Adaptive Administration: Practice Strategies for Dealing with Constant Change in Public Administration and Policy, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Adaptive Administration

Practice Strategies for Dealing with Constant Change in Public Administration and Policy, 1st Edition

By Ferd H. Mitchell, Cheryl C. Mitchell


232 pages

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pub: 2015-11-05
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Adaptive Administration: Practice Strategies for Dealing with Constant Change in Public Administration and Policy interprets the critical issues facing the field of public administration today and describes how new approaches to theory and practice have the potential to redesign the field. It will provide you with new strategies for understanding and adapting to the constant change taking place today in public administration and policy.


  • Supports faculty in presenting in their classes new approaches to the field
  • Helps students better understand the concepts and relevance of the field they are studying
  • Provides a means for practitioners to apply more effective approaches to real-world problem solving
  • Enables theory developers to explore new avenues of study
  • Assists professionals from many different fields in better understanding the significance and value of public administration

This book develops a unified approach to theory and practice in the field. A new approach is taken to theory development based on applying recent studies by several authors in the areas of qualitative analysis and typologies. As illustrated throughout, many of the existing limited-scope theories in public administration may be extended and generalized for use in today’s environment by the studies explored in this volume.

More applications of the strategies in this book may be found in the free Snapshot "Designing Public Programs That Work" at

Table of Contents

Section I: Introduction and Background

Issues in Public Administration and Policy Today


Theory and Practice in Public Administration and Policy

Changes in Public Administration

Administrative-Practice Theory

Theory Generators

Adaptive Administration

Potential Uses of Big Data

Frustration and Stress in Public Administration Today

Practice Dilemmas Being Faced by Public Administration and Policy

Knowledge Base for Adaptive Administration: Selected Topics and Strategies


Knowledge Base: Selected Topics and Strategies

Organizational Concepts

Organizational Performance

Role of Experience

Cooperation and Conflict

Rigidity and Flexibility: Responding to Change

Rigidity and Flexibility: Combined Approaches

Planning Strategies

Personnel Strategies

Financial Strategies

Leadership Strategies for Public Organizations

Knowledge Base for Adaptive Administration: Selected Risks, Constraints, and Challenges


Knowledge Base: Selected Risks, Constraints, and Challenges

Public-Sector Risk Analysis

Constraints: Operational Tradeoffs

Constraints: Limits to Quantitative Analysis

Constraints: Physical Working Arrangements

Challenges: Uses of Big Data

Challenges: Productive Uses of Technology

Challenges: Uses of Theory Generators

Challenges: Alienation and Change

Challenges: Legal Issues

Challenges: Ethical Issues

Section II: Resources for a Transition to Adaptive Administration

Organizational Methods as a Resource


Organizational Concepts: Introduction

Defining an Organization

Reactions to Outside Actions

Concepts Based on Physical Descriptors

Concepts Based on Individual Descriptors

Defining "Types" of Organizations

Contrasting Viewpoints of Organizations

Organizational Study of the Affordable Care Act

Protocol for Similar Theory Generators

Big Data Methods as a Resource


Need for an Adaptive Knowledge Base for Public Administration

Application of Big Data Concepts

Big Data in the Private Sector

Big Data in Politics

Application of Big Data Concepts to Public Administration

Theory Generators and Qualitative Modeling

Qualitative Analysis and Typological Theory

Big Data and Theory Generators in Public Administration

Section III: Potential Impact of Adaptive Administration on Public-Sector Organizations

Impact on Organizational Cooperation and Conflict


How Administrators Experience Cooperation and Conflict

Fictional Scenario: Cooperation Leading to Conflict

Fictional Scenario: Descriptive Paragraphs

Fictional Scenario: Action–Reaction Combinations

Fictional Scenario: Development of a Strategy

Cooperation and Conflict: General Treatment Approaches

Interagency Cooperation and Adaptive Administration

Impact on Organizational Leadership


Leadership in Public Administration: Introduction

Leadership Concepts

Office of Personnel Management Center for Leadership Development

Concepts for Adaptive Leadership

Impact on Organizational Performance


Improving Organizational Performance

Perspectives on Performance

Performance Demands, Stress, and Job Survival

Balanced Scorecard Approach to Performance Management

Adaptive Administration Approach to Performance Management

Impact on Organizational Rigidity


Rigidity and Flexibility in Organizations

Basic Features of Rigidity and Flexibility

Example: Organizations Based on Extreme Rigidity

Example: Intervention

Impact on Organizational Planning and Budgeting


Adaptive Planning Strategies

Widespread Change Impacts All Planning Efforts

Adaptive Administration and Flexible Planning

Standard Federal and State Strategic Planning

Section IV: Issues Involved in a Transition to Adaptive Administration

Issues Related to Acceptance of Adaptive Administration


Adaptive Administration as a Change Strategy for Public Administration

Acceptance and Rejection of Change

Possible Change Strategies Involving Adaptive Administration

Dealing with Acceptance and Rejection

Issues Related to Risk


Public-Sector Risk Analysis

Types of Risk Analysis

A Risk Analysis Procedure for Public Organizations

Risk Management and Adaptive Administration

Methods for Dealing with Risk and Risk Management

Issues Relating to Theory Generators


Use of Theory Generators in Public Administration

Action–Reaction Theory Generators

Theory Generator Example: The Affordable Care Act

Affordable Care Act Example: Impact of Exchange Statute on Providers

Affordable Care Act Example: Impact of Mandate on Large Employers

Affordable Care Act Example: Impact of Exchange Statute on Federal Agencies

Theory Generator Example: County Government

Theory Generator Example: Combined Medical School–Teaching Hospital Study

Other Approaches to Theory Generators

Theory Generators Based on Needs: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Theory Generators Based on Conditioned Responses: Skinner’s Operant Conditioning

Theory Generators Based on Task Performance: Taylor’s Time-and-Motion Studies

Transition Strategies


Adaptive Administration During a Transition Period

Organizational Measures for Transition Use

Toward the Future



About the Authors

Ferd Mitchell holds MPA and DPA degrees from the University of Southern California, while Cheryl Mitchell holds an MPA from Golden Gate University. Ferd and Cheryl are both attorneys, and they practice together as married partners at Mitchell Law Office in Spokane, WA. They are also established authors of legal practice books for attorneys, with an emphasis on interpreting how new programs and program changes are likely to affect practice strategies.

For many years, they have been developing procedures to evaluate how changes in the public sector affect organizations and often lead to actual program outcomes that differ from intended outcomes. As part of this effort, they have explored how qualitative methods of analysis can best be applied to enhance the understanding of such changes. They also have applied these insights to studies of the issues that exist today in public administration and policy, and how changes in the field may best be achieved.

Ferd Mitchell has relevant experience in research, teaching, consulting, and performance of multidisciplinary studies for governmental agencies. He also supervised implementation of an innovative Medicaid program in North Carolina for a private company under contract to the state. He has served as Academic Administrator and Director of the Master of Health Services degree program in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Davis. While on leave for one year, he worked as Director of Research for the California Health Facilities Commission.

Cheryl Mitchell has been exploring the relationships between public organizations and the individuals who are served by these organizations. Particular emphasis has been placed on the ways in which administrative problems develop in organizations, and how such problems may be addressed. She has been active in working with various public groups to address policy concerns.

About the Series

ASPA Series in Public Administration and Public Policy

Founded in 1939, the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) is the premier professional organization for public administration, dedicated to advancing its art, science, teaching and practice. The ASPA book series provides expert information on a range of public administration issues, each authored by a leader in the field. Series Editor David Rosenbloom is Distinguished Professor of Public Administration in the School of Public Affairs at American University, USA.

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