Cornwall city is located 185 miles East of the state and has 78,000 residents. The community in Cornwall County is strongly tied and the people are resistant to change. The local club controls the local politics, and the people of the community have strong traditional values. The main problems in the Cornwall County schools are maintenance and cleanliness. The city was rising in high tech industries, but because of the terrible maintenance problem, fewer people were attracted to the district. The political environment is based on prejudice and power plays.
The whole school system is hierarchical where the board is in the top of the power, and resistant to any new idea or of the removal of their relatives and friends from the board. Also, the principals always try to whitewash the situation and protect the lazy and ineffective janitorial workers. New Superintendent, John Lowell, came to the district to help the county schools of getting rid of the problem so that they can attract more people and flourish the community. Lowell believed that there are needs for change in the process, need for standard operating procedures and standardized training for the staff.
However, Lowell was challenged because of the local politics, and its resistance and fear of removal from positions of power. Because the community is closely knitted and based on traditional values, they see Lowell as an outsider thus a threat. The community wants to see the schools maintained as well but they just don’t want to embrace new ideas from a newcomer. Lowell sees some hope when he meets Bob Little, a Salesman Service Master, who convinced Lowell that he has solutions for all the problems. The problem was, even though Lowell was convinced, it was almost impossible to convince the board. Harold Kirk, a board member, raises opposition to Bob’s plan saying that it will be an economic downside and the same work can be done using internal contractor and resources. But Lowell must come to a decision determining what to do. The reason behind the whole tension, in this case, is the dysfunctional local public administration. The main problem is the old and decayed organizational structure, and the second main problem is the organizational culture in the district.
The public managers or the board members have been doing their work based on the traditional public institution system; a system which is very bureaucratic and controlled by power. It’s not necessarily the fault of the people who are managing because they are just following the only public sector system they have ever known. A system which is about 100 years old, which provides so much benefit and power to the top level managers, and which makes it impossible for traditional thinkers to embrace new systems. The school system also needs to get over its culture of fear of change and should hire employees based on merits, experience, and performance but not connections. The underlying problems, in this case, are well described by David Osborne in ‘Public Productivity & Management Review’. As Osborne said, it’s not possible for one public administration to do all the jobs. It is high time that public managers be equivalent to the private sectors, take motivation from them, and create the innovative ideas of service delivery.
However, while being equivalent to the private sectors, the public managers need to remember that their goal is not to maximize profit, and citizens are not their customers. The goal of the public sector should be to think like an entrepreneur, come up with innovative ideas (even if they do not match with the traditional system), and to work as efficiently as they can. As Osborne said- “It needs to be entrepreneurial rather than bureaucratic. An entrepreneur can make an area of low productivity into a higher productivity and greater yield”. The public sector should contract with private agencies to deliver service as it will increase competition and productivity.
As mentioned in the article by Osborne that government should steer rather than row. Only this way there will be more flexibility and the most competent person will be able to do the job. The board members and the managers of the schools should not stick to rules so much but should try to think of ways that will lead to the goal faster. The board members themselves want to see development in the district. So, convincing them to try new ideas to get the result will not be that difficult. And to convince them, it is necessary to make it clear that they will be given the recognition for the development of the district. People love power and recognition, and the only reason they do not want to let go of their power/position so that no one else can take the fame/recognition. If the board members can be assured of their position and place, then convincing them should not be difficult.
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