Organizing to Serve the Public: Processing or Developing the Clientele?

Robert I. McLaren


Since at least the time of the publication of Reinventing Government (Osborne and Gaebler, 1993), it seems that virtually every New Public Management book has echoed the cry that the public service must do a better job of serving the public, and of envisioning the public as the customers of their public sector organizations (Denhardt, 1993a; Aucoin, 1995; Seidle, 1995; Kernaghan et al., 2000). Even studies that are critical of NPM still observe that service to the public is a necessary component of modern public sector management (Charih and Daniels, 1997; Peters and Savoie, 1998). It has to be presumed that to serve the public is an important reason why public sector organizations exist. However, there seems to be something missing in the NPM conceptual approach to analysis of service provision. In this contribution the author focuses on an important but missing component. In the public sector, are we processing people or developing them? What are the implications of one approach versus the other?

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