Cohen and Osborne’s Ideas on Public Administration

Cohen and Osborne’s Ideas on Public Administration














Cohen and Osborne’s Ideas on Public Administration


Public administration refers to the execution of government guidelines, and the academic field that studies this execution and trains civil servants to be effective workers in the public service. Public administration is a sector having an assorted scope and a basic goal to progress management and guiding principles to ensure that the government can operate. Public administration is mainly concerned with the development of state policies and agendas as well as the conduct of elected and non-elected officials. Many civilian public servants can be categorized as public administrators and comprise of mayors, regional and federal departments, (H.R.) administrators, city managers, cabinet secretaries, state health directors, and census managers. The early philosophers that developed some of the founding principles, theories and material that is used currently include Woodrow Wilson and Max Weber. Decision-making is one of the major elements of public administration that has been studied by different scholars with varying results.

Difference between Public and Private Organizations

In the analysis of the complex decision-making within the private and public sectors, it is imperative to point out the difference between these two sectors, as they will greatly influence the conclusion. Several schemes have been used to separate private and public organizations but most of them use the transactional and environmental factors to distinguish between the two. A major difference is that public organizations are barred from haggling for customers. For them, marketing adds little or no value at all to their services (Lægreid & Verhoest, 2010; p .164). Instead, the public sector encourages collaboration among different departments. Consequently, strategic decision makers in the public sector endeavor to improve teamwork and cooperation by providing many of the main actors a chance to propose alternatives. This state of affairs is quite dissimilar in a private sector organization. Private sector organizations limit the dispersal of information and face fewer requests to reveal or cooperate with each other as they reveal options. Another major difference lies in the collection and storage of management and administration data. In public organizations, data on performance is regularly absent and difficult to gather. Public organizations are restricted from using funds allocated for service delivery to collect information on organizational trends.

The peripheral surrounding of a public organization is besieged with political concerns. The observations of opinion leaders, utter exploitation by legislators and lobby groups, and resistance to an agency’s privileges are more vital than economic matters, which take center stage in private organizations. Differences and reciprocity can happen at whatever time and, within restrictions, are acceptable elements in public decisions. Negotiation is necessary to find the acceptable platforms of action. How elements are perceived and comprehended by stakeholders holds more significance than the precision of claims (Lægreid & Verhoest, 2010; p .34).

The denotation made by a claim is derived from perceptions as well as facts. If financial reasoning, such as effectiveness, is used, it must be headed by a choice to handle efficiency inquiries, which frequently has political connotations. The prospect of manipulation makes public organizations to create barriers in the form of advisory groups, coalitions, and interdepartmental coordinating groups to assist in the negotiations. Private organizations do not require these buffers (Mishrach, 2008; p .103). Thus, in public organizations, decision makers require longer periods to forge ways of balancing users’ requests with the stipulations of those more urgent clients, such as oversight bodies. From the above description, it is evident that decision-making processes in public and private sectors vary significantly. These differences collectively contribute towards influencing the effectiveness and speed of making decisions.

Osborne and Gaebler on Public and Private Decision Making

One of the major tenets of capitalist governments is the free dispersal of information from the sectors. In their publication, Gaebler and Osborne talk about the numerous benefits of devolving the conventional organizational hierarchy. Centralized decision-making has greatly limited the capacity of organizations to counter a variety of problems (Osborne and Gaebler, 1993; p. 44). Most centralized system have a common trait in that the knowledge is hoarded at the higher ranks in an organization where people making all the decisions are detached from the actuality of the grassroots. Decentralized organizations and systems aspire to give power to those people who are in strategic positions to come up with successful and inventive resolutions to issues (Lægreid & Verhoest, 2010; p .152). Usually, these people occupy the lowest ranks in the organizational hierarchy (Osborne and Gaebler, 1993; p. 27).

The two argue that currently, public institutions are oriented towards managing crises that occur in the public sector. The fire department, for instance, utilizes considerably more time extinguishing fires than they do developing measures to prevent them. Gradually, public institutions have realized the advantage of pre-emptive solutions instead of reactive resolutions to the problems in the public. By building and implementing government policies, installing proper infrastructure, and working closely with the private sector on development plans and production, the public sector can start realizing higher efficiency in provision of public goods and services. Transforming the mindset and approaches from suppressing the problems in decision -making to preventing problems that arise due to making wrong public and private decisions can be realized in various ways.

According to Osborne and Gaebler, administrators in public organizations encounter restraints that occur from restrictions inflicted by their outside environment, from transitional demands, and from necessary features of their governmental processes that affect how they constructed strategic decisions (Osborne and Gaebler, 1993; p. 61). Decision makers in the public sector search for and bring together the opinions from oversight bodies to make strategic decisions. Cooperation with oversight bodies often results in proposals that become preferred alternatives. Public sector administrators are expected to adopt these proposals, which can misrepresent and restrict their investigations. Additionally, decision makers in the public sector often lack the data to dissuade proposals they deem to be unacceptable (Mishrach, 2008; p .198). The influence of the officials in oversight bodies, combined with the limited access to information, restrict the little options that can be considered. The restricted independence among decision makers in the public sector and the influence of political figures that can be organized by stakeholders make it complicated to assess proposals forced on them. Evaluating the options when they are revealed is commonly considered a bad practice because untimely assessments suppress innovation and restrict the scope of proposals considered.

In conclusion, Osborne and Gaebler discussed the issue of an impending radical transformation of the public sector in a manner similar to the one in Russia. The two authors compared the Soviet version to the American case that was being motivated mainly by bureaucrats and politicians who were motivated by financial incentives to initiate market forces into government corporations. In their publication, they incorporated several similar examples of these initiatives into a new model of how government should operate. The book was divided into ten chapters and each chapter stipulated how a proper government should run (Osborne and Gaebler, 1993; p. 238).

Cohen and Eimicke on Public and Private Decision Making

The two authors, Eimicke and Cohen developed several concepts that were deemed important in the efforts to mitigate poor decision making in public and private organizations. While most private organizations wee significantly efficient and operational, the same could not be said for public organizations (Cohen & Eimicke, 2003; p .65). However, the issue of decision making cut across the board and demanded a multi-faceted approach when handling the pertinent issues. Cohen and Eimicke discussed several pertinent elements of public administration in their book including strategic planning, public administration and to a lesser extent, human resource management. Concerning the administration and role of strategic planning in public organizations, Cohen and Eimicke made several observations and concluded with many more recommendations (Bekkers et al, 2011). Their definition of strategic planning focused on the activities that were used to realize certain organizational objectives. In their book, the different limitation of strategic planning that is environmental, social and political variables were pointed out as having the largest impact on strategic planning. The book also describes the basic steps in implementing a strategic planning exercise. A unique topic that was in this publication was the aspect of reengineering (Lægreid & Verhoest, 2010; p .45).


Restructuring or reinvention does not propose that government be operated like a company. In fact, when comparing private and public organizations, Osborne and Gaebler argued that the differences between the two would interfere with any government that would be oriented towards making profits. (Osborne and Gaebler, 1993; p. 23) However, they proposed that the government should increase on their entrepreneurial efforts. Entrepreneurial systems intend to relocate resources from places where they were unproductive to areas where their returns are high. Their proposal therefore proposed that where there are measures and knowledge accessible, or a method of availing such information, decision-makers within the government should set standards for different government activity against each other (Kaul & Conceição, 2006).

Comparison and Contrasting

The two publications written by different authors showed a high level of similarity in the concepts, arguments and examples used to illustrate the real-life situations. However, there were also several differences in the structure and content among these authors of public administration. The comparison between these two publications on public and private decision-making will address these structural and conceptual differences before reconciling them to the main topic. In summary, Cohen, Eimicke and Osborne concentrated on analyzing the factors, procedures and solutions that applied to decision-making in private and public organizations (Cohen & Eimicke, 2003; p .12). The publication of Gaebler and Osborne’s Reinventing Government extremely influenced the study and application of public management on a global scale and predominantly in the United States. While both Osborne and Gaebler shared the common perception that the state was deteriorating, their recommendation differed slightly from Ronald Reagan’s conventional approach. Gaebler and Osborne argued that public systems were the issue and restructuring these systems would solve the inefficiency in the government (Biswasroy & Patro, 2006).

Content Similarities and Differences

Both publications discussed the importance of decision making in private and public organizations. Osborne discussed the hierarchy system within organizations and how the top-down system contributed towards decision making in the organization. In his discussions, Osborne included many examples of real-life situations where making decision was the main problem in the organization (Marobelan, 2008). Consequently, Cohen and Eimicke also discussed the significance of decision makers in organizations. The two authors concentrated on the perpetual problems that arose because of the inefficient manner in which decisions were made.

Both books also discussed the issue of restructuring the government in line with modern principles, recent studies and changes that have taken place in the public sector. Cohen, Eimicke and Osborne reached a common agreement concerning the condition of most governments and the need to restructure these systems to make them more effective and profitable (Marobelan, 2008). Both books also mentioned the massive influence of politicians and bureaucrats who were inspired by monetary gains to shape government corporations. Despite the source of change, it was a common notion among the authors of both books that the government’s roles in most areas had changed and it was necessary for the public sector to transform its approaches (Josefsson, 2006). In addition, it is important to note that Cohen and Eimicke stressed on the idea of strategic planning as being a central part of the public sector (Cohen & Eimicke, 2003; p .93).

In their book, both authors referred constantly to the role that strategic planning played in all the government activities. While elaborating other aspects of public management, the book largely focused on strategic planning. The Effective Public Manager also concentrated o n assessing public management form the manager’s perspective rather than from an objective perspective. This had its flaws that reflected on the nature of the content that appeared shallow and lacked detail. Conversely, Reinventing Government by David Osborne focused on developing a discourse on the different areas that the current governments had failed while simultaneously providing solutions to each of these failures. In this way, David Osborne successfully managed to capture the essence of public sector management while Cohen and Eimicke partially succeeded to achieve the same. David Osborne argued that organizations regularly formulated strategic plans that prescribed the direction to be taken by the organization but failed to develop a budget that would support this agenda (Burns & Zhiren, 2010).

According to David, strategic planning involved reviewing an organization’s approaches. If appropriately done, it can bring about massive transformations in approach and efficiency. However, conventional budgeting methods are usually incremental; they fund earlier programs that were set out the previous year. Owing to the difficulty in introducing new approaches into public budgets, especially when the economy is in a slump, most of the aspects in the strategic plans are seldom implemented. When strategies are financed, too often no evaluation is done to assess if they are productive. For this reason, the organization finds that it cannot implement the strategies that it has already funded for the period until they can have another forum to review the previous planning. Osborne argues that solving these problems is relatively easy. He proposed that public organizations should connect the budgeting process to the strategic planning and then develop a system through which they can assess the strategic planning.

Structural Similarities and Differences

Both publications used a similar approach in assessing the subject matter and making conclusions. Osborne structured his book in a way that highlighted the state of public administration, followed by a description and analysis of the decision-making elements in these organizations and lastly, conclusions on the investigations and observations made throughout the book. This structure was mimicked by Cohen and Eimicke who both clarified the basic and complex nature of public management including working relationships, innovation and budgetary processes in organizations (Cohen & Eimicke, 2003; p .23). After each chapter, the two authors engaged in a lengthy analysis and made relevant conclusions on the best way to handle public management.

Despite these similarities, there were several differences in the structure of the two books. Osborne’s publication concentrated mainly on seeking out the issues and providing workable solutions to them while Cohen and Eimicke’s publication focused more on discussing the pertinent aspects of public management such as employee relations, work ethics and contracting (Cohen & Eimicke, 2003). Osborn and Gaebler (1997) took a systematic approach that proposed ten principles that would be useful in ‘reinventing’ the government. The two authors had the vision or creating a results-oriented system and even prescribed the steps to be taken in order to realize such a government. On the other hand, Cohen and Eimicke simply outlined the different issues that affected the most common aspects of government. Therefore, while Osborne’s book was focused, precise and analytical, Cohen and Eimicke’s version lacked depth and analysis.

One of the evident differences lays in the content that these two books were based on. While Cohen and Eimicke focused on the importance of ethics in public entrepreneurship, Osborne concentrated on the flattening of the government bureaucracy to reduce waste, inefficiency and corruption. Cohen and Eimicke made a good case concerning the role that public ethics played in influencing decision making among individuals in positions of power within the government and in private organizations (Cohen & Eimicke, 2003; p .45). Cohen analyzed the poor performance of public organizations after being challenged with the environment of superior results from the private sector as well as high consumption vis-à-vis low production in the government. It is imperative to note that in matters dealing with public administration, several different factors and conditions warrant an in-depth analysis of the kind developed by Osborne. This is because most of the actors and events that exist in such public environments are complicated in nature. It is only through thorough analysis and elucidation that the proper methods of making decisions and planning can be discovered in the private and public sector.


To summarize the thoughts and arguments of David Osborne in his book Reinventing government: How the entrepreneurial spirit is transforming the public sector, one could perceive his strategic management system as a three-pronged chair. Strategic plan assist organizations in comprehending the direction they need to take and the approaches required reaching that stage; a planned budgeting system provides the financial backing for the strategies and goals. Lastly, the performance management scheme evaluates the progress, assists the management and administration team in understanding what modifications in the course of the procedure, and ascertains that the modifications are made. All of these are important activities. However, if one of the aspects is missing or poorly implemented, the whole systems ceases to be sustainable.












Bekkers, V. J. J. M., Edelenbos, J., & Steijn, A. J. (2011). Innovation in the public sector: Linking capacity and leadership. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Biswasroy, P. K., & Patro, U. S. P. (2006). Corporate restructuring in public sector enterprises. New Delhi: Sonali Publications.

Burns, J. P., & Zhiren, Z. (2010). Performance Management in the Government of the People’s Republic of China: Accountability and Control in the Implementation of Public Policy. OECD Journal on Budgeting, 10, 2, 1-28.

Cohen, S., & Eimicke, W. (2003). The Effective Public Manager: Achieving Success in a Changing Government. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Josefsson, M. (2006). The public sector recapitalizing program in Turkey. Bank Restructuring and Resolution, 369.

Kaul, I., & Conceição, P. (2006). The new public finance: Responding to global challenges. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lægreid, P., & Verhoest, K. (2010). Governance of public sector organizations: Proliferation, autonomy and performance. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Marobela, M. (2008). New public management and the corporatisation of the public sector in peripheral capitalist countries. International Journal of Social Economics, 35, 6, 423-434.

Osborne, D., & Gaebler, T. (1997). Reinventing government: How the entrepreneurial spirit is transforming the public sector. Reading, Mass. [u.a.: Addison-Wesley.

R.K. Mishrach. Lakshmi Kumarij. Kiranmai. (2008). Reforming Public Enterprises. Kalpaz Publications.

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