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Public Involvement in Public Management: Adapting and Testing a Borrowed Theory

John Clayton Thomas
Public Administration Review
Vol. 50, No. 4 (Jul. - Aug., 1990), pp. 435-445
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration
DOI: 10.2307/977079
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/977079
Page Count: 11
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Abstract

As public involvement in public management has expanded in recent decades, questions have increasingly been raised about how public managers should approach this involvement. This article attempts to answer those questions using a theory borrowed from the literature on small-group decision making. According to the theory (Vroom and Yetton, 1973), the degree of group involvement desirable in making a decision varies depending on the relative needs for quality and acceptability in an eventual decision. The premise of this article is that the same rule may hold for questions of public involvement. The article initially explains the theory and shows how it can be adapted to issues of public involvement. The theory is then tested using data from a reanalysis of 42 public decisions made with varying degrees of public involvement. The data support the theory. The theory even gains in elegance when applied to public involvement because some elements prove irrelevant to highly constrained public issues. These findings suggest that the theory can be a useful tool for public managers who must decide how much, if at all, to involve the public in resolving particular issues.

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