funding for programs to address public
problems, public administrators should seek to prevent problems before they occur, avoiding the
need for government programs as much as possible.
Government should be decentralized
Instead of having a hierarchical organization, public administrators should structure their
governments in a way that allows a larger number of employees to be involved in decision-making
Government should be market-oriented
Public administrators should develop strategies that will enable them to shape the environment of
their government’s jurisdiction so that the market affected by their government can function
optimally, providing the best possible economic opportunities and quality of life to affected
Public administrators should function as entrepreneurs
As much as possible, public administrators should function as entrepreneurs, being creative and
innovative as they seek cost-effective and efficient ways to provide government goods and
to modernize the traditional bureaucratic paradigm of public
administration by implementing private-sector, market-driven types of business
management processes in the administration, management, and leadership
models of government. NPM sought to treat citizens as customers to be served.
NPM was later supplemented with the New Public Service (NPS), which has
remained the dominant public administration theory that provides a framework
for how public administrators at all levels of government are expected to
approach their work.
Scholars such as Terry (1998) argue that public administration theories are underscored by managerialism,
which is an ideology that motivates managers as they believe that the work of public administration must
be conducted by professional managers. According to Terry (1998), managerialism has the following
• Public administrators must strive to continuously increase productivity,
which is defined by economics.
Public administrators must use sophisticated technology to increase
Applying and using this sophisticated technology requires a disciplined labor
In any organization, including government agencies, management is a
separate function that is focused on planning and measuring productivity.
Organizations will not achieve success unless they have professional
managers who can produce quality work.
To achieve success, public administrators in management positions must
have the flexibility to be creative and innovative in their management efforts.
Terry (1998) asserted that NPM led to the establishment of neo-managerialism, which is founded on
concepts and theories such as scientific management and agency theory. Neo-managerialism focuses on the
belief that public administrators should make efficiency, effectiveness, and economy in operations their
In keeping with the concept of NPM, neo-managerialism promotes the idea that public administrators
should be entrepreneurs. It also argues that public administrators should be self-interested and innovative.
They should take risks in their efforts to manipulate circumstances and produce sweeping changes as
Throughout its history, public administration has been influenced and guided by a variety of paradigms and
theories. Some of these, such as scientific management, have had a lasting impact. Others have faded away
to be replaced by new approaches that seemed more appropriate for the time. Although the specific
recommendations of NPA are largely disregarded in the current practice of public administration, both the
study and profession of the public administration continue to promote ethics and social equity as goals that
public administration should strive to achieve. Some of the premises of NPM were abandoned to follow the
guidance of New Public Service which we will discuss in the final lesson. But NPM still has influence in
some government agencies, particularly those that focus on providing government goods and services as
efficiently and effectively as possible.
Whether public administration is guided by NPM, NPS, or some other theory or paradigm, serving the
public interest efficiently and effectively, providing goods and services that are sustainable, while
practicing good ethics, likely will continue to be priorities for government organizations and agencies at all
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