Questioning Kaufman: How Cross-Level Political Coalitions Interact with Organizational Structure

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Abstract

Herbert Kaufman's The Forest Ranger is considered a landmark study of how organizations can be structured to elicit compliance from field officials, yet there have been few attempts to validate Kaufman's claims. The author argues that the outcomes observed by Kaufman resulted from interplay between organizational structure and political context—a variable that Kaufman ignored. This argument is supported by case studies of two agencies with structures similar to Kaufman's U.S. Forest Service but poorer outcomes: the same agency today and India's forest departments. Both differences in organizational structure and poorer outcomes are found to be the result of political context. Specifically, coalitions assembled around agencies use the implementation process to shape outcomes in ways that could not be accomplished solely through changing laws or formal administrative structure. This points to the importance of building supportive field-level coalitions to complement administrative reforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-751
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Administration Review
Volume77
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

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