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Utopian Management Frameworks

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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > T, U, V > Utopian Management Frameworks
 
Utopian Management Frameworks

In government, utopian frameworks have been advanced in many management areas, providing a rich source of motivational rhetoric.

(Clark,  I.D.  &  H.  Swain  (2005).  Distinguishing  the  real  from  the  surreal  in management  reform:  Suggestions  for  beleaguered  administrators  in  the government of Canada. Canadian Public Administration, 48(4), 453-476.)

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Since Thomas More published Utopia in 1516, well-meaning theorists have offered visions of ideal places that operate according to frameworks that usually consist of a few principles, some broad objectives, and a set of more detailed prescriptions to guide conduct toward the achievement of those objectives. Often, in history as in bureaucracy, utopian frameworks rest on unstated assumptions about the nature of people and of society. In government, utopian frameworks have been advanced in many management areas, including results measurement, performance audit, modern comptrollership, human resources development, service standards and sustainable development. They provide a rich source of motivational rhetoric.

However, these utopian management frameworks have meaning only in an idealized sense, divorced from the realities with which public administrators have to deal. Government officials have to manage in a political environment replete with demanding ministers, energetic political staff, sceptical opposition MPS, headline-seeking reporters, impatient stakeholders, human employees, late-night calls from the Privy Council Office, and limits on money, time, and people. Governments are elected to govern in real time. As events unfold, the electorate usually accepts that the executive needs some margin for manoeuvre relative to its earlier commitments. As it adapts to changing circumstances, an elected government plans and acts in ways that, for a period at least, may be less than completely described in public pronouncements. Public service managers must, within the limits of law and professional conscience, support the government in so doing. They will always have to work with less-than-ideal resources, with last-minute deadlines, and perpetually changing expectations. In the real world of government, management is less a rational undertaking than a human skill adapted to the institutional context and the personalities at play. There is a fundamental tension between actually getting the job done and trying to demonstrate adherence to the precepts of utopian management frameworks
     
Utopian Management Frameworks

In government, utopian frameworks have been advanced in many management areas, providing a rich source of motivational rhetoric.

(Clark,  I.D.  &  H.  Swain  (2005).  Distinguishing  the  real  from  the  surreal  in management  reform:  Suggestions  for  beleaguered  administrators  in  the government of Canada. Canadian Public Administration, 48(4), 453-476.)

---------------------------------


Since Thomas More published Utopia in 1516, well-meaning theorists have offered visions of ideal places that operate according to frameworks that usually consist of a few principles, some broad objectives, and a set of more detailed prescriptions to guide conduct toward the achievement of those objectives. Often, in history as in bureaucracy, utopian frameworks rest on unstated assumptions about the nature of people and of society. In government, utopian frameworks have been advanced in many management areas, including results measurement, performance audit, modern comptrollership, human resources development, service standards and sustainable development. They provide a rich source of motivational rhetoric.

However, these utopian management frameworks have meaning only in an idealized sense, divorced from the realities with which public administrators have to deal. Government officials have to manage in a political environment replete with demanding ministers, energetic political staff, sceptical opposition MPS, headline-seeking reporters, impatient stakeholders, human employees, late-night calls from the Privy Council Office, and limits on money, time, and people. Governments are elected to govern in real time. As events unfold, the electorate usually accepts that the executive needs some margin for manoeuvre relative to its earlier commitments. As it adapts to changing circumstances, an elected government plans and acts in ways that, for a period at least, may be less than completely described in public pronouncements. Public service managers must, within the limits of law and professional conscience, support the government in so doing. They will always have to work with less-than-ideal resources, with last-minute deadlines, and perpetually changing expectations. In the real world of government, management is less a rational undertaking than a human skill adapted to the institutional context and the personalities at play. There is a fundamental tension between actually getting the job done and trying to demonstrate adherence to the precepts of utopian management frameworks

Approved for glossaryposting by Ben Eisen on March 20, 2011




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