The New Public Service: Critical Analysis
Denhardt and Denhardt authored a book entitled “the New Public Service: Serving, not Steering” which was reprinted in 2007. This book explores a new concept for governing citizens and is principally aimed at such organizations. The concepts involved with the “New Public Service” embody certain core elements. The authors present, explain, and clarify that “public servants do not deliver customer service; they deliver democracy” (2007) through the deeds performed utilizing those concepts. The authors explain how, in theory, the principles of the New Public Service are more beneficial to the public; the citizens. By comparing and contrasting the Old Public Service’s foundational values with the New Public Service’s foundational values, the authors explain how these principles are put into practice.
Denhardt and Denhardt reveal two themes within the Old Public Service model. The first theme is the relationship between politics and public administration. Denhardt and Denhardt (2007) cite ideas from Luther Glick and Paul Appleby that deduce that the Old Public Service opposed the separation of politics and public administration due to the high importance placed on accountability. Political figures in a public role have greater visibility from the public which may make it easier for the public to hold him or her responsible in their chosen or elected role. The second theme is the creation of strategies employed by the administrative management of agencies and departments. The strategies focus on the “one best way approach” or “scientific management approach” which the authors credit to Frederick Taylor literature of 1923. Those strategies are “categorized by command, hierarchal authority, and strict division of labor.” The strategies of the Old Public Service are aimed at achieving the greatest level of efficiency within an agency or department.
The New Public Service offers an alternative approach for agencies and departments to operate from. Based off of the idea to “run government like business and public entrepreneurs,” which, according to the book, was introduced by David Osborne and Ted Gabler in 1992, there are ten principles which can aid in that accomplishment. Denhardt and Denhardt (2007) describe these ten principles. The first principle is to form a catalytic government whose primary objective is to steer, or facilitate, activities to assist the public and its interests. Another principle is to have a community-owned government that empowers rather than serves. Third, a competitive government is championed since this assist with delivering services to the public while keeping costs manageable without making cost-effectiveness be the primary focus. Fourth, the idea of a mission-driven government is desirable in order to transform rule-driven organizations and make them more effective as community organizers. Fifth, developing a results-driven government is needed to focus on channeling funds to meet outcomes, not inputs. Customer-driven governments will allow the needs of the public; the citizens, to be met and not that of the bureaucracy. The construction of an enterprising government will possess the aspiration to earn rather than spend. The anticipatory government will possess the goal to prevent rather than cure. A decentralized government will shy away from a hierarchal government to one that endorses participation and team work. Lastly, a market-oriented government will leverage change through the market.
Using the ten principles as a “theoretical background,” Denhardt and Denhardt (2007) propose seven tenets to deliver the objective of “running government like a business.” The authors propose that the seven tenets be applied to the roles that comprise public administration. Public administrators should service citizens, not customer by “focusing on building relationships of trust and collaboration among citizens.” The should seek the public interests by identifying what those interests are and strategize, with collaboration from the affected population, the most appropriate approach to achieve a particular outcome. They should value citizenship over entrepreneurship. By valuing citizenship over entrepreneurship, citizen involvement becomes a huge focus and the role of the administrator adjusts to a more facilitative need. They should think strategically and act democratically by assisting citizens to resolve their own community issues by engaging them in the policy-making and implementation process. They should recognize that accountability is not simple. The community should be involved in the discussion on what agencies and departments are responsible for and how accountability should be realized and maintained. They should serve rather than steer and value people, not just productivity. By facilitating discussions, community forums, and strategizing policy and implementation, public administrators may be able to achieve a truly democratic and self-governing community.
The role of the public sector manager will be altered, substantially in some cases, if the Denhardts’ theory becomes accepted and executed. The public administrator will find their primary job duty is to listen to citizens’ concerns and teach them how to comprise policy to address those concerns. Administrators may take on a primary communicator and educator role since he or she will have to conduct needs-based assessments regarding the concerns of the community. By translating unstated grievances into action items, administrators can assist community members and leaders with strategizing, drafting, and implementing policy. Instead of leaning on the government to fix their problems, citizens will be taught their responsibilities to their community and country. By engaging them in the process, accountable citizens can be developed and trained to identify their community needs and address them. The concepts introduced in the “New Public Service” are completely feasible and many government agencies and departments have already instituted some of the concepts. The authors describe several examples of this and there will, hopefully, be more to come as more people see the value in fulfilling their responsibility as citizens.