Managing Public Organizations


How has this course changed, improved, and informed your theoretical and practical  understanding for the study of complex organizations in public administration?  This is  an  open-book, open-note,  take-home examinatio.  Your  exploration of  the  assigned  readings,  the quality of your academic journal writing, and your class participation will largely  inform how you answer this question. Exa should be typed, double-spaced, one- point margins, and should  be approximately ten (10) pages in length.


Course Description:

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the theoretical and practical underpinnings associated with managing public sector organizations.  Public organizations differ from private and nonprofit organizations because of their relationship to the state, its constitutional heritage and commitment to the rule of law, its democratic institutions, and its citizenry.  The separation of powers system of American government has a profound impact on how public organizations serve the state and work to advance its constitutional tradition.  Public agencies and civil servants are responsible to the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government – an observation that has led several scholars within the Constitutional School of American Public Administration to argue that U.S. public servants serve “three masters.”  This environment can create tension within and among public organizations, particularly in terms of balancing democratic values like responsibility, responsiveness, and representativeness with economic values like economy, efficiency, and effectiveness.  Although a large portion of the literature you will read for this course could be applied to private and/or nonprofit organizations, we will primarily focus on how it relates to public sector agencies.


Public organizations provide a wide range of essential services at all levels of government, including, but not limited to justice, foreign affairs, national defense and homeland security, financial management and commerce, education, human resources management, labor, health, human services, housing and urban development, energy and public infrastructure, the environment, and transportation.  It is, therefore, essential for students of public administration to understand how organizations function and are structured.  More specifically, a comprehensive understanding of the literature that comprises the study of complex public organizations, organization behavior and change, and organization theory provides us with a greater knowledge base to evaluate the successes and failures of organizations.  In addition, it enhances our understanding for finding ways to improve or enhance organizations in implementing their mission(s) successfully, in executing policy expectations that advance the goals of the organization, and in developing mechanisms that assist managers understand the difficulties affecting behavioral dynamics at all levels of an organization.


For this course, the state will serve as the unit of analysis, and we will be examining how democratic-constitutional norms and values shape the public organizations and institutions that govern the administrative state.



Course Goals & Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this seminar, students will be able to achieve the following student learning outcomes:

  • To be able to lead and manage in public governance (SLO A).
  • To analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make decisions (SLO B).


Additionally, students will be able to underscore the following goals:

  • Develop a historical and institutional understanding for the major theories and themes

associated with the study and practice of organizations.

  • Identify how public managers apply various organization theories in practical
  • Recognize the distinguishing characteristics of public sector
  • Improve writing quality, analytical thinking, and oral presentation



Required Texts:

Rainey, Hal G. (2014, 5th ed.). Understanding and Managing Public Organizations. San Francisco Jossey-Bass. (From this point on will be referred to as HGR).


Riccucci, Norma M. 2002. Managing Diversity in Public Sector Workforces. Boulder, CO: Westview.


Shafritz, Jay M., J. Steven Ott, and Yong Suk Jang. (2011, 7th ed.). Classics of Organization     Theory. Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth. (From this point on will be referred to as S&O).


Snyder, Timothy. 2017.  On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. New York: Tim Duggan Books.


Selected Journal Articles, Book Chapters, and Supreme Court cases highlighted throughout     the syllabus.




Final Exam

There will be one final examination for this course. Students will answer this question:


How has this course changed, improved, and informed your theoretical and practical understanding for the study of complex organizations in public administration?


This is an open-book, open-note, take-home examination. Your exploration of the assigned readings, the quality of your academic journal writing, and your class participation will largely inform how you answer this question. Exams should be typed, double-spaced, one- point margins, and should be approximately ten (10) pages in length.   Students will email their completed examination to the professor not later than Monday, December 20th at 5:00      p.m. EST.




Class 1                                       Welcome to This Course

September 2                                Review of Syllabus and Course Expectations

Take any notes or questions down to ask professor via email or during class 2



Class 2                                       Classical Foundations of Organization Theory

September 9                                S&O:

Introduction & Chapter 1: Classical Organization

Theory: Sections 2, 5, 6, 7, 8


Ch. 2: Understanding the Study of Organizations to

Include the following sections:

*A Historical Review

*The Systems Metaphor

*Classical Approaches to Understanding


*Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management

*Max Weber: Bureaucracy as an Ideal Construct

*The Administrative Management School: Principles

of Administration



Class 3                                       Neo-Classical Perspectives of Organization Theory

September 16                              S&O:

Chapter 2: Neoclassical Organization Theory: Sections

9, 10, 11, 12, 13


Ch. 2: Understanding the Study of Organizations to

include the following sections:

*Reactions, Critiques, and New Developments

*Chester Barnard and Herbert Simon: The

Inducements-Contributions Equilibrium and the

Limits of Rationality



Class 4                                      Human Resource Theory I

September 23                                S&O:

Chapters 3: Human Resource Theory, Sections 14, 15


Chapter 2: Understanding the Study of Organizations to

include the following sections:

*Social Psychology, Group Dynamics, and Human


*The Hawthorne Studies: The Discovery of Human

Behavior in the Workplace

*The Human Relations School

*Open-Systems Approaches and Contingency Theory

* The Quiet Controversy over the Distinctiveness of

Public Organizations and Management in

Organization Theory


Barnard, Chester I. 1938. “Informal Organizations and their Relation

to Formal Organizations.” From The Functions of the Executive. 

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (On Canvas)



Class 5                                      Human Resource Theory II

September 30                              S&O:

Chapter 3: Human Resource Theory, Sections 16, 17, 18


Chapter 9: Understanding People in Public Organizations: Values and Motives


Chapter 10: Understanding People in Public

Organizations: Theories of Work Motivation and

Work-Related Attitudes


Chapter 12:  Teamwork: Understanding Communication and Conflict in and Among Groups

Class 6                                      Distinctive Characteristics of Public Organizations

October 7                                          HGR:

Chapter 3:  What Makes Public Organizations Distinctive


Chapter 4:  Analyzing the Environment of Public



Wamsley, Gary et al. The Blacksburg Manifesto. (On Canvas)


Rohr, John A.  “A Constitutional Theory of Public Administration.”  (On Canvas)


Green, Richard T., Lawrence F. Keller, and Gary L. Wamsley.

  1. Reconstituting A Profession for American Public

Administration.  Public Administration Review.  53:6, pp. 516-24.                                               (On Canvas).


Class 7                                       How the State’s Culture Impacts an Organization’s October 14                                    Culture


Chapter 7: Theories of Organizational Culture and

Change, Sections 34, 35


Chapter 6: Organizational Goals and Effectiveness


Chapter 14: Advancing Effective Management in the Public Sector to include the Following Sections:

*The Reinventing Government Movement

*The National Performance Review

*The President’s Management Agenda

*The Human Capital Movement

*Managing Major Initiatives and Priorities:

Privatization and Contracting Out

*Managing Privatization

*Privatization Pitfalls and Ironies


Denhardt, Robert and Janet Vinzant Denhardt.  2000. The New Public Service: Serving Rather than Steering. Public Administration Review.  60:6, 549-59. (On Canvas)


Gore, Al.  1993.  Creating a Government that Works Better and Costs Less: Report on the National Performance Review. (On Canvas)


Pfiffner, James P. 2007.  The First MBA President: George W.

Bush as Public Administrator.  Public Administration Review.  67:1, pp. 6-20. (On Canvas)


Journals Collected for 1st Grade



Class 8                                     Power & Politics

October 21                                  S&O:

Chapter 6:  Power and Politics in Organization Theory,

Sections 28, 30, 32, 33


Kaufman, Herbert. 1969.  Administrative Decentralization and

Political Power.  Public Administration Review.  29:1, pp. 3-15.


Cooper, Phillip J. 2011.  The Duty to Take Care: President

Obama, Public Administration, and the Capacity to Govern.

Public Administration Review.  71:1, pp. 7-18.


Newbold, Stephanie.  2017.  Jeopardizing the Rule of Law: The Impact of Sequestration on the Administration of Justice. American Review of Public Administration.  47:3, 279-299. 



Class 9                                      How the Supreme Court Shapes the Management of

October 28                                 Public Organizations


Chapter 1: Workforce Diversity & the 21st Century

Chapter 2:  Affirmative Action & EEO

Chapter 3: Initial Steps in Preparing for Diversity…

Chapter 4: Race, Ethnicity, & Diversity Management


Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)

Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003)

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin et al., 579 U.S. _____ (2016)


(Court cases are available electronically at or



Class 10                                     Changing Constitutional Law Changes How Public

November 4                               Organizations are Managed:  The Fight for

                                                Same Sex Rights & Marriage Equality


Chapter 8: Diversity and Sexual Orientation


Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 538 (2003)

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. _____ (2013)

Hollingsworth et al. v. Perry, et al., 570 U.S. ______ (2013)


(Court cases are available electronically at or



Class 11                                                 Timothy Snyder: On Tyranny

November 11                                       Discussion of Entire Book



Class 12                                     ARPA COVID-19 Presentations

November 18                                          

Tulenko, K. & Vervoot, D.: Cracks in the System: The Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Public Health Systems.


Kirlin, J.  Covid-19 Upends Pandemic Plan.


Weng, S., Ni, A., Ho, A., & Zhong, R. Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Tale of Two Cities.


Rutledge, P. Trump, COVID-19, & the War on Expertise.



Class 13

November 25                              Thanksgiving Break



Class 14                                     ARPA COVID-19 Presentations

December 2

                                                Hatcher, W. A Failure of Political Communication not a Failure of

                                    Bureaucracy: The Danger of Presidential Misinformation During

            the COVID-19 Pandemic.


Atkinson, C. et al. Supply Chain Manipulation, Misrepresentation,

and Managerial Thinking During the COVID-19 Crisis.


Bowman, A. & McKenzie, J. Managing a Pandemic at a Less

Than Global Scale: Governors Take the Lead



Class 15                                     ARPA COVID-19 Presentations

December 9

Benevides, A. & Nukpezah, J.  How Local Governments are Caring

for the Homeless During the COVID-19 Pandemic.


Grigsby, et al. Resistance to Racial Equity in U.S. Federalism and its Impact on Fragmented Regions.


Rahaus, B. et al. Addressing the Increase of Domestic Violence and Abuse During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Need for Empathy, Care, and Social Equity in Collaborative Planning and Processes.


Journals Handed In & Collected for Final Grade


Final Exam Due via Email on Monday, December 20, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. EST






"Get 15% discount on your first 3 orders with us"
Use the following coupon

Order Now