Let us start by separating the two terms in public administration, to construct an overall understanding. The public represents the government, people, and administration are to bring together both monetary and human resources to accomplish a collective goal. Public administration can therefore be interpreted as management of government activities (Khan, 2008, 1). Government activities encompass many things touching people’s life.
For instance, all services rendered by the government automatically fall under public administration. In the United States, the government is a three-tier one, which is local, state, and federal. Each level plays a specific role in public administration. Public administration is also described as an active arm of government. That concerns itself with the implementation of policies and laws from the three main arms of government. That is Legislature, Executive, and judiciary. Its task is to implement these laws and policies at the point of contact with concerned people (Khan, 2008, 3).
United States public administration revolves around strong principles of federalism. There is a big separation between the state and the nation. As opposed to many countries that have a national identity based on language, ethnicity, religion, or land, the United States identity is developed around its constitution. Each of its fifty states has its constitution and the national constitution addresses only those issues that should be uniform.
Public administration maintains this bureaucracy and customization. For instance, some states have elected judges and in others, they are nominated (Emerson, 3). Within the federal system, some various agencies and departments enhance bureaucracy in the United States.
The greatest problem that public administration faces are operating in a fragile environment. Administrators’ operations are affected by numerous issues like politics, economic fluctuations, power relationship changes, as well as eruptive social issues (Khan, 2008, 9). In addition to this, the role of public administration increases daily. As new jurisdiction areas are conceived and connived. Yet, despite the increased demand for multiple goods and services, public administration like the private sector must improve its efficiency by reducing the number of resources used (Emerson, 19).
The conception that the government cannot deliver the job is inaccurate to a large extent. However, this is not to suggest that the government is efficient and effective in delivering its mandate. It means like any other organization government fails to deliver in some cases. This can be due to an incidental crisis for example, that the public administration may be unable to handle. An example is a bus accident due to fire where local government resources can handle the situation and another big accident due to bomb explosion where the situation is beyond locally available resources (Putra, 2009, 153).
This example explains the complex nature under which the crisis may take place. However, the public sectors’ failures seem to be highlighted more by the media than those of the private sector. Understandably this is because as opposed to failures in the private sector, those in the public sector are more scrutinized by the public and media (Cohen et al, 2008). The reduced public confidence in the government emanates from the public that has lost a sense of community responsibility and acting collectively (Cohen, 2007, 1). Cohen further notes that the government size and its inflexibility in selecting who to serve can be linked to its failure to deliver services (3).
The best way for the government to deal with this perception is to apply knowledge of crisis management. A crisis can be managed by organization, planning, coordination, decision making, and control management principles. Noteworthy, though this process should not be a mere application of management principles, it’s necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of the effectiveness of the existing crisis management practice.
There is a need to understand the best way to deal with the crisis so that management can make opportunities out of it (Putra, 155). According to Cohen 2007, this calls for a radical rethinking of various regulations on government procedures. To address accountability in leadership and control of public agencies by legislatures, radical changes are what he proposes. For instance, changes in public hiring procedures must be followed by subsequent assurances that patronage does not recur (6).
According to Drucker 1980, it’s not that public managers commit these sins unknowingly, they are usually conscious of what they are doing. They do this out of some sort of fear. For instance, an administrator may avoid prioritization lest they land into a conflicting need among the public (41). He sees their behaviors as deliberate efforts to avoid doing what is correct for the administration, lest they lose in other areas.
This managerial behavior to avoid doing what is right is caused by bureaucracy in public administration. To demonstrate this one needs to have a look at what effects of bureaucracy are described. That one can only succeed in the public administration bureaucracy and be assured of going up the ladder if there is a deliberate effort to maintain this bureaucracy. The second thing that shows this blindness, which is inherent in public management, is a lack of commitment to performance. Nobody seems to be interested in the performance of public programs. More so, few people have trust in the performance of programs enacted or being discussed (Drucker, 1980, 42).
Public managers must change in so many ways to avoid falling into nonperformance due to these deadly sins. Each of these ways will reflect efforts by managers to avoid any of the pitfalls. For instance, to avoid making lofty objectives that make it inevitable for public programs to be non-performers. Management should set goals that are measurable, concise, and assessable. Another form of change is to abandon some of the public theories that are held about staffing. Focusing on overstaffing in public administration as a solution to problems only guarantees the failure of the program. This is because overstaffing brings other problems in communication, logistics, and personnel management (Drucker, 1980, 38).
According to Ammons 1985, these barriers bear a collective responsibility in preventing productivity in the public sector (83). As such it is not advisable to qualify certain types of barriers either as belonging to a political or technical category or as being responsible for inhibiting productivity. A combination of both types of barriers at any given time is more likely to hinder the productivity of any organization in specific programs. In other words, acting alone barriers are incapable of working against careless managers who show commitment to management. The challenge is magnified though when there is a combination of these barriers. This is in the form of placing a great demand for a wider perspective in management.
If I was to choose only one factor as a hindrance to productivity my choice would be political factors that affect the process of decision making. It happens so because like Ammons puts it, they are considered to have more importance than underlying principles in the process of making a decision (84). This, therefore, is an incentive for management to exhibit other forms of barriers.
Government in spheres of life
Government is present in almost all spheres of our lives today as it provides those services that integrate social and it also acts like an arbitrator ensuring that what one individual does is not harmful to others (Khan, 2008, 2). The United States is a federal system with a government at various levels. In this case therefore we are talking about the hierarchical arrangement of government structure beginning from the modest level of local government, through the state and up to the federal level.
Each of these levels plays a particular role as defined in the constitution. The federal government is responsible for taking care of collective services, while the state and local governments do more customized tasks. (Khan, 2008, 2). It has been reported that while the number of states has not changed, the district or local government has increased as the population expands in time. This in turn is responsible for the expansion of government size and expenditure.
According to Kettl 1996, the size of government has expanded in the twentieth century due to the increased bureaucracy in American democracy. New government entities and processes were created. Among the new institutes were agencies, departments of the cabinet, and federal reserves. New approaches to government also emerged among them are city managers. With time the government was transformed and the system grew with the ambition to make it more efficient (7).
The public administration involves the coordination of all human and other resources to achieve a government purpose. Therefore, to agree on who is to be considered as a public administrator, an understanding of how the government functions are necessary. We have identified three tiers of government in the United States which are federal, state, and local. All employees paid by the government at these levels are regarded as public administrators (Khan, 2008, 4). Each level has people working under different departments and agencies.
The question of whether public and private administrators are different ignites a comparative analysis of how the two systems are different or similar. In this question, I will argue that there exist both similarities and differences in both sets of administration. The differences have been highlighted by many literature. The first similarity is that, in both, managers have to deal with organization politics inside and outside the organization. Managers must learn how to deal with them to achieve the organizational objective (Milakovich & Gordon, 2008, 38).
Looking at organization politics and its effect on the administration element, the difference exists in the two environments. For instance, in the private sector products are customized to customer needs in exchange for money. However, in the public sector products must be designed to meet collective goals. Another difference between the two is that private sector administrators come up with their own organizational goals and set plans to achieve them.
The public sector, on the other hand, depends on the goals set by the legislature. Managers in public are also more scrutinized by the media and public as opposed to their counterparts. They must, therefore, do with the criticism from outside despite the knowledge that these critics have on their agencies (Milakovich & Gordon, 2008, 40).
Public administrators do not have to be different from the private sectors. All they need is to understand the difference in their work environment and adjust their management to fit this environment.
Public administration problems
Public administration problems are similar to the change of political leaders. Change brings new policy directions for the public administration to implement. Change takes different forms such as attempting to implement drastic policy changes. For instance, with the entry of President Obama, he started to deal with an array of issues ranging from healthcare, energy consumption, economic recession, terrorism among others (Clary, 2009, Para 1).
Coincidentally, the mandate of the president is to convince congress to make necessary legislation, but the public administrator must handle their implementation. The understanding political environment is thus important for administrators because this is the environment in which they must achieve the objectives of their agencies. I, therefore, support the statement because it depicts the work environment of the public administrator.
Ammons, D. (1985). Common Barriers to Productivity.Improvement in Local Government. Public Productivity Review, 9(4), 85-94.
Clary, M. (2009). The importance of Understanding the Politics of Public Administration. Web.
Cohen, S. (1997). Public management and Public Service Lecture Prepared for Professor David Dinkins’ Course: Critical Issues in Urban Policy.
Cohen, S., Eimicke W., & Heikkila T. (2008). The Effective Public Manager: Achieving Success in a Changing Government. Ed.4. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
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Putra, F. (2009). Crisis Management in Public Administration. Planning Forum, 13(14). 152 – 177.
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