Thursday, October 12, 2006
Reviewing Waldo’s the Study of Public Administration
Before we can introduce the cultural perspective in public administration in relation to the University Student Council, it is absolutely essential that we review important parts of Dwight Waldo’s book on public administration because it teaches the fundamentals of public administration in general.
No matter how much we insist that the bureaucracy must be impersonal, objective, rational, including all other adjectives which would describe the bureaucracy as scientific, a bureaucracy can never be so for as long as it is run and manned by human persons, notwithstanding their skills and professionalism. At the outset, Waldo got it right when he said that –
“An administrative organization has an internal environment and an external environment that are largely non-rational, at least as the formal goals of the administrative organizations are concerned.”
Effective managers and administrators of organizations must realize that they are not working with machines which they can unilaterally order to produce results. Organizations are filled with people who come from different academic backgrounds and social classes with their own idiosyncrasies and predilections which managers must be able to gel together to produce results.
In the UPM-USC, this rings very true. The Chairperson of the USC simply cannot order his/her subordinates around with different tasks to accomplish without him being doing other important tasks as well. If not, it may breed resentment and ill feelings within the organization, especially when the subordinates observe that all the Chairperson does is delegate tasks to all subordinates except to himself. In the peculiar nature of the UPM-USC, there is a very great premium in shared accountability, responsibility and collective leadership.
On the other hand, external environment such as public opinion of the constituents sometimes influence much of the decision-making and administrative functions of the USC. For instance, priority projects are sometimes sidelined when there are pressing student issues that need to be deliberated upon. The USC would then embark on a sustained campaign on this issue for weeks on end, displacing the implementation of the prior priority projects which are also important as these are concrete student services such as the publication of newsletters and gender desks. Therein goes the lapses of administration as well, because if it be clear that priority projects and student issues are both deemed important, the organization must have a mechanism by which both activities are implemented efficiently without sacrificing either one.
Nonetheless, while the bureaucracy might not be entirely scientific, in the stricter sense of the word, a learned public administrator must know that “economy and efficiency are the central if not the sole goals of administrative study.”
Stripped to its essentials, indeed economy and efficiency are the only things that matter in administration. A manager must be able to deliver the goods and services in the least amount of time, with the least cost to the organization. All the other factors in running an organization are merely incidental to the objective of efficiency and economy, such as ensuring that the work teams are motivated enough or developing better client relationships.
In the USC, economy and efficiency is indispensable. However, the structure of the USC is very top-heavy as the subordinates usually wait for the Chairperson or the Executive Committee (Execom) to delegate the tasks on a weekly basis. This includes the independent committees which by theory, should be working on its own, well-staffed and led by the USC Councilors, and the only task of the Execom and the Chairperson is to give policy directions and be updated on the progress of the committees. As a result, the USC has grown to be grossly inefficient in its administration, especially when tasks unfulfilled by the committees are left to be resolved and finished by the Execom and the Chairperson. Aggravating perhaps this inefficiency is the lack of troubleshooting mechanisms to correct administrative failures and mistakes, especially by the subordinates. This may be attributable perhaps to the fused politico-administrative structure of the USC, but cannot be deemed conclusive as of yet.