Public Management: The Need for Ambiguity Tolerance and Moral Engagement
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SourceInternational Journal of Public Administration, 26, 1, (2003), pp. 19-34
Article / Letter to editor
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International Journal of Public Administration
SubjectInnovations in Spatial and Environmental Governance
This article starts by presenting a bird's eye perspective on the history of ideas about public management (Section 1). Several stages in the intellectual history of public management are distinguished. After the big picture of the evolution of thinking about public management attention is given to societal developments, as perceived by public managers (Section 2). Top civil servants in The Netherlands were asked to mention societal developments that they believe to be of crucial importance for the future of public management. High‐ranking issues were “receding government,” “business‐like government,” and “declining trust in government.” Confronted with these intractable challenges, how can public managers be served by the approaches available in public management thinking? The authors argue that the issue is not to choose one approach and dump the others (Section 3). Instead, they conceive of the public manager as a simultaneous chess player who has to balance competing values all the time. As a guide to action for the public manager the authors stress the importance of (a) developing the intrapersonal skill of ambiguity tolerance; and (b) strengthening a moral commitment to public values.
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