knowing what to do

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  • Knowing What to DoAdministrative Argument by Christopher Hood; Michael JacksonReview by: Eugene LewisPublic Administration Review, Vol. 54, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 1994), pp. 86-87Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Society for Public AdministrationStable URL: .Accessed: 15/06/2014 00:36

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  • These not-altogether-radical assessments stem from his on-going application of "bio- graphical action research," the qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with a variety of managers, under the auspices of the Center for Creative Leadership. Based on his find- ings, Kaplan argues that most executives are more concerned with gaining an understand- ing and control of their environment than in nurturing productive relationships in the workplace.

    These he terms "expansive personalities" whose drive to mastery is well matched by the executive positions that they covet. Kaplan provides case studies from his meet- ings with some 42 executives of Fortune 500 companies, their coworkers, and family members. He amply and ably illustrates the presence of expansives in large organizations and the destructive forces they may unleash in the name of leadership and management.

    What is novel here, is his challenge to the common assumption that only superfi- cial, job-related executive behaviors can be modified. Instead, he calls for deep-seated changes of mentality to restore a balance between the personal and the managerial. It is these "character shifts": slow, evolutionary re-examinations that uncover the potential for interpersonal growth languishing beneath an expansive rush to mastery, he argues, that will make the executive happier and more productive both on the job and off.

    Recognizing the problem is but one important step. Kaplan says:

    To change, a manager must object to the domination of one side of the self by the other...Growth goes well beyond aware- ness of previously disavowed elements of self. What is wanted is genuine accep- tance of devalued, denied elements (pp. 179-180, emphasis in original).

    Although this slant on management offers suggestive insight, Kaplan falls short of providing a clear and practical formula for its application. When his prescriptions for change promote introspection, who can argue? However, when they advance some- thing like a vague, universal psycho-analysis, complete with evaluations of early childhood influences upon perceptions of strength and leadership, then one must give pause. At best, they are grossly individual. Beyond the demand that executives are, and need to be, more than just their job titles, it is difficult to see well-intentioned leaders implementing these prescriptions for their staff.

    In addition, by Kaplan's own admission, barely a handful of female or minority execu- tives were in his sample. Admittedly, this reflects the distribution of corporate man- agers in the United States. Nevertheless, minorities and women may be less given to the weaknesses he describes. Indeed, if what has been popularly suggested about male cor- porate competitiveness is true, women and minorities might even provide alternative models for the corporate setting. Perhaps the continuation of Kaplan's research will offer future insights into this matter.

    Notwithstanding these shortcomings, Kaplan has produced a valuable work. The case studies especially, are vivid presentations that allow readers easily to recognize pitfalls as they seek balance between the relational manager and the expansive leader within themselves. For this alone, the volume is worthwhile. Kaplan's style is clear and straightforward and his message compelling, almost evangelical: it's never too late to effect profound and fundamental change.

    Knowing What To Do by Eugene Lewis, University of South Florida

    Christopher Hood and Michael Jackson, Adminis- trativeArgument. (England and United States: Dartmouth Publishing Co. Ltd., 1991) 221 pp.; $49.95 hardcover.

    A ccording to this intelligent and impor- lltant book, Herbert Simon took a wrong turn on the path to truth. Simon might have seen that his famous dispute with Gulick and Urwick (Simon, 1946) had to do with more than the pursuit of a science of administra- tion. Gulick and Urwick published their famous "Papers on the Science of Adminis- tration" in 1937, and Simon and others attacked it for being a collection of proverbs rather than the scientific truths long sought by reorganizers, engineers, and professors in the softer social sciences.

    The wrong turn that Hood and Jackson identify is not in Simon's critique of POSD- CORB as mere proverbs. They agree with this part of the Nobel laureate's argument but pro- foundly disagree with his launching a program in search of a true science of administration. Hood and Jackson claim that Simon argued that the only appropriate basis for administra- tive argument should be grounded theory: Design should be linked to performance on the basis of systematic, scientific experiments.

    Hood and Jackson point out that this research agenda was in the glow of post- World War II positivism that dominated so much of social science. They go on to note how very little scientific knowledge has resulted from their 40-year pursuit and how proverb production seems to continue as though Simon had never written. They note the return of nonpositivist methodologies in the social sciences generally and are particu- larly interested in work which focuses on the construction of social reality through the analysis of linguistic conventions.

    Linguistic analysis becomes the new path for a discipline that Hood and Jackson think lost its way. Simon's critique of rhetoric should, they think have continued, for public administration is a matter of argument- argument as to which doctrines, justifica- tions, and philosophies match received doc- trine and hence are accepted.

    The aim of this book is to rethink public administration by reviving aspects of the clas- sical discipline of rhetorical analysis. To this end, the authors systematically categorize 99 "Whos, Hows and Whats" of administrative doctrine gleaned from textbooks, reform doc- uments, and historical materials and follow this up with careful analysis of three reform documents from the United Kingdom (The Northcoate-Trevelyn Report of 1845), the United States (President's Committee on Administrative Management, 1937), and the two Wilenski reports from Australia (1977, 1982). Not surprisingly, they find interesting similarities which suggest that the structure of the argument, not concrete factual realism, proved most persuasive. Indeed, the hypoth- esis of Hood and Jackson is that the lack of persuasiveness in mainstream public adminis- tration may be a consequence of its deter- mined search for facts and truthfulness.

    The richness and complexity of Adminis- trative Argument cannot be adequately sum- marized in this brief review, but it probably will not do this wonderful volume a terrible disservice to briefly summarize it by way of the conclusion. Doctrines, as the authors use the term, are ideas about what to do that lie somewhere between theory and policy. Although they are many in number and con- tradictory, doctrines are not infinite. Indeed the commonest recur and can be collected and catalogued. Doctrines do not rise and fall as a consequence of rigorous proof but rather through other social processes. Hood and Jackson argue that doctrines should be catalogued and mapped as basic units of anal-

    86 Public Administuon Review # January/February 1994, Vol. 54, No. I

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  • ysis for administrative science. They conclude that instead of exclusive concentration on the relationship of design to performance, atten- tion should also be paid to the link between argument and acceptance. They argue that this link is accessible to analysis.

    A more interesting, humorous, and important book in public administration has not been written in years. This expensive lit- tle book belongs on the shelves of all libraries with collections on administration and man- agement and in the hands of interested prac- titioners and academics as well.

    Reference Simon, Herbert, 1946. "The Proverbs of Administra-

    tion." Public Administation Review, vol. 6 (Win- ter), pp. 53-67.

    Envisioning Leadership by William A. Giles, Mississippi State University

    Burt Nanus, Visionary Leadership: Creating a Compelling Sense ofDirection for Your Organiza- tion. (San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers, 1992), 236 pp.; $24.95 hardcover.



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