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About this book

Truly global in scope and ambition, the 21st Century Public Manager addresses key trends, challenges, and opportunities facing public managers across contexts and regimes. This accessible textbook aims to inspire public managers in rethinking their roles, skills, and values as they enter a VUCA world—one characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It is written for aspiring and current public managers in graduate schools and executive education programs.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Imagine being a manager in a government agency anywhere on this planet. Your average working day consists of many activities. Organizing meetings and setting agendas to discuss progress on policy and service delivery related activities. Enduring tenured senior staff who are unable to keep up with their rapidly changing environment. Guiding junior staff who need to be carefully managed but don’t think they do. Explaining to impatient political masters that complex policy decisions can’t be reached within a week’s time. Negotiating, communicating, and consulting with stakeholders across sectors on how to jointly design and produce services. Fending off traditional and citizen journalists who scrutinize your performance in catering to a non-stop media environment that feeds off crises and failures. All these and more may easily fill up your everyday schedule – a schedule that you seem unable to control, let alone direct. Surely, being a public manager has never been easy, but it seems to become more challenging all the time. Four key features seem to increasingly characterize your operating environment. First, more and more often you and your staff members are confronted with, or rather surprised by, disruptive events, scandals, crises, and shocks. The challenges that you face in such situations are not necessarily hard to understand – you have even planned and practised for some of them. However, their timing and occurrence are seemingly unexpected and their duration unknown. Due to increased interconnectedness, even small events may trigger other disruptive events and crises. The increased occurrence of such events results in larger volatility. Second, you are more frequently confronted with sudden leadership transitions that completely change the outlook of policies and programmes you have been working on for months, sometimes years.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 2. ‘Traditional’ Versus ‘New’

Abstract
Imagine being a senior programme manager at a ministry in an Anglo-Saxon country in 1990. In the past few years, you have been involved in various efforts to introduce private sector management techniques in government agencies. These operations have been driven by an urge to cut costs and remove slack from ‘dysfunctional, bloated bureaucracies’ (in the words of the last two ministers you served). At this stage, you and your colleagues are preparing for the next, even more fundamental transformation: a series of large-scale privatizations of current government functions, programmes, and agencies. Strengthened by concurrent movements in a number of countries, your political masters are enthusiastic and eager to push through what has been recently referred to as New Public Management or NPM. In your context, NPM has so far meant a greater disaggregation of policy-making and implementation, competition between agencies and programmes, and more competitive training programmes and remuneration structures for senior management. Over the past few years, you have loyally contributed to the reform ambitions of your political masters. What they probably don’t realize is that in communicating and implementing new measures you got much of your inspiration from rather classical examples, writings, and practices. You remember them well from your days as a graduate student at the country’s top school of government, and from workshops over the course of your career.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 3. Trends and Drivers

Abstract
On 11 March 2011, Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – operated by corporate giant Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) – was hit by a tsunami triggered by the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake. Three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors melted down, and the plant began releasing substantial amounts of radioactive material on 12 March. This was the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 and the second to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. To this day, workers continue to mitigate leaking with measures such as chemical underground walls. Although there were no immediate fatalities from radiation exposure, some 300,000 people were evacuated from the area; close to 16,000 people died from the earthquake and tsunami; and 1,600 deaths were attributed to evacuation conditions, such as temporary housing and hospital closures. The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission found that the nuclear disaster was ‘manmade’ and that its direct causes were all foreseeable and predictable. Various other inquiries reached similar conclusions. They suggested that ‘regulatory capture’, collusion, lack of oversight, and corruption were key contributors to the extent of the disaster, resulting from years of close relationships between industry, government, and academia. International reaction to the disaster was diverse and widespread. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) halved its estimate of additional nuclear generating capacity to be built by 2035, and anti-nuclear demonstrations were followed by a significant re-evaluation of existing nuclear power programmes in many countries. In June 2011, an opinion poll from Ipsos MORI revealed that 62 per cent of the citizens from 24 different countries were opposed to nuclear energy. Nuclear power plans were abandoned in Malaysia, the Philippines, Kuwait, and Bahrain, and radically changed in Taiwan. China suspended its nuclear development programme, but restarted it on a reduced basis in late 2012.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 4. Demands, Dilemmas, Opportunities

Abstract
Imagine you are the Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Planning and Infrastructure in a rapidly developing middle-income country in the year 2025. Your key priority in the next ten months is to develop a comprehensive policy framework for how the recently elected government has to facilitate and manage emerging ‘secondary cities’. Such cities will be the main engines of economic growth in the years to come and will house over 80 per cent of your country’s population before 2050, half of which currently lives in rural areas in traditional and sometimes backward communities. Not only will millions of citizens move to these emerging urban areas, either temporarily or permanently – these areas are also expected to attract large numbers of blue collar and white collar workers from neighbouring countries. In addition, your minister has tasked you to incorporate the latest thinking on ‘smart’ cities. He urged you to be as ambitious and bold as possible in your proposals for leveraging the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence in driverless cars, digitally managed smart and ‘green’ electricity grids, use of cloud computing and dashboard technologies in setting up citizen registers and service delivery frameworks, and robotic technology in designing housing projects for the elderly and vulnerable. He’s made it clear that key international and regional players and financiers such as the World Bank, UNDP, New Development Bank (NDB), and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are eager to assist in the long-term development of these smart cities, provided your policy framework proves viable and sustainable over time. These financiers want to showcase their role in upgrading urban environments in a developing country.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 5. Managing Stakeholder Multiplicity

Abstract
Imagine being a senior manager at Shell UK, part of Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest corporations in the world, in 1991. You have just decided to decommission the massive oil platform Brent Spar, positioned in the North Sea. After conducting around 30 different studies, and engaging various local governments and NGOs, you and your team decide that sinking the platform in deep water is the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO), as opposed to horizontal decomposition on land. Due to the platform’s size and the damage to some of the storage tanks, moving the Brent Spar to shore for decomposition on land would be complicated, costly – US$69 million versus US$18 million for the sinking option – and potentially damaging to the environment. Convinced you have adequately compared the options, you send a BPEO concept to the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which licenses the operation in February 1995, after consulting the other four governments in the Associations of Nations around the North Sea and the European Commission, none of which object. You and your bosses are mindful of the sensitivities surrounding this decision given that no one has ever decommissioned a platform this way. However, you have gone out of your way in doing your due diligence.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 6. Managing Authority Turbulence

Abstract
Imagine being a public manager in a Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) country. The collective, rapid, and impactful outburst of civil unrest you’ve witnessed in recent years was an unprecedented, highly unexpected VUCA event given the traditional, top-down, and closed, governance culture that characterized your region for centuries. You had no idea what the self-inflammation of Tunisian fruit-seller Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010, after a municipal inspector confiscated his wares, would trigger. A year later, four long-time heads of state – with over 120 years of uninterrupted tenure combined – had been removed from power. Simultaneously, popular uprisings and protests had occurred in half a dozen other MENA countries. The initial violent responses of many governments, displayed across the globe within seconds on social media, exacerbated the mass rallies, strikes, demonstrations, and social media campaigns, and the overall feelings of oppression and neglect among the citizenry. The common slogan of the protesters, empowered by the regional resonance of their movement, became Ash-sha`b yurid isqat an-nizam (‘the people want to bring down the regime’). Since that December afternoon, new leaders and structures have emerged across the region. However, many of the protesters proved to be highly ambitious in their search for new figures and structures of authority. Some wanted tribal rule or self-rule to fulfil revolutionary governance ambitions, while others just wanted stability, peace, and quiet. Many of the elections following the outburst produced the same ‘alpha-male’ authoritarian leadership that protesters wanted to get rid of in the first place. Still, you feel that new authoritarian leaders will have to continuously gain their legitimacy much more than they used to, not only from citizens but also from you and your colleagues. Now imagine you are a public manager located about 6,000 miles to the east, in Hong Kong, operating in the tense aftermath of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement (OCLP or 和平佔中). Citizens in the long orderly port city seemed increasingly weary with the relationship with China, having been reunited with the mainland as a special administrative region (SAR) in 1997.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 7. Managing the New Work(force)

Abstract
Imagine being a public manager heading the Prime Minister’s (PM’s) communications department in a country with a young population that’s recently gone through a series of cutbacks and austerity measures. In the years to come, you will most likely be tasked with refreshing your teams – largely consisting of middle-aged and older public servants – while keeping costs down by making work processes and employment contracts more flexible. Doing this will allow you to secure funding from the Treasury for a systems upgrade needed to realize the PM’s communication ambitions – to ‘future proof’ the way in which government engages stakeholders. You are keen to kill two birds with one stone here: make room for newer generations of employees who will seize the opportunities provided by the latest communication technologies and social media platforms, and leapfrog into a near future in which you manage your resources and reservoirs – both human and physical – through flexible ‘clouds’ rather than rigid, bureaucratic practices. Recently, technology giants have started to offer services like GovCloud that allow governments to store, move, and process sensitive information 24/7. Such services would allow you to cut back on hardware and paper, tools that are perceived as near obsolete anyway by the graduates you plan to hire. However, you want to do more than just use cloud services for information. What if you could set up online pools and reservoirs of flexible, part-time contractors who would be readily available when needed – during peak times such as annual debates about the federal budget or the opening of the parliamentary year – and disengaged right after peak times ended? Making large parts of your workforce flexible would allow you to achieve tremendous savings on employee benefit expenses.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 8. Managing Innovation Forces

Abstract
Imagine being a public manager with the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing, tasked with regulating companies like app-based taxi firm Didi Chuxing, which are part of the rapidly expanding ‘sharing economy’. This new economic mode emerged out of an era of economic uncertainty, as it allows unemployed or underemployed individuals to make earnings by leveraging their time, expertise, or personal assets, at any time of day. Didi Chuxing, much like its Indian corollary Ola Cabs, was inspired by the success of San Francisco start-up icons Uber and Airbnb and has managed to increase its value to tens of billions of dollars even faster than they did. Uberization – denoting the process where a high-tech middleman replaces past intermediaries with little more than apps and peer feedback systems – has now entered the lexicon. Clearly, a game-changing phenomenon was evolving here and your ministry would need to stimulate such economic innovation to enable Chinese start-ups to develop and compete globally. At the same time, you and your colleagues struggle with finding the appropriate balance between regulating emerging industries and technologies and protecting existing industries, often with long-standing and deep ties to political and administrative elites. Moreover, there is somewhat of a rift between younger colleagues who are enthusiastic adopters and consumers of these new technologies, and older colleagues who hardly see the significance of them and even seem fearful of how they will affect their long-established ways of working.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 9. Managing Ethical Complexities

Abstract
Imagine you are a senior HR officer at the police department of a major metropolitan city. Recently, your officers have started to experiment with the use of social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Ubideo to share and solicit information from the general public. Initiatives range from asking citizens to share pictures, videos, and live streams of small violations so that officers can follow up immediately, to distributing information about felonies to citizens and asking for assistance. The impact so far has been mixed. Some officers seem to enjoy using the new tools and apps while others struggle and resist; citizens feel empowered by the opportunity to collaborate on safety, but often find their input neglected. More worrisome, however, are several recent complaints from citizens about police officers sending inappropriate messages and materials to their personal accounts after they had shared information with the officers. Alongside these developments, you are dealing with various internal ethics and compliance issues. First of all, two female junior officers have charged a well-connected senior lieutenant with a history of misconduct including harassment and discrimination. In addition, there has been an incident between a newly recruited IT staffer from a religious minority group who demanded separate prayer and bathroom facilities, and one of your colleagues who accused her of being privileged and – when things got heated – even extremist.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 10. Managing Short Versus Long Time Horizons

Abstract
Imagine being a senior public manager in Brussels tasked with coordinating a joint response to the biggest-ever inflow of asylum seekers into the European Union (EU). Spurred by civil war in Syria and accelerated by the alleged ‘open invitation’ from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, more than a million asylum seekers entered Germany in 2015 alone. The sheer number took EU member state governments and EU agencies by surprise, overwhelming administrative capacity on all levels: the security procedures at the southern and eastern borders, with Greece being the major destination for the rickety boats carrying refugees; the processing methodologies in individual member states; and the (re)distribution processes between member states. In addition, political collaboration is put to the test like never before with countries deciding to ‘go it alone’ while ignoring treaties and political mores. This is occurring in a context of already severely stretched political ties, with the sovereign debt crisis and the near expulsion of Greece from the eurozone. Across the EU you have witnessed a surge of anti-migrant movements, some of them violent, fuelled by incidents of some asylum seekers engaging in criminal and subversive activities. Both traditional and new media eagerly reported on such behaviours and the backlash they provoked. Clearly, public resentment and administrative capacity breakdowns could be linked with the sudden explosion in the number of refugees seeking asylum.
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 11. Managing Cross-sectoral Collaboration

Abstract
Imagine you are a public manager running a large-scale municipal redevelopment project involving the integration of housing, healthcare, and community services in a historically troubled neighbourhood. The neighbourhood has a plethora of civil society organizations and small local enterprises, along with high-profile citizens who keenly articulate their aspirations for the area and place demands on local government bodies. Redevelopment has been on various local agendas for many years, and all stakeholders involved have expressed their views and preferences about the issue in a series of recent hearings organized by your project organization. It is evident that a project of this scale – with high stakes for all who are affected and involved – can succeed only if it is organized and implemented collaboratively. In accordance with current trends, your director has expressed his expectation that you ‘co-create’ and ‘co-produce’ the project together with stakeholders. Where do you start and who do you involve? It will be impossible to do justice to the interests and agendas of each of the key stakeholders – elderly and disabled tenants who are often of moderate means, small shop owners and entrepreneurs, long-time residents and their families, and housing corporations eager to upgrade and monetize social housing units. You will somehow have to prioritize, yet such a selection cannot just be a government-dominated exercise like in the old days. Moreover, some key stakeholders possess expertise, contacts, and local legitimacy that the project could benefit from. You want them ‘inside the tent’. But how does one design an appropriately inclusive collaborative structure that discourages
Zeger van der Wal

Chapter 12. The 21st Century Public Manager

Abstract
This concluding chapter outlines the profile of the 21st century public manager – someone who has the ability to turn complex, emerging challenges into opportunities for public value creation. Even though this book is global in scope and ambition, and many 21st century trends and demands are global in nature, it is important to realize that such a profile can never be entirely universal. The space for two-way stakeholder communication and horizontal networking behaviours may be more limited in authoritarian regimes than in vibrant democracies. In some contexts, traditional, conservative, and hierarchical traits of public managers may be more appreciated – and much harder to change – than in others. Major events may temporarily shift expectations towards public managers and re-emphasize qualities that seemed to have gone out of fashion.
Zeger van der Wal
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