Is Nothing Ever Simple?
By Mark H. Moore
Harvard University Press, $59.95, 310 pages
Mark H. Moore has continued his examination of public value that he began in two previous books: Creating Public Value in 1997 and Public Value Theory and Practice with Prof. John Benington in 2010. I imagine that he/they are discovering incremental advances in the field of public value with each succeeding book.
This book is meant for middle and upper managers in the public sector. It explores how private management techniques might be used in the public sector and their limitations due to the different focus of public activities. Private companies make widgets. They manage for efficiency in widget making and gauge their success by how much profit they make. Of course, it’s not that simple, but in comparison with some public agencies, it seems like it.
Mr. Moore uses seven different examples of public endeavor from William Bratton, commissioner of the New York Police Department and His Compstat program of police management to Dianna Gale and Her challenging overhaul of Seattle’s’ solid waste system to Harry Spence and the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. ||The book is divided into two parts: The first part of each section is very inspirational. They each describe one or maybe two well meaning, ambitious people who attempt to improve the situation they find themselves in, using innovative techniques to navigate the maze of shifting obligations. The second part is a critique and suggestions for improving performance using the books’ central ideas: The public value account and the public value scorecard.
The public value account is, basically, a two column outline listing desired results on the right side, and the costs and negatives listed on the left. The public value scorecard is even less definitive. They function as a reference device to keep the manager from straying too far from the direction they have decided increasing the value of their agency. ||The book has value. It is a very thorough examination of the challenges of managing public agencies. There are many good, thoughtful insights along the way. If you are in the target audience for these books, I recommend you give it a look.
Reviewed by Norman West