Ever since Max Weber and Frederick Taylor, public organizations have been told that effective practice lies in maximizing rationality through science. Yet science-based management reforms have had only marginal impact on performance. People in entry-level positions posses knowledge from direct experience of the work, management knowledge is often science-based and distanced from the work, and appointed top executives struggle to join bureaucratic rationality with political exigencies. From Pyramid to Circle: Knowledge and Power in Public Bureaucracies offers fresh thinking about public organizations, arguing that conflicting forms of knowledge may be found within the bureaucratic pyramid.
Answering the question of why management reforms over the past century have failed on their own terms, this book examines the existence of conflicting forms of knowledge within public bureaucracies, how these contradictory perspectives interact (or fail to interact), and the ways in which these systems preserve managerial efforts to control workers. Authors Carnevale and Stivers argue that bureaucratic rationality is not the “one best way,” as Taylor promised, and indeed, there is no one best way or model that can be deployed in all situations. The bureaucratic pyramid can, however, be made more effective by paying attention to circular processes that are widespread within the hierarchy, the authors argue, describing such circular processes as “facework.” This book will serve as an ideal supplement to introductory public administration and organizational theory courses, as well as courses for mid-career professionals, helping to frame their work experiences.
Preface Part I: Pyramids 1. The Failure of Management Reforms: A History 2. Knowing in the Public Organization: The Pyramid of Knowledges 3. What Workers Know—And How 4. The Manager’s Hat 5. Executives at the Top: A Balancing Act Part II: An Illustration 6. The VA Case: Democratic Ideals and Bureaucratic Means Part III: Circles 7. From Pyramid to Circle: The Power of Facework 8. The Logic of Reasonableness: Experience, Judgment and Dialogue in Administrative Practice 9. The Dialogic Circle, Conflict Resolution and Collective Bargaining 10. Circles of Trust in Public Pyramids 11. Authentic Ethics in the Bureaucracy 12. Competing Knowledges and Public Service Education Reference List