Title page for ETD etd-04052005-104540

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Cavalcanti, Bianor Scelza
Author's Email Address bianor@fgv.br
URN etd-04052005-104540
Title The "Equalizer" Administration: Managerial Strategies in the Public Sector
Degree PhD
Department Public Administration and Public Affairs
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Wamsley, Gary L. Committee Co-Chair
Dudley, Larkin S. Committee Member
Rohr, John A. Committee Member
White, Orion F. Jr. Committee Member
Wolf, James F. Committee Member
  • education and devellopment of public managers. Ag
  • equalizer manager
  • equalizing management
  • unfaithfull structural conditions
  • metaphor
  • discursive cousciousness
  • discourse
  • practical cosciousness
  • tacit knowledge
  • agency
  • intentionality
  • ethics
  • empirical bases
  • improvising
  • equalizing
  • theory building
  • meaning
  • agent
  • desining
  • patrimonialism
  • reflexive interpretation
  • organizing
  • inclusion
  • cohesion
  • transgression
  • corruption
  • clientelism
  • nepotism
  • cognitive maps
  • deponents
  • frames of reference
  • transformative action
  • explanation
  • understanding
  • oral history
  • flexbilization
  • decentralization
  • uniformity
  • conceptual frameworks
  • organizational change
  • goodness of fit
  • congruency in organizational strategic choice
  • organizational results
  • organizational performance
  • differentiation
  • uncertainty
  • Brazil
  • develloping countries
  • administrative reform
  • bureaucratic model
  • centralization
  • organizational design
  • organizational theory
  • interpretivist approach
  • subjectivism
  • funcionalism
  • paradigms
  • cultural patterns reproduction
  • structural flaws
  • public manager
  • public administrator
  • formal management mechanisms
  • Action
  • managerial action
  • public administration and management
  • public sector
  • public policy
  • public programs
Date of Defense 2004-09-07
Availability unrestricted
The purpose of this dissertation is to understand the managerial “action” of public administrators in the management of their organizations within the brazilian context.

It seeks to understand the relationships between managers and formal management mechanisms by exploring the complementary nature of the effective managerial action in the face of structural deficiencies and flaws, considering the possibility of overcoming the structuralism-subjectivism dichotomy present in the construction of the Theory of Organizations.

Initially, the study provides a review of the literature on organizational design. It highlights the “goodness of fit” proposition on strategic choice issues concerning the main organizational variables design and organizational goal attainment. It also calls special attention to the emerging interest of designing theorists on interpretivist aproachs to the matter, such that of Karl Weick.

A review of the the administrative reforms in Brazil is made from the perspective of the main stream organizational design conceptual framework. It highlights the complex dynamics of a constant search for differenciation and flexibilization subject to patherns of advances and reversals, due to the centrality, streng and pervasiveness of the bureaucratic model. It is concluded that in no single given moment, a public manager and his team, may count on a formal organizational design wich attends the “congruency” criteria, devised by organizational design conceptual frameworks, to explain organizational results in different environmental sets. Although this conclusion may explain failure at the public sector, it can not provide understanding on the many instances of significative success attained by government operations in spite of inadequate formal administrative structures. This point calls for a better understanding from the interpretivist aproach, on how public administrators, strongly associated with good organizational results, engage into transformative action, in order to superate administrative structures flaws and disfuncional cultural patherns of conduct, structurally present and constantly reproduced, in vigorous develloping countries, such as Brazil.

The dissertation transcribes the testimony of four outstanding public administrators, doing a deep incursion in the managerial real world of public administration, as subjectivelly defined by them and transformed by their engagement into action.Through the thematic version of the Oral History methodology, full segments of the complete enterviews are

cathegorized into the thirty two managerial strategies captured wich are presented on a recathegorized manner under eight main strategies: (1) Interchanging Frames of Reference; (2) Exploring the Formal Limits; (3) Playing the Bureaucracy Game; (4) Inducing the Inclusion of Others (5)Promoting Internal Cohesion; (6) Creating Shields against Transgressions; (7) Overcoming Internal Restrictions; (8) Letting the Structures Blossom. Each one of these eight blocks of strategies presented, deserves further reflexive interpretation by the author, on the light of the interpretivist aproach to organizational design.

A final effort is made, now on theory building, for improuving understanding on the matter. In order to find a significant meaning underlining all the strategies extracted from the “practical constiouness” of the enterviweers as revealed in their report, the author resort to a methafor. This methafor helps to: (1) better describe and understand a not adequately treated phenomenon, namely, good results under inadequate structural social and organizational conditions; (2) reveal the logic and the meaning underlining all the strategies adopted to generate results under these unfaithfull conditions; (3) name, accordingly to the nature of the managerial transformative social action envolved, an open ended class of managerial interventions of a pragmatic sort driven by an ethics of results much common to good managers, that is, the concept of “managerial equalization”; and (4) give back to public administrators, represented by the enterviwees, to be incorporated in their “discursive counciousness”, something the most effective and experienced public managers already have as tacit knowledge built in their “practical counsciousness”, and so, help the education and development of new talents.

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