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Managing Incoherence: The Coordination and Empowerment Conundrum

B. Guy Peters and Donald J. Savoie
Public Administration Review
Vol. 56, No. 3 (May - Jun., 1996), pp. 281-290
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration
DOI: 10.2307/976452
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/976452
Page Count: 10
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Managing Incoherence: The Coordination and Empowerment Conundrum
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Abstract

Two dimensions of administrative change in contemporary democracies are at war with one another. On the one hand, the "new public management" argues that organizations should decentralize and empower lower echelon employees. Further, government is urged to decentralize structurally and to create autonomous and semiautonomous organizations to deliver public services. On the other hand, continuing fiscal pressures and the requirements of the global economy point to the need to coordinate better not only policies but also programs which increasingly cut across departmental or agency lines. The United States presents an extreme case of the need to coordinate multiple and often incoherent programs. That need has to a great extent been exacerbated by reforms stemming from the National Performance Review (NPR). The research reported in this article examines the impact of the NPR on the behavior of central agencies in Washington-the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, and the General Services Administration. We argue that despite the changes over the past year, the fundamental nature of central agencies has not been transformed, and they are still very much in the business of imposing central policy and management controls.

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