PAdm 895: Public Decision Making

3 Credit Hours

Completion of core or consent of instructor

Course Objectives:

  • Improve each student’s analytical skills with respect to public decision making, with a focus on the strategic decisions faced by the leaders of public and nonprofit organization
  • Develop each student’s independent capacity for analyzing public decision making, influencing public decisions, and doing so with the ethical grounding of a professional in public administration
  • Refine skills that are essential to independent thinking about public decision making, such as comprehending through reading and listening, writing and speaking with care, clarity, and confidence, and acquiring a capacity for self assessment

Course Description:
The course focuses on decision making by public managers through the case study method; reviews models of public decision making; explores public management from the perspective of public purposes, politics, organizational results, and ethics.

Major Topics Covered:
Making public decisions. What is a public decision? What is public decision making? What is a manager’s role in governmental decisions concerning mission, policy, administration, and management distinct? Are policy decisions best understood in terms of developmental policies, allocational policies, and redistributive policies?

Making rational decisions. What is rational decision making? Should public decision making be rational? Or, should public decision making be incremental? What approach should a manager take in public decision making? What is “usual” practice in public decision making? Is public decision making subject to rational analysis and action? What is policy success? What is policy failure? May policy ends be isolated from policy means?

Making decisions in groups. Does a group of individuals working together make better decisions than the same individuals working alone? What individual skills are most useful in group decision making? What are the strengths of group decision making? What are the weaknesses? What approach should a manager take in assuring effective group decision making in an organization?

Using history (issues, organizational, and personal) for insights in decision making. What are the uses of history in public decision making? Does an examination of history reveal underlying public values and related biases in public issues? In public and nonprofit organizations? In individual public and nonprofit managers?

Creating public value. Should public and nonprofit managers be guided by the concept of envisioning public value? Should the three-prong test of public decision making be: (1) Is the purpose underlying a decision publicly valuable? (2) Is the purpose underlying a public decision politically and legally sustainable? (3) Is implementation of the public decision administratively and operationally feasible?

Building political support and managing politics. What is power? What distinguishes power, influence, and authority? What is politics? Do power and politics dominate public decision making? What are the sources of power in organizations?

Can politics be managed? If so, how? Are skills with politics and the exercise of power essential in public decision making? If so, explain? When should power be used in public decision making? What ethical means are available for engaging in politics and exercising influence? Entrepreneurial advocacy? Managing policy development? Negotiation? Public deliberation, social learning, and leadership? Public sector marketing and strategic communication?

Leading from “good to great.” What issues should be addressed in leading an organization from good to great?