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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > P, Q > Public Management

Public Management

Public management is the work of mobilizing others to accomplish socially useful purposes and advance the public interest. (Zimmerman, 2012).


In his 2006 book, Public management: old and new, Laurence Lynn Jr begins with the assertion that: 


public management is a nexus where politics, law, and administration necessarily engage each other” (p. ix) 

and that: 


“public management is not confined to “what managers do” or to governmental operations. It comprises the structures of formal authority, the practices of those in managerial roles, and the institutionalized  values that infuse choice and decision making throughout government” (p. xii).

Lynn holds that

“no authoritative distinction can be drawn between the concept of administration and that of management despite considerable scholarly effort to make such a distinction”

 and therefore:

 “The history of public administration, which encompasses the emergence and evolution of structures of  authority, of “best practices” and of institutionalized values, is also, therefore, a history of public  management.” (p. xii).

Lynn includes iin his book milestones in the history of public management that begin in the fourth century BCE when Shen Pu-hai, governing in north-central China, codifies principles of administration, through to the 1911 publication of Frederick Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management, through the 1960s and 1970s launching in successive American administrations of PBS, MBO and other tools of management reform, to the 1980s launch of the New Public Management movement by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government, to the early years of this millennium where “the field of public management becomes international and comparative” (p. xiii-xiv).

In their 2004 Second Edition of Public Management Reform, A Comparative Analysis, Christopher Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert quote definitions from earlier authors:

“Public management is a merger of the normative orientation of traditional public administration and the instrumental orientation of general management (Perry and Kraemer 1983, p. x)

“The field of public management is better defined analytically than institutionally, No clear institutional distinction can be drawn…The critical area of public management is the management of organizational independence, for example in the deliver y of services or  in the management of the budgetary process. Public management is concerned with the effective functioning of whole systems of organizations…What distinguishes public management is the explicit acknowledgement of the responsibility for dealing with structural problems at the level of the system as a whole (Metcalfe and Richards, 1987, pp. 73-5).


Lynn Jr., Laurence E. (2006). Public management: old and new, Routledge, New York.

Metcalfe, Les, and Sue Richards. (1987). Improving Public Management. London: Sage. pp. 73-5

Perry, James L. and Kenneth L. Kraemer. (1983). Public management: public and private perspectives, Mayfield Publishing Company)

Pollitt, Christopher and Geert Bouckaert. (2004). Public Management Reform, A Comparative Analysis, Second Edition, Oxford University Press

Zimmerman, Peter. (2012). Syllabus for HKS course MLD-110A, at (accessed 11 February 2013).

Page created by: Ian Clark on 1 March 2013.



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