1. What are the key differences between political and technical rationality? Why are these differences significant for public organizations?
Political rationality is categorized by four main elements. The first is that public organizations are governed by public authority. The second is that public organizations have a political rather than a technical/economic basis for organizational design. Thirdly, public organizations are subject to the uncertainties of political processes. The last element is that public organizations reflect a necessity for political compromise (Hill & Lynn, 11). Technical rationality is defined as “the approach and methods incorporated by established professions in order to operate; this is determined by evaluation and consideration of concrete technical knowledge within the given profession” (Hutton, 1970).
The key differences between these two are that they are used differently in public organizations. Political rationality can be used to make a statement or serve a symbolic purpose rather than be used for management or budgeting. Another difference is that technical rationality is used in profitable private firms while political rationality is found in public, non for profit organizations. Political rationality is also governed by incentives that are politically motivated while technical rationality is not. These differences are significant because when a public organization is making a decision they often think “whatever the technical requirements of an effective organization might be, is a structural reflection of its unique politics (Hill & Lynn, 11)”.
2. What are information asymmetries? Why are they problematic in the context of public organizations?
Information asymmetries is when there is an imbalance in the number of information principals and agents possess (lecture 7). There are two different kinds of information asymmetries. One is adverse selection or the differences in preferences, beliefs, and knowledge present before entering into an agreement or contract. The second is moral hazards or the actions an agent takes after entering an agreement or contract (lecture 7). In the context of a public organization, information asymmetries can cause problems. In health care markets, for example, moral hazard can occur when a third party, like an insurance company, pays for a service received by the patient. The patient will continue to consume services as long as the additional benefit of service outweighs the additional cost of it. If a third party pays all or part of the cost of the additional care, consumers will demand more care than they would otherwise (Shmanske, 1996).
3. What is bounded rationality? What are the implications of bounded rationality for organizations and managers?
Bounded rationality is a term coined by the economist, Herbert Simon. It is a theory about economic decision making that when individuals make a decision they do not seek to maximize their benefit from a particular course of action. This is due to their inability to properly assimilate and digest all the information needed to do so. Even if the information was obtainable, their mind would be unable to process it properly due to cognitive limits. An example of this is when respondents chose satisfactory answers in a questionnaire verse searching for an optimum answer (Mishra, 2015).
When it comes to organizations and managers bounded rationality often falls on the manager. For example, if a group is examining a set of choices regarding waste management in a city sector there might be an obvious and rational answer, but the final decision might but final decision settle on solution B which may be totally irrational to some who thinks solution A was the best and rational answer to the issue (Mishra, 2015). Examining this situation in the perspective of bounded rationality, the rationality of choosing B over A is that the decision maker was not able to properly associate and structure solution A to the issue. He chose solution B in order to meet an acceptability threshold and provide a satisfying answer considering the cognitive limitation he was posed with (Mishra, 2015).
4. What is the spoils system and why is it relevant in the history of U.S. public administration?
The Spoils System was a system imposed by President Andrew Jackson during his presidency. The system replaced political opponents with civil servants who were friends and supporters of the political group in power. This system developed into the firing of political enemies and the hiring of political friends (Jacksonian Era, n.d). This is relevant for a few reasons. One was that it became a customary practice for future presidents. There were also a number of inefficiencies and corruption bred by the Spoils system. During Ulysses’ Grant’s presidency the system reached unequivocal atrocities which led to the establishment of the Civil Service Commission in 1871. Eventually, the entire system was replaced by civil service system in 1883, which was based on merit rather than their political party (Jacksonian Era, n.d).
5. What is groupthink and how does it influence decision-making?
Groupthink is defined as “achieving consensus within groups by minimizing conflict.” Group think influences decision making in a number of ways, some positive, others negative. One negative is that it suppresses creativity, by hindering individual thought. This can be avoided by having a multitude of races and an equal balance of men and women in the workplace. Another negative is that it provides an incomplete analysis of situations. There are however a few positives to group think which include imposing a level of harmony during extreme levels of disagreements. It can also help members of an organization come together by placing emphasis on a familiar and coordinated goal (Blank, n.d.).
6. What is a transactional leader? What is a transformational leader? Which form of leadership do you believe is more important in public organizations?
Transactional leaders focus on “satisfying the self-interest of those who do good work.” These leaders provide incentives, pay increases, and promotions for employees who perform adequately. Transactional leaders abdicate responsibilities while avoiding making decisions, and only intervene if standards are not met (Bass, 1990). Transformational leaders focus on exceeding expectations and elevating the interests of their employees. They try to focus employees to look out for the good of the group” verse their own self-interest (Bass, 1990). Transformational leadership focus on individuals and try to act as mentors those who need help to grow and develop. These leaders try to show their employees “new ways of looking at old problems.”
In my opinion, transformational leadership is way more important in public organizations. Since public organizations often have to solve old problems in new and inventive ways, meeting a quota while simply not suffice. A transformational leader will be better at looking for the greater good of the group, in this case, the greater good of the public. When examining studies, managers who behave like transformational leaders are more likely to be seen as effective leaders by employees. Employees also tend to exert more effort when a leader behaves in a transformational matter verse a transactional one (Bass,1990).
1. What are principal-agent problems? What types of challenges do they present? How can principal-agent problems be overcome?
Principal-agent problems are characterized in two ways. One way is by the hierarchical superior or “the principal” aiming to achieve a particular result or outcome but must rely on another party (the agent) for implementation. The second being, both the principal and agent are assumed to be rational and act in ways consistent with their own best self-interests. Principal-agent problems are also characterized by two forms of information asymmetries, or differences in information about the actions or preferences of the agent. These information asymmetries are adverse selection or differences in preferences, beliefs, or knowledge about the principal “ex-ante” or prior to entering a contract. The second is moral hazard or actions the agent takes “ex-post” or after entering a contractual agreement (Hill & Lynn, 189).
Principal-agent problems exist because the principal and agent, cannot fully describe or come to an agreement in advance, on the actions taken in every situation. Many principal-agent problems exist in organizations that have high levels of discretion and autonomy from organizational authority. Some of these organizations involve street-level bureaucrats such as police officers and social workers. These organizations are difficult for managers to observe and evaluate as personal morals and values may influence decisions when carrying out responsibilities. Questions that arise from principal-agent problems include “Did the social worker really make every effort desired by management to encourage a client to find work (Hill & Lynn, 189)?”
In a perfect world, principal-agent problems could be overcome by aligning the incentives of the principal with the agent’s incentives. However, this is often easier said than done. Many times the incentives of the agent aren’t going to lead to the behavior that will best benefit the principal. (190) In order to overcome this; principals can help agent’s get work done quicker, by offering incentives such as monetary compensation for meeting a deadline. Another way to overcome this challenge would be to provide certain performance measure or criteria that the agent must meet.
2. What is public service motivation? Briefly describe the concept’s core dimensions. In your opinion, how well does public service motivation explain the actions and behavior of public employees? Why?
Public service motivation is simply the motivation of employees in public organizations. Other definitions describe is a “reliance on intrinsic rewards over extrinsic rewards” or a “cluster of motives, values, and attitudes on serving the public interest.” (Bozeman,2014). The early study of public service motivation was used to compare differences in work reward preferences between public and private employees. The first concepts of PSM presented in early studies are suggestive verse explicit with focus on public managers or comparing public managers to business managers. Now it accepted by many researchers that limiting PSM concepts to government service or government organizations have little traction to real-life situations (Bozeman, 2014).
These motivations are divided into three categories. The first category are rational motives. These are the individual’s personal interest or commitment to a particular program, desire to participate in the public policy process, and the use of their position to advocate for a favored position or group. Norm-based motives reflect a person’s interest in social equity, a sense of loyalty or duty to the government, and a desire to serve the public interest. The last dimensions are effective motives which reflect specific convictions or beliefs about the particular program an individual works in. These motives may also reflect a “patriotism of benevolence” or an extensive love all people within our political boundaries, and the imperative that all their basic rights must be protected. (290)
In my opinion, public service motivations do an excellent job at explaining the behavior of public employees. Since the nature of public service often involves jobs that directly involve dealing with the public, it’s important to know the motives of these public employees. I believe that when entering a public service field, one must understand why people chose this field over other fields, mostly because many jobs in this service do not have a high payout. Public service employees have to possess certain characteristics in order to be considered fair, reasonable, and good at their jobs. I think that the core dimensions are a good base level for understanding the motives of the employees, but that the reasons people chose public service as a career are more complex than what has been gathered so far.
1. A central debate in public administration involves how much discretion and autonomy public employees possess. The roots of this argument rest in the Friedrich-Finer debate. Describe the core aspects of the Friedrich-Finer debate. In your opinion, which perspective is superior?
The Friedrich- Finer debate was a debate regarding responsibility vs accountability. Carl Friedrich was a German professor of medicine and also a Prussian countess. He came to the United States in 1922 as the founder of the German Exchange Service. Friedrich became a full-time professor of Harvard in 1936 and was also considered an expert on Totalitarianism. Herman Finer was born in Bessarabia which was a region occupied by Imperialist Russia in the 1900’s. He received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and also become a lecturer there for over 20 years. The debate started when Friedrich came and lectured at Finer’s school (LSE) and Finer disagreed with Friedrich’s definition of the relationship between ministers and public servants (Jackson,2009).
According to Max Weber’s definitions of bureaucracy; politicians decided policy based on the desires of the people they serve, policies define what shall be done and how it shall be done, and administrators carry out the decisions of the politicians. Finer agreed with this definition, while Friedrich did not. Finer viewed policy Finer argued that holding an official responsible for the actions is an arrangement of punishment and correction. He believed that employees and politicians alike are working for the wants of the people and not what they might necessarily need. Lastly, Finer focused on the restraints upon the administrators by trying to exert complete authority and control over their actions (Jackson,2009).
Friedrich’s approach was that of an “open system.” (Jackson,2009). He believed that the relationship between politics and administration was a reciprocal one. Unlike Finer, he believed that a minister cannot expertize in every field and therefore will not be able to give feedback or advice on every subject. He viewed public policy as trial and error. In order for a good policy to be implemented, a policymaker needs feedback from experts on the ground. Frederich believed that policies are defined by the way administrators interpreted their meaning. This can be different because of the administrators’ social settings, work settings, and geographical location.
Both Finer and Friedrich held different perspectives on how ministers and administrators function in a bureaucracy. Friedrich believed that administrators and ministers would hold themselves responsible if they were autonomous in their work environments. His belief is that the bureaucracy exists to guide the federal government through political processes and effectively implement their decisions. Finer believed that administrators need to be directed, commanded, and controlled in order to effectively implement the policies from the ministers.
Finer believed in a form of democratic accountability. He believed the the people elected officials in order to give them an indirect voice in the government (Jackson,2009).
In my opinion, I prefer Friedrich’s perspective. Even though it is considered “anti-democratic” by some, I think its an optimistic outlook on human nature (Jackson,2009). Friedrich believes in the more autonomous way of public service, while Finer believes in a more authoritarian approach. I also like the way that Friedrich believes that decisions need to be made with careful consideration to “avoid contradiction and duplication.” (Jackson,2009). Like most aspects in public service and organizations, a successful policy comes with trial and error. Policymakers must understand how their policy is affecting the people whether it be in a positive or negative way, and when it is negative; how they can fix it.