Public Management : public management’s “big questions”? Brooks, Arthur C.
Can nonprofit management help answer public management’s “big questions”? Brooks, Arthur C. Public Administration Review; Washington Vol. 62, Iss. 3, (May/Jun 2002): 259-266. Introduction Defining moments in academic disciplines often occur when their principal unanswered questions are specified. Such was the case with Robert D. Behn’s frequently cited 1995 article in Public Administration Review, “The Big Questions of Public Management.” In this article, Behn laid out what he saw as the three areas of inquiry with the potential to make public management most useful to the field and “scientific” in its method of inquiry: 1 .How can public managers break the cycle of micromanagement, which inhibits public agencies from producing results? 2. How can public managers motivate people to work toward achieving public purposes? 3. How can public managers measure performance? The relatively new field of nonprofit management saw similar contributions in 1993 and 1997 when Dennis R. Young, editor of Nonprofit Management and Leadership, defined the “key contemporary managerial and leadership issues facing nonprofit organizations.” In his estimation, these issues are board governance, executive leadership, human resources management, development of financial resources, strategic adaptation to change, organizational structure, and performance measurement (see figure 1). There is evidence that the nonprofit field journals have focused these issues well. For example, analysis of a sample of articles in the two most prominent nonprofit journals, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly and Nonprofit Management and Leadership, shows that 66 percent of the articles published in 1990-98 were devoted just to these seven areas.1 These areas in nonprofit management overlap considerably with Behn’s big questions. Given that a significant literature addresses these areas, it stands to reason that the nonprofit management literature might be able to help inform public management practice and scholarship.
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