Productivity in Public Administration

The issue of productivity management sometimes referred to as performance management is an area of great concern to public mangers. There are several strategies that can be used in public management but the selection and use of the most suitable one depends on the situation and the manager involved. Managers in the public sector are usually confronted with complex problems that require strategy thinking in order to find the most suitable way forward (Milakovich, & Gordon, 2007). These complex issues present a big challenge to the government in trying to find the most appropriate method to use. It is important to choose the strategy that considers long-term goals in its approach to the problem.

The two most commonly used methods in the private and public management are the total quality management (TQM) and continuous quality improvement (CQI), although there are other processes of doing so. Managers can use customer relationship management (CRM) approach but its shortcomings are that its application is limited to particular situations. This paper looks at the suitability of total quality management and continuous quality improvement in public management and more specifically how they were used to solve the complex issue of Hurricane Katrina. The shortcomings of these two methods are also explored to determine their suitability in the work context.

Total quality management is a process of management that has over the years been used to solve very complex problems in the public and private sector with great levels of success. It can achieve greater levels of success if combined with continuous quality improvement to ensure sustainability and reliability in the provision of government service. The application of this method ensures good and reliable results in managing the public sector
The government through public administration officials most of the times find it difficult to manage a complex situation such as the one that was presented by hurricane Katrina due to limitation in strategy. It is quite a challenge identifying and responding to complex problems and the issue becomes more difficult because the public managers are charged with other sectors in which they have to maintain performance at the same time. Strategic thinking comes into effect in such situations. The issue of Hurricane Katrina presented a very complex problem for the government. This problem was very difficult to address successfully without adopting the right strategy. It took time for public managers to find a strategy to respond to the disaster and great mistakes were made along the way, an issue that put to question the capability of public managers to handle emergency cases that are bound to occur resulting from unpredictable natural causes. Practical implications arose for leadership, the capacity for building sustainable policy, building coordination capacity as well as ways of improving the implementation of capacity. The concerned managers ought to have been quick in new thinking of the capacities that were required to set strategic direction. This was due to serious lack of coordination in tackling the complex problem which had overwhelmed the managers.

The government attracted a lot of criticism from the public over the way in which case of hurricane Katrina was handled. The problem mainly touched on lack of preparation and inadequate efforts that were put in managing the disaster as well as its aftermath. Public managers were caught unawares without a strategy for flood protection.
These are some of the situations that demand strategic thinking for managers to put in place the right method for solving the problem (Head, 2010).
By using the strategy of total quality management, the people who were worst hit by the disaster in the low areas along the coast would have been the centre of attention. This is consistent with the process of total quality management which makes sure that the customer is the center of focus. The employees of the government rescue team under their manager would have been guided by this principle to focus on the people who were suffering. The biggest advantage of this method is that the customer is usually the centre of focus. The other advantage of this method is that it ensures that those concerned are in a continuous programme. This should include an improvement in all aspects touching on the organization. TQM operates on the concept that the system should be an integrated one by using strategy and data as well as effective communication.
Most of the shortcomings in public administration like the ones witnessed in the Hurricane Katrina case are due to lack of consideration and coordination. Response to problems of this nature was clearly not in the public administration’s policy and that is why the government was caught unawares; without no strategy to adopt. Quality principles are integrated into the culture as well as activities of the concerned organization or government department in order to ensure quick response to complex problems. The key point in TQM is focus on the customer. In an effort to improve quality, managers are called upon to remember that it is the recipients of the service who can determine levels of quality that the service should meet (Starling, 2007).

It is the customers’ needs that dictate the type and quality of goods and services but not the managers and owners of the organizations as had been standard business practice in the past one decade. These needs are analyzed according to the situation. These customers are the ones who are used in determining the worth of the efforts of managers. The rescue efforts in Katrina were a big failure due to use of the use technologies that were of very low quality (Dollery & Grant, 2010).

Total quality management method was the most ideal to use in the Katrina case because it would have ensured that all the employees were totally involved in the evacuation process. Many workers were fearful in facing the disaster and many others hesitated in providing services to the evacuees. Total employee involvement is a principle that TQM emphasizes and it is very effective in achieving success in complex situations such as the one that the government was faced with in Katrina’s case. The managers were supposed to provide a conducive environment for the workers to participate fully in helping the people. The dismal performance that the government showed was due to laxity in the participation of employees besides other factors (Stillman, 2004).

Thinking is a critical process in solving difficult situations that managers face from time to time. TQM is basically a process centered and the managers are supposed to engage in process thinking as the central focus. Its application in solving the complex problem of Hurricane Katrina would have been very fruitful because the attention of the managers would have been focused on the goal and a solution would have been found with speed to avoid the slow response that was witnessed in the aftermath of the disaster. Public administration needs to adopt an integrated approach to issues to avoid public outcries whenever disasters occur due to services that are not satisfactory. In the execution of their plans, the approach has to be systematic and strategic. The TQM method emphasizes this method in order to ensure that the execution of the plan is done without delay or incident.

Quality is the most essential thing in a strategic plan. It is very unfortunate that the managers who were responsible for saving the people after the disaster did not do enough to provide the desired quality of service in the aftermath of the disaster. Many fatalities were as a result of poor quality provision which is the responsibility of managers. A manager is expected to be able to provide workable solution to any situation no matter how difficult it may be.

Complex problems require that the manager make decisions that are based on facts coupled with good communication to make sure that the information passed to the implementers is well understood. It is very essential pass clear communication to the workers so that they do not find it difficult to implement the model that they are required to. Total quality management is a very comprehensive approach to management as it takes into account all the aspects of management. The down side of this approach is that the workers are sometimes forced to work in extremely dangerous situations which may cost the life of the employee. This may be demoralizing and may lead to some workers quitting jobs leaving a gap that is likely to affect service delivery (Bright, 2010).

Managers can supplement TQM with continuous quality improvement to change tact and achieve the desired results. Using this approach, managers are able to emphasize improvement of quality as well as maintaining it through a process of continuous assessment internal assessment that monitors the performance of every employee to ensure that they are doing their work to the required standards. Most workers in public departments perform dismally because they are not put on a strict performance assessment and therefore they get their pay increased on account of their rank which is dictated mostly by their academic qualification and the number of years that they have spent in the department. This approach is a bit complicated but the managers can use the traditional quality methods while making the organization their main focus. The managers are able to have a constant check on their subordinates and find areas where they need to improve on and also to determine the ones they may need to lay off due to non-performance hence a drain on the government coffers. Most of the state employees who were handling the hurricane Katrina disaster did not perform to the required standards and ended up giving the government a bad name but the situation would have been a lot better if there was a continuous quality improvement in place that would have ensured that they strive to perform better. Good performers get promoted and therefore better pay unlike in non-performance based workplaces where workers get promoted automatically.

Bright, L, (2010). Why Age Matters in the Work Preferences of Public Employees: A Comparison of Three Age-Related Explanations. Public Personnel Management, 39(1), 1-14. Retrieved September 11, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global

Dollery, B, & Grant, B, (2010). Tortoises and Hares: The Race to Shared Services Across Australian State and Territory Jurisdictions. International Journal of Public Administration, 33(1), 43. Retrieved September 11, 2010, from ABI/INFORM

Head, B. J, (2010). How can the public sector resolve complex issues :Strategies for steering, administering and coping. Asia – Pacific Journal of Business Administration, 2(1), 8-16. Retrieved September 11, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global.

Milakovich, M, E & Gordon, G, J, (2007). Public Administration in America. Wadsworth


Starling, G, (2007). Managing the Public Sector. Wadsworth Publishing.

Stillman, R, (2004). Public Administration: Concepts and Cases. Wadsworth Publishing.