Public Management Article Review (Lewis, 2005)
Public management as a concept has undergone many developments and reforms in the last two decades. From the 1980s, reforms in the public sector have come as a result of the reforms in the concept of public management. Public management changes have led to the recognition of a new public management paradigm aimed at achieving higher efficiency in the public sector as well as in other sectors. The new paradigm is centered on principles which have been discussed greatly by different authors. Since the development of the new public management framework, various industries within the public sector have adopted public management stances built on the new paradigm. The public service sector is faced with common challenges which the new public management paradigm attempts to resolve. As a result, the reforms that have been achieved in various contexts of public service all aim at achieving objectives similar to those proposed by the new public management approach. The mode through which changes are attempted is different for different sectors depending on the population targeted by the sectors due to their presence in public service.
In a study done by Lewis (2005), the changes in the U.S Department of Defense, particularly logistics were analyzed. The study, which forms the subject of the present critical essay, was focused on the performance based changes in the logistics department. The author’s key objective was to initiate a discourse on the performance based logistics concept in the U.S department of Defense and to assess how the concept represented the adoption of new public management principles. From this objective, it can be explained that the aim of the author was to explain the relationship between the new public management concept and performance based logistics in the U.S D.O.D. This deduction is based on the argument that the new public management system focuses on a public services approach. As such, it can be argued that the author provided a lucid explanation of his objective in this paper and that from the objective statement; one can clearly associate the work with public management.
New Public Management and the Study Objective
The first concept that Lewis ventures into through his paper is that of public management. Prior to explaining his research objective and its implications, the author gives a background of public management which is aimed at drawing the connection between Performance Based Logistics (PBL) and public management. In discussing the concept of public management, the author first asserts that PM is characterized by a focus on implementation. This is based on a consideration of existing literature on the same. This description is acceptable and in line with various other studies which describe the origin and concept of project management. For instance, Osborne et al (2013), suggest that the concept of new public management entails an approach that is dominantly focused on service delivery to the public. This is comparable to the claim that PM is implementation driven. Similarly, Yamamoto describes public management that entails implementation of programs that help to address various challenges in the public sector.
Apart from this, Lewis also argues that new PM is emphasizes the action on leaders on specific aspects. While this argument may not be clearly discernible from the works of other authors, it may be drawn from certain explanations accorded to the concept of public management. For instance, Yamamoto argues that some of the problems that new PM seeks to address include the criticisms that prevail on quality and effectiveness of the public service sector. In this argument, one can say that PM can thus only work under the guidance of sector leaders who are well aware of the specific challenges facing various institutions and who can thus propose changes that would be implemented to help in abating these challenges. In the report by Osborne et al (2013), it is argued that PM is adopted from changes in the private sector which led to the outstanding position of the sector. The article further goes ahead to highlight some of the mistakes made by the public sector in emulating the public sector. According to Osborne et al, the public services sector failed to recall that it was a service driven industry and thus attempted to achieve change based on the lessons learnt from the manufacturing sector, which is service driven. This explanation only expounds on the concept of wrong leadership decisions and thus reinforces Lewis’ argument that new PM is focused on strategic actions by leaders.
In order to explain how new PM would be relevant to the U.S Department of Defense (D.O.D) and in particular the Performance Based Logistics aspect, Lewis argues that new PM is built on the key concept of lack of significant difference between the public and the private sectors. Considering that the new PM principles aim at increasing similarity between the sectors and realizing growth that is almost at the same level with the private sector; this argument can be considered to be factual. For instance, Lewis explains that as in the private sector, PM clearly objectifies the government and assesses it with respect to its interactions with the operational environments. This is compared to the interactions in the U.S D.O.D, which are described as involving leaders, political appointees and the private sector at large. In addition to this, the U.S. D.O.D is service oriented hence warranting the qualification of PM practices as a function of service delivery. Although Lewis mentions this quality to be a strength associated with PM with regards to PBL in the department of Defense, a contradictory statement is made by Osborne et al. According to the latter authors, PM is more focused on intra-organizational processes rather than on inter-organizational processes. While Lewis’ argument brings out the perception that PM practice in the D.O.D would foster inter-organizational relationships, Osborne et al define PM differently. From the contradictions of the two articles, it is difficult to exactly characterize Pm with respect to intra or inter organizational relations. However, it is also acceptable to postulate that no organization or faction can rely solely on intra-organizational relations. Similarly, none can rely solely on inter- organizational relations. As such, the role played by PM in either aspect is only measurable through the overall organizational impacts.
In order to justify the research objective, Lewis alludes to the role played by PM research in the service sector. According to Lewis, new PM research is based on the need to identify new methods of service delivery, institutional arrangements for service delivery as well as service delivery by the non- profit making organizations and private entities. Based on this position, Lewis argues that his D.O.D research fits perfectly into PM research as it also aims at determining new methods through which service delivery can be improved in performance based logistics aspect of the defense sector. According to Curristine et al (2007), one of the key concepts behind PM is the need for providing greater public services through better public spending principles. From this argument, it can be deduced that the understanding of PM from Lewis’ perspective is a service driven concept aimed at achieving more efficiency. It can also be said that the conclusion drawn by Lewis on the relationship between PM research and its relevance to D.O.D is based on well researched facts. Other arguments made by different authors concerning PM affirm that it is actually the improvement of public service performance in terms of service delivery. The specific connection made by Lewis between public management and Performance Based Logistics thus makes sense in that both concepts are efficiency driven.
According to Islam, new PM is built on comparison between the public service sector and the private sector (2015). Evaluation of the effectiveness of new PM implementation is based on a comparison with the private sector. While doing the comparison in an organizational context, aspects such as technological advancements and economic theories have to be put in perspective. Lewis clearly communicates his intention to use the same perspective in extrapolating PBL with respect to PM in the D.O.D. According to Lewis, a satisfactory relation between PM and PBL can only be achieved following comparison with the private sector. Similarly, Lewis argues that analyzing relationships and innovations is the first step to explaining this relationship. It can therefore be concluded that the rationale for the study objective and its connection to new PM is satisfactory. On the other hand, basing arguments on the principles of new PM would have been necessary with regards to making a connection with Performance Based Logistics in the Department of Defense.
Public Management Principles
Yamamoto (2003) describes various principles associated with public management in the public service sector. The Department of Defense is one of the most essential public service departments in the country as it addresses the needs of the public with regards to security. Lewis describes the link between PBL and the private sector and relates this to the link between Public Management and the private sector. However, the article does not particularly cite organization and control as the aspects of private sector being compared. While Lewis discusses the importance of technological concepts and economic theories as does Islam, the factors mentioned by Yamamoto are not cited by Lewis. This clearly brings about a difference in ideology. It gives the perception that public management is viewed differently by different authors. The most useful definition could have been the general link as portrayed by the control and organizational factors. Organization and control can include aspects such as technology and economic theories. Economic theories are under control as they fall in the budgeting structure of any organization. At the same time, comparing the D.O.D with the private sector may not be that reasonable since getting organizations that offer the same services delivered by the D.O.D may not be possible in the country. On the other hand, only snippets of the department’s logistics operations could be compared with the private sector.
While considering the public management principles, Yamamoto also talks about emphasis on professional skills of management. Lewis has touched on this to some extent through the assertion that public management entails the requisition for leaders to participate more in the decision-making process. This is particularly important in the department of defense where bureaucracies and discipline are the order of the day. Other principles of public management such as the presence of explicit evaluation measures and standards of performance are also an essential part of Lewis’ arguments. According to Lewis, one of the fundamental features of PBL is the support for weaponry systems including sourcing, deployment and maintenance of weaponry in the field. Evaluating the success of such features is based on the level of interaction between the public service sector managers and their people. This includes determination of the level of motivation that the managers have on their organization’s personnel. Robinson (2015) asserts that the new public management emphasizes on the control of both inputs and outputs to the service delivery sector. Similarly, Yamamoto mentions stress on efficiency and cost cutting in the use of resources with regards to new PM (2003). Based on the arguments of Lewis and their comparison with what other authors report on the subject of PM, it can be said that new PM principles are cost effective as well as quality focused. The needs of the D.O.D with respect to increasing efficiency and improving cost saving practices are thus in line with the principles of new public management. Lewis’ study is thus well founded on sufficient information.
Although most of the principles of new PM are well addressed by Lewis’ objective, the subject of competition is still unclear in the presentation. Yamamoto (2003), Curristine et al (2007) and Robinson (2015) all mention the role played by competition in driving organizations towards striving for new PM. Based on the descriptions that Lewis gives concerning his objective and its connections with PM, it can be argued that PBL is simply PM in the logistics context. As such, the features associated with PM are the same that should be associated with PBL. As new PM is driven by the need to be at the same level with the competition, it is would have been reasonable to relate PBL with competition driven changes. As it is, the government driven public service sector faces limited competition, especially in the department of defense. It can therefore be said that while changes in other service delivery organizations are driven by competition, those in the government driven service organizations are based on the need for efficiency and cost saving.
Curristine et al (2007) discusses the benefits of new PM. Some of the benefits mentioned include improvement in the objective setting strategies and efficiency in monitoring performance. The concepts discussed by Lewis clearly adhere to these potential benefits of PM. For instance, in discussing performance based logistics, the focus of the author was on performance. It is impossible to evaluate the degree of achievement without knowing the initial objectives of change. The said objectives can only be clearly understood if well articulated and presented together with measurable methods. Efficiency monitoring has to be done only using approved methods and based on standard expectations. Both of these aspects have to improve with involvement in PBL as a form of PM. Effectiveness in management is also a positive outcome associated with PM and with PBL (Curristine et al., 2007). Contrary to the benefits that Curristine et al mention regarding improved efficiency in performance monitoring, Lewis (2005), seems to suggest that PM implementation results in the frustration of performance measurement. This claim is unfounded based on the arguments put forward by various authors. It is undeniable that improved objective setting comes with new PM and similarly with new PBL as Lewis reports. Subsequently, it is unexpected that improved objective setting could lead to poor performance measurement.
Structure of the Study
From the content of the work given by Lewis, various concepts can be drawn and linked to efficiency of the study. However, there is also need to consider the form of the study distinctively from the content of the paper. One of the features of the study that was considered is its clarity. The work of Lewis can be said to be relatively clear in terms of articulating the objectives of the study. From introduction of the article, one can clearly understand the objective of the paper. Apart from this, the background information given by the article author is sufficient to clearly understand the connection between the objectives of the paper and the intended content of the paper. By expounding on the basics of new public management and their connection to the D.O.D and to the concept of Performance based logistics, the author makes his intentions clear to the readers and subsequently provides sufficient justification for his work. From the introductory section, the work gets clearer through the use of understandable language as well as through explanation of the key concepts of consideration. The other sections of the paper are also clear enough and one can draw the connection from the beginning to the end of the paper. It is also possible for any reader to make reasonable conclusions from the concepts developed within the paper. The connection between the concepts as presented by the author can also be made by any reader.
Lewis also presented his concepts and opinions coherently throughout the paper. Based on the paper plan and the connection between the different sections of the paper, it can be seen that the author understands how important it is for a paper to be coherent throughout its entire length. From the beginning of the paper, one can clearly preempt the coming points in the paper. The description of the principles from which the paper basics are founded to the conclusion is preemptive. As such, the paper makes an easy read and is also easily comprehensible. Apart from this, the structure of the paper is also focused on the initial objective and every argument made is towards development of the intended objective. As such, the paper flows as it is read from the beginning to the end.
In various aspects of the study done by Lewis, the paper offers strong arguments concerning the application of new PM, its relevance and connection to PBL and the benefits associated with the changes in either PBL or PM. However, the paper also has various limitations which can result in fewer conclusion possibilities. For instance, Lewis himself concludes that more research should be carried out on the concept of public management. This resonates with the limited scope of public management within which the paper is confined. The arguments presented in the study with the objective of creating a connection between PM and PBL are based on a few concepts associated with PM. As a matter of fact, even the principles of PM as mentioned by various authors are not fully explored in the paper. As such, it can be said that although the concepts of PBL and PM are related as the author wants to present them to be, there is still need to explore greater possibilities of connectedness based on other features of both PBL and PM.
While the author clarified the concept of PM effectively and managed to highlight its connection with PBL through examples, the paper still fails to provide a succinct description of the logistics system in the D.O.D. This information is crucial for the reader to be able to recognize the state of affairs that currently exists and subsequently to make a conclusion as to whether the intended changes are actually needed or not. Inability to place the department in its rightful position at present times can hamper effective evaluation at the end of the changes. The paper would have created an even greater academic impact with an inclusion of the D.O.D description. Moreover, the description, albeit little, may have added to the lucidity of the PBL concept with regards to defense.
Lewis also clearly defines the study objective. At the same time, the entire report is clear at a general level. It is however difficult to outline the research objectives from the body of the study since the author does not represent it explicitly. In order to clearly understand the objective of the study, one has to delve into the body of the literature to fish out the objective. Even then, the mode of articulation of that objective is not sufficiently clear hence one has to make deductions from the general comment that is meant to be an objective statement. From the evidence of various studies, an objective statement is supposed to encompass explicit intentions of a study. To do this effectively, simple words are to be used with an opening statement that directly draws one to the conclusion that the specific sentence is an objective statement. It is therefore important for the author to consider representation of information in future.
The key features of impressive academic article writing include lucidity, coherence and meaning. From the arguments presented by Lewis, it is clear that the author intends to bring out the link between public management and PBL and thus to give the relevance of PM in PBL. The principles of PM as applied by the author are satisfactory in achieving his objective. The article is also clear in explanations as well as coherent from the beginning to the conclusion. However, some of the few limitations associated with this study include lack of clarity in explaining the study objective and failure to relate to some of the key elements associated with project management. The recommendation by the author that greater research should be done with regards to public management is well communicated and also taken positively and explained to be founded on the limited scope of the study. It can thus be concluded that despite its challenges, the study achieves its objective while also raising the need for even more research to be done.
Curristine, T., Lonti, Z. &Journard, I. (2007). Improving Public Sector Efficiency: Challenges and Opportunities. OECD Journal on Budgeting.
Islam, F. (2015). New Public Management (NPM): A Dominating Paradigm in Public Sectors. African Journal of Political Science and International Relations, 141- 151.
Lewis, I. (2005). Public Management and Performance based Logistics in the U.S Department of Justice. International Public Management Review, 6(2), 116- 127.
Osborne, S., Radnor, Z. & Nasi, G. (2013). A New Theory for Public Management? Toward a (Public) Service- Dominant Approach. The American Review of Public Administration, 43(2): 135-158.
Robinson, M. (2015). From Old Public Administration to the New Public Service: Implications for Public Sector Reform in Developing Countries. UNDP Global Center for Public Service Excellence.
Yamamoto, H. (2003). New Public Management – Japan’s Practice. Institute for International Policy Studies, IIPS Policy Paper 293E.