Whereas Kettl (2005) has argued that the attempts at governmental reform has been prompted by efforts at efficiency and cost reduction, Light (1997) suggests that too many reforms have come and gone and have not made any major impasses. Regardless of which you believe is more relevant, one could argue that the national bureaucracies have had to changed their behaviors to meet the various rigor required by these reforms.
In the Tides of Reform, Light agues that there has been too much management reform in government. He groups them into four major categories: scientific management, war on waste, watchful eye and liberation management. He contends that political leaders want to make their mark on the administration and promote reforms to manage mounting bureaucracies. (Although it is well known that every forty years, the US has seen major progressive-style increases in budget. For instance the creation of the 1880s progressives, the 1930s New Deal, the 70s style Great Society, etc.) Regardless, there are many “tides” of reform promoted either through presidents or by congress to decrease the waist and manage the bureaucratic system to behave more effectively and efficiently.
First, scientific management is one of the founding theories within public administration theory. It stands for the business-like management of government, making tight hierarchal controls with chains of command and specialization of groups to get things done. The acronym of PODSCORB (P-Planning, O-Organizing, D-Directing, S-Staffing, C0-Cordinating, R-Reporting B-Budgeting) integration in public administration came through the scientific management movement. This was the first in the field of PA, which suggested that government could be more effective if it was driven by business management principles.
Next was the “war on waste,” which emphasized inspectors, auditors, cross-checkers and reviewers. This was the first response to fight off “pork” politics. It sought to scare government employees to follow the books and rules set by top management of the agency. It promoted that inspectors and the general media could find waste through audits and investigations. This created headliners for congress to seize and exploit their competencies to manage the growing bureaucracy.
The watchful eye, followed in its footsteps, suggesting that citizens should watch the corrupt behavior of government through sunshine rules, which provided public access to agency procedures and practices. It emphasized that experts could provide key insights and created new roles for citizen participation.
Finally, Light describes liberation management highlighting Al Gore’s initiative to let “managers manage” and promoted networking to improve performance. Kettl in his book The Global Public Management Revolution, among others, later referred to this tide as New Public Management. It has clearly dominated the PA literature for the past quarter of the century.
Kettl argues that this movement began with the progressive governments of New Zealand which used prioritization and corporatism to provide government services; created performance contracts for its employees; out-sourced items; created performance based budgeting and strategic plans to force government to be more cost effective. Kettl argues that these reforms reached the US but were implemented more incrementally and created a less drastic effect. He states that it began with the Hoover Commission, continuing through the administrations of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton Administration. He emphasizes NPR in promoting decentralization, downsizing, cost effectiveness, work better at jobs, shrink the role of government and promote information technology to do the job.
National bureaucracies have changed as a result of these reforms. For example, Golden (April 1998) and Yackee and Yackee (Feb. 2006) studies the “notices and comments” section within the rulemaking process highlight the US government agencies incorporating the watchful eye reforms. The added time for bureaucratic rule making allows citizens and business associations to be apart of the process. Furthermore, Light quotes Barzelay and Armajani to refer to the post bureaucratic paradigm of how the American people after the 1950s went beyond thinking that scientific management dictates the bureaucracy, but rather agencies needed to be more customer driven (pg 193-4). This suggests that the main paradigm from 1880s to the 1950s was that government should follow management’s lead to scientific management and the shift focused on the reemphasis of NPR and liberation management.
A final example illustrates the war on waste reforms, with the creation of Office of Management and Budget and its various reporting mechanisms, evaluations and audits has modified each bureaucratic agency to do more report writing than ever. Furthermore, one can argue that the contemporary public servant is no longer a street-level bureaucrat (Lipsky 1983) taking care of the public good, but rather a report-writing, contracting officer who prepares for audits, evaluations and budget submissions. Ultimately the evaluation of these jobs is at the heart of the study of public administration.