Public management and performance: a theory of context

Laurence J. O'Toole, Kenneth J. Meier

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic

    18 Citations (Scopus)
    276 Downloads (Pure)


    Recent years have seen a substantial growth in the large-N quantitative study of public management and performance. Much of the progress can be attributed to a small number of data sets on local governments in England, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United States. The range of data sets suggests the validity of the overall hypothesis of management affecting performance, but the precise findings also vary across these and other contexts. These numerous and sometimes conflicting findings suggest that additional gains might be made through developing a theory of context and how context affects the management-performance linkage. This paper seeks to provide such a theory by incorporating such contextual variables as political context (unitary versus shared powers, single- or multiple-level, corporatist versus adversarial, with or without a formal performance appraisal system), environmental context (extent of complexity, turbulence, and also munificence; presence versus absence of social capital; extent of development), and internal context (extent of goal clarity and consistency, organizational centralization versus decentralization, and degree of professionalism). The theory presents context as a set of variables that condition the impact of management in an interactive model. The theory seeks to unify the existing findings and present a series of hypotheses for further empirical testing.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages36
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2013
    Event12th Public Management Research Conference, PMRC 2013 - Madison, United States
    Duration: 20 Jun 201322 Jun 2013
    Conference number: 12


    Conference12th Public Management Research Conference, PMRC 2013
    Abbreviated titlePMRC
    Country/TerritoryUnited States


    • METIS-297193
    • IR-86924


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