Table of Contents
- Rational-Comprehensive Model
- Determining Objectives
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- Considering the Means
- Choosing the Best Alternative
- Critique of the Rational-Comprehensive Model
- Unclear Objectives
- Political Pluralism and Consensus Building
- Time Constraints
- Cost Shifting
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The public administration’s traditional managerial approach emphasizes the necessity of the rationality in decision making. It searches the ways of enabling the public administration to perform in making decisions using the most efficient manners. To achieve this goal, the system that may give the possibility for the public administrators to choose from among the rival alternatives should be designed. It may bring the following benefits: reduction of the number of alternatives for the consideration; reduction of the number of values for the assessment; providing the administration with the information needed for selection among the alternatives; guarantee that the administrator knows how to make the right decision. Moreover, such a design may combine a lot of features of the bureaucratic organization. Talking about the traditional managerial approach that is widely used in the United States, it could not be but mentioned the rational-comprehensive model. However, despite the row of the important benefits, it has some negative aspects, and sometimes, it is not suitable to the governmental decision making.
The simple form of the rational-comprehensive model includes three major steps. According to Rosenbloom, Kravchuk, and Clerkin (2014), there are the following among them.
The first step is to determine the public policy’s objectives. These have to be identified in the ways that can be measured and observed in operational terms.
Considering the Means
The idea of the next step is to consider various possible means of accomplishing the objectives set during the first step. Moreover, all of these have to be carefully investigated, and the consequences of each have to be projected.
Choosing the Best Alternative
The final step is to choose among the potential means the best one. According to the traditional managerial approach, this choice has to be made to maximize economy, efficiency, and effectiveness.
Critique of the Rational-Comprehensive Model
The traditional managerial approach or the rational-comprehensive model undoubtedly has some important benefits. Among them, there are the following: encouraging public administrators to identify the best solutions to the problems, comprehensiveness, and a good deal in identifying the policy objectives and potential means. But, it also has a row of weaknesses and sometimes cannot be suitable because of the nature of the governmental decision making. In addition, the rational-comprehensive model is based on the abstract expertise and theory (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). So, it cannot generate decisions that are unsatisfactory in practice.Among the negative aspects of the rational-comprehensive model, there are the following:
Unfortunately, the efficiency, economy, and effectiveness frequently are not the dominant values of government. Usually, agencies are doing one thing or another according to the public interests. Although thoughts of the political community that these decisions are necessary and important, it may appear that it is not possible to recognize requirements of these interests in operational terms. Moreover, when something becomes specific, it tends to create a conflict.
Political Pluralism and Consensus Building
Sometimes, consensus is made by the creation of inclusive coalitions that usually offer something to the various political groups without care for priorities and aims of policy. As the example of such tendency, the equal employment opportunity (EEO) program may be observed. First of all, this program was established with a clear-cut focus on the black employment. Afterward, Hispanics and women were included there. Nowadays, except these groups, the following ones were involved in the EEO program: Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, individuals with the disabilities and veterans (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Consequently, it makes it difficult to establish the priorities or determine the precise goals.
The next problem with the rational-comprehensive model is that it takes a lot of time. The reason is that a public administrator has to approach problems in a passionless way, recognize all the means to achieve the established objectives, and evaluate them in terms of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. Unfortunately, most public administrators in the United States are rather reactive than proactive. It requires them to act comparatively quickly with crises, deadlines or problems. Moreover, many of them despite trying to identify all potential means and choose the one that is more suitable in terms of effectiveness, economy, and efficiency frequently hardly have enough time to identify even one means.
The other difficulty that can appear with the rational-comprehensive model is that the specialization may also become a liability. They say that the situation when the governments’ right-hand does not know what the left one is doing is quite frequent. The reason is that these hands are operating under the different time constraints, with different objectives and in the different spheres. Moreover, modern governments have much more than two hands which are like countless tentacles. So, the actions of one public administrator may conflict with ones of another. For instance, while one agency fights to develop wetland or wilderness areas, another may seek to preserve them.
The next troublemakers for the rational-comprehensive model are the groups and groupthink. The groupthink concept states that individuals often choose to find a consensus in decision making and minimize the conflict with groups. Moreover, because of the groupthink, public administrators do not go through all steps of the rational-comprehensive model such as investigating objectives, means, and alternatives to the decision. According to Rosenbloom et al. (2014), there are eight symptoms of the groupthink:
- Discounting of warnings that may challenge assumptions
- A feeling of invulnerability that encourages risk taking and creates excessive optimism
- Stereotyped views
- Members’ ignorance of the consequences of their actions because of the unquestioned belief in the morality of a group
- Exclusion of the idea that diverges from the obvious group’s consensus
- Pressure to act against the members who disagree
- Mindguard – the self-appointed member of the group that defends it from the opinions that do not match the group’s ones
- The illusion of the unanimity
The final problem of the rational-comprehensive model is that the specialization may have some difficulties in assessing the full cost of any particular governmental program or course of action. In fact, the decisions of one agency that are made in a complex policy area may cause new problems for other agencies. For instance, the decision of the Department of Defense to downsize or close the military bases can create significant spending for state and federal employment as well as social welfare programs (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). As the matter of fact, it may upset governments’ budgets and local economies. So, the problem for the rational-comprehensive model is that these shifted costs are difficult to evaluate. The reason is that these ones tend to get lost in the system of the specialized jurisdiction.
The traditional managerial approach in the decision making of public administration tends to find the methods to perform in the most efficient manner. Talking about the United States, traditionally, the rational-comprehensive model is used in decision making. But, despite its benefits it also has weaknesses. The reason is that it is based on the abstract expertise and theory and may generate unsatisfactory decisions. Among the negative aspects of the rational-comprehensive model, there are the following: unclear objectives, consensus building and political pluralism, time constraints, specialization that may become a liability, groupthink, and cost shifting.