Panel Paper: Public Management, Performance, and Context: A Cross-National Examination

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Jackson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kenneth J. Meier, Miyeon Song and Seung-Ho An, Texas A&M University

Research Question. How do political and task environment condition the relationship between management and performance?

Motivation. The question of ‘does management matter’ has been extensively studied for the past dozen years; however, the question of ‘when and where does management matter’ has been much less investigated. As open systems, public organizations are influenced by environmental factors, and the types of managerial practices that can be effective in organizations also vary across environmental contexts. Based on the recent theoretical works that propose a comparative contingency framework for public management (O’Toole & Meier 2014), we test how external context influences the impact of management on performance. This article is among the first that investigates the contextual framework through comprehensive cross-national empirical analyses.

Design. Our analysis investigates whether the effects of public management vary depending on the external contexts. Specifically, this study incorporates various contextual variables such as the political environment (unitary versus shared powers, with or without a formal performance appraisal system) and task environment (extent of task complexity, munificence, presence versus absence of social capital) to test how these environmental contexts shape the effects of management on performance. To capture the variation in these contextual variables, we conduct a cross-national analysis of context, management, and performance.

Data. We use 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data. PISA is an international database that allows administrators and researchers to compare student learning outcomes across countries—coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). PISA provides measures of 15-year old students’ academic performance as well as school administrators’ managerial practices. Our analysis includes more than 540,000 students in about 70 countries.

Methods. To test how political and task environment moderate the effects of school management on performance, we employ Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression models with clustered robust standard errors by schools. To account for unobserved country characteristics, all models include country fixed effects. Lastly, we also use sampling weights of the total number of students in each country provided by PISA.

Implications. This study investigates the conditional effects of external contexts on public management. By doing so, this study demonstrates the need to take managerial context seriously in the public administration literature and contributes towards a better understanding of the role of external context in public management. The study also has practical implications for school management in education policy.

Reference. O’Toole Jr, Laurence J., and Kenneth J. Meier. 2014. Public management, context, and performance: In quest of a more general theory. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 25(1): 237-256.