School of Business

For the People: Can We Fix Public Service?

 By: John D. Donahue

Visions of Governance in the 21st Century, 2003 - Political Science - 282 pages

The stakes have seldom been higher for public service. In the United States and elsewhere, security concerns—after years of quiescence—are surging to the foreground. New or neglected economic and social problems demand fresh thinking and deft action. Technology-driven improvements in the business sector raise citizens' expectations for government performance. Yet government's capacity to deliver falls far short of the challenges facing public service. Young stars increasingly shun government careers, not just in the United States but even in nations with deep traditions of elite public service. Organizations at every level of government have trouble attracting and retaining top talent. Personnel reforms often stall, or fall far short of expectations.In this new book a team of Harvard scholars—from a spectrum of intellectual perspectives—examine what's broken about public service and the prospects for fixing it. The book's three sections probe the defects of the public-service status quo, craft criteria that define success in reshaping public service, and assess specific prescriptions for reform. Chapter topics include the evolving definition of public leadership, the misunderstood facts of comparative pay in business and government, the special public-service challenges of developing countries, the prevalence of “in-and-outers” in top Federal posts, the history (and possible futures) of education for public service, and “moral competence” as a key component of the public servant's skill set. An overview by the editors situates public service at the heart of twenty first century governance challenges, and ventures the cautious conclusion that “we are witnessing not the end of public service, but its evolution.” All contributors are from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, except where noted, and include Joseph S. Nye Jr., John D. Donahue, David Gergen, Barbara Kellerman, George J. Borjas, Pippa Norris, Merilee S. Grindle, Linda J. Bilmes, Jeffrey R. Neal (Defense Logistics Agency), Elaine Ciulla Kamarck, Stephen Goldsmith, Kenneth Winston, Robert D. Behn, Alex Keyssar, Ernest R. May, Iris Bohnet, Susan C. Eaton, and Derek Bok.

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