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Ports in a Storm: Public Management in a Turbulent Worldby John D. (edt) Donahue
Synopses & Reviews
In this book, Harvard Kennedy School authors focus diverse conceptual lenses on a single high-stakes management challenge --enhancing U.S. port security. The aims are two: to understand how that complex challenge might plausibly be met and to explore the similarities, differences, and complementarities of their alternative approaches to public management.
The 9-11 attacks resulted in heightened security efforts in American ports. Any attack on a seaport would be far more disruptive to the day-to-day functions of the country than even airport closures. Much of the responsibility for increasing port security fell to the U.S. Coast Guard.
While the Guard had always been tasked with protecting America's ports and coastline, it was now responsible for securing critical, complex, and vulnerable assets during a time of war, a job it clearly could not handle alone. The most obvious strategy was federal regulation, and that was inevitably an important tool. At the time, however, government regulation in general was not in great favor. What else could be done? No one seemed to have the answer until USCG Commander Suzanne Englebert emerged from midlevel bureaucracy to lead this work.
Ports in a Storm considers the monumental challenges of producing and leading hugely important macro-level change in a very complex system. Englebert had to lead the way from a midlevel position in an organization that had never before faced the issues that it now confronted. The book looks closely at what Englebert did, discerning what seemed to be useful and what problems remain. It celebrates her initiative, innovativeness, and persistence in facing a growing public management problem.
Englebert's story is instructional beyond the seaport question. Kennedy School faculty used her case as a challenge to the eclectic and pragmatic constructs they had been developing for public managers. Instead of starting with abstract theory and searching for examples that fit, these authors start with the concrete and then harness scholarship to the service of better practice. Rather than mimic principles from the business world, they tailor their approach to the challenge of managing in a context of complex goals, multiple constituencies, and procedural formality. In this way, they have developed many distinctive approaches to public management. The volume allows readers to see how the theories measure up.
In Ports in a Storm a team of Harvard Kennedy School scholars focus diverse conceptual lenses on a single high-stakes management task --enhancing port security across the United States. Their aims are two: to understand how a public manager might confront that complex undertaking, and to explore the similarities, differences, and complementarities of their alternative approaches to public management.
The book takes as its pivot point the singular case of U.S. Coast Guard Captain Suzanne Englebert and her leadership of efforts to secure America's ports after the September 11 attacks. The Coast Guard had always been responsible for securing America's ports and coastline. But now it was tasked with safeguarding these critical, complex, and vulnerable assets during a time of war, a job it clearly could not handle alone.
Ports in a Storm considers the monumental challenge of driving rapid change in a complex system involving hundreds of private organizations and scores of government agencies with their operations intricately intertwined. The book examines Englebert's actions from varied conceptual vantage points, sometimes critiquing questionable calls but more often celebrating her initiative, creativity, persistence, and skill.
The authors use the Coast Guard episode as a testing ground for the eclectic intellectual constructs they have been developing to guide public managers. Instead of starting with theory and searching for examples that fit, they begin with the concrete and then harness scholarship to the service of better practice. And rather than mimic management principles from the business world, they tailor their approach to the very different challenges of managing in a public sector context. The volume allows readers in both the scholarly and practical worlds to see how the theories measure up.
Contributors, including the two volume editors, are Robert D. Behn, John D. Donahue, Archon Fung, Stephen Goldsmith, Elaine Kamarck, Herman B. Leonard, Mark H. Moore, Malcolm K. Sparrow, Pamela Varley, and Richard Zeckhauser.
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