Skip to main content

Rules vs. Discretion

Go Search
Home
About
New Atlas
Atlas, A-Z
Atlas Maps
MPP/MPA Programs
Subjects
Core Topics
Illustrative Courses
Topic Encyclopedia
Concept Dictionary
Competencies
Career Tips
IGOs
Best Practices Project

Applying an Implementation Lens
Balanced Scorecard as a Strategy for Performance Improvement
Building Coalitions
Bureaucratic Politics, Organizational Design and Decision-Making
Cognitive Biases
Defining Policy Problems and Policy Making Under Pressure
Developing Networks for Improvement
Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Instrument Choice
Financing and Fundraising in the Third Sector
Implementation and Policy
Implementation and Policy
Implementation and Risk
Implementation and the Budget Context
Implementation Environment
Implementing through Markets
Implementing with Partners
Improving Organizational Performance Through Competition
Learning as a Performance Strategy
Leveraging Diversity
Managing a Global Team
Managing Conflict
Managing Partnerships: Multi-Party Arrangements
Managing Risk: The “New” Way Forward in Managing?
Mission and Strategy
Models of Policy Making
Modernization of Public Sector Organizations
Multi-Level Governance
Network Assessment and Analysis
Operations and Marketing Strategy
Organizational Alignment
Organizational Behaviour
Organizational Culture
Organizational Performance and Management Reform
Organizations
Organizing for Collaboration and Partnership
Organizing for Performance
Overview of Recent Trends in Public Administration
Performance Information as a Management Tool
Policy Analysis and Contemporary Governance
Policy Design and Instrument Choice
Policy Evaluation
Public Services in the Age of Restraint - new public service delivery models and the quest to do better with less
Public-Private Partnerships
Recent Trends from Comparative Public Administration
Rules vs. Discretion
TEACHING TOPICS IN POLICY AND MANAGEMENT ANALYSIS
The Crisis of “Governability” (1970s) and its Effects
The Meaning of Strategy in Public Management
The Role of Leadership in Strategy and Implementation
The Role of the Board and Strategic Governance in Third Sector Organizations
The Shift to Public Governance
Theories of Human Motivation and Decision Making: Rational Choice
Working in Teams

 

 
Rules vs. Discretion 

This topic explores the appropriate balance in public administration between creating and enforcing rules and leaving room for public employees to exercise judgment. It explores the different methods available to each approach to achieve desired outcomes. This topic examines the dangers of wide discretion and the inefficiencies of narrow discretion. It looks at the conditions under which cooperation is more likely to happen, and it explores innovative accountability mechanisms (Atlas).

Topic Learning Outcome: Upon mastering this topic, students will understand the management challenges associated with the need to create binding rules for public servants while leaving them sufficient room to exercise judgment, discretion and common sense in the performance of their duties.  

Core Concepts associated with this Topic: Binding Rules; Discretion.

Recommended Readings

Morgan, Bronwen and Karen Yeung. 2007. An Introduction to Law and Regulation: Texts and Materials. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pal, Leslie. 2006. Beyond Policy Analysis: Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, 3rd ed. Toronto: Nelson Education, p. 181.

Sample Assessment Questions:

1.)    1. What are some of the dangers associated with a public institution leaving unusually wide discretion for public employees to exercise their own judgment in the performance of their duties? Discuss in a short (1-3 page) paper that includes (real or hypothetical) examples.

2.)   2. Rule sets that tightly govern the actions of public servants and leave them with narrow discretion can create inefficiencies and undesirable outcomes. Please discuss in a short (1-3) page paper some of the inefficiencies or unintended consequences that can result if the room for discretion for public servants is too narrow.  Please include (real or hypothetical) examples in your answer. 

Page created by Sean Goertzen and Ben Eisen, last edited on 19 May 2015.

Important Notices
© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance