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No “One Best Way” To Manage Change: Developing and Describing Distinct Administrative Reform Dimensions across the Fifty American States

PAQ, Vol. 33 No. 2, (2009)

This paper establishes the contrast between two distinctive reform strategies or philosophies adopted widely across the fifty American states in the 1990’s. Previous research has either treated “reinvention” as a unitary pursuit or philosophy, or studied discrete reform techniques like benchmarking, strategic planning, or deregulation. The reality of reform implementation among state agencies falls somewhere in between the two extremes. Some state governments adopted more than one reform strategy during the last decade of the century, but not every possible option under the “new public management” umbrella. This paper uses confirmatory factor analysis of reform features within American state agencies in 1994 and 1998 to derive two distinct dimensions of administrative reform. These dimensions focus on the improvement of process or structural components on the one hand, and highlight measurement of performance and results on the other. The analysis shows that some states opt for one or the other reform philosophies while others pursue reforms in a more inclusive manner. The roots established in the 1990’s set the tone for ongoing distinctions in the study and practices of state-level administrative reform into the 21st century.

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