Theories of Performance: Organizational and Service Improvement in the Public Domain

  • 5h 20m
  • Colin Talbot
  • Oxford University Press (US)
  • 2010

How well do governments do in converting the resources they take from us, like taxes, into services that improve the well-being of individuals, groups, and society as a whole? In other words: how well do they perform?

This question has become increasingly prominent in public debates over the past couple of decades, especially in the developed world but also in developing countries. As the state has grown during the second half of the 20th century, so pressures to justify its role in producing public services have also increased. Governments across the world have implemented all sorts of policies aimed at improving performance.

But how much do we know about what actually improves performance of public organisations and services? On what theories, explicit or more often implicit, are these policies based? The answer is: too much and too little. There are dozens of theories, models, assumptions, and prescriptions about 'what works' in improving performance. But there's been very little attempt to 'join up' theories about performance and make some sense of the evidence we have within a coherent theoretical framework.

This ground-breaking book sets out to begin to fill this gap by creatively synthesising the various fragments and insights about performance into a framework for systematically exploring and understanding how public sector performance is shaped. It focuses on three key aspects: the external 'performance regime' that drives performance of public agencies; the multiple dimensions that drive performance from within; and the competing public values that frame both of these and shape what public expects from public services.

About the Author

Colin Talbot is a recognised international expert on performance in the public sector who has worked with governments, public agencies across many countries including Canada, France, and Japan. He has recently been involved in two Prime Minister's seminars in the UK. He's been a specialist adviser to two select committees in Westminster (Treasury and Public Administration) and, uniquely, given expert evidence to committees of all four parliaments in the UK. He has advised the National Audit Office on all their major performance studies over the past decade.

He is currently professor of public policy and management at Manchester Business School, where he founded the Herbert Simon Institute for public policy and management. He has authored or edited five previous books, numerous academic articles and is a regular media commentator including for the Financial Times, Guardian, and BBC. He's also the author of the influential Whitehall Watch blog

In this Book

  • Introduction – Why the Issue of Performance will Not Go Away
  • Problematics of Performance
  • Theories and Performance
  • Performance Regimes: Institutions
  • Performance Regimes: Interventions
  • Performance and Public Value(s)
  • Theories of Organizational Performance
  • Theories of Performance of Public Organizations
  • Performance Responses
  • Shaping Public Performance