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Galloping Elephants: Developing Elements of a Theory of Effective Government Organizations

Hal G. Rainey and Paula Steinbauer
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: J-PART
Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 1-32
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1181850
Page Count: 32
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Galloping Elephants: Developing Elements of a Theory of Effective Government Organizations
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Abstract

Much of the theory and discourse on public bureaucracies treats them negatively, as if they incline inevitably toward weak performance. This orientation prevails in spite of considerable evidence that many government organizations perform very well, and in spite of many examples of their excellent performance. This article draws on the literature and research on effective government organizations to select and develop conceptual elements of a theory to explain their effectiveness. The available research suggests that such a theory should include the following components: supportive behaviors from external stakeholders such as political authorities; agency autonomy in refining and implementing its mission; high "mission valence" (an attractive mission); a strong, mission-oriented culture; and certain leadership behaviors. The discussion further posits that these factors enhance several forms of motivation of people in the agency-task motivation, mission motivation, and public service motivation-that can be differentiated but that must be linked together in effective government agencies.

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