Management by Inquiry: A Discursive Accountability System for Large Organizations


Lance deHaven-Smith is a professor in the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University. He was director of the school from 1995 to 1999 and associate director of the Florida Institute of Government from 1993 to 2001. He has also directed several blue-ribbon commissions for Florida's governor and state

Kenneth C. Jenne II is the sheriff of Broward County, Florida, a position he assumed in 1998. He is a former state prosecutor, county commissioner, and state senator. The Broward Sheriff's Office is the largest fully accredited sheriff's office in the United States. It is responsible for law enforcement, jails, seaport and airport security, and child protection investigations.


Over the past decade, American police departments have developed a new management methodology that is beginning to be adopted by agencies outside law enforcement. Although the technique has been given different names by different agencies, this article refers to it generically as “management by inquiry” because the approach uses frequent, highly formalized meetings of top executives, middle management, and line personnel to inquire into the operations of individual units. The authors have had five years of direct experience with management by inquiry and have observed it in other jurisdictions. The present analysis draws on Habermas's theory of communicative action to contrast the communication premises in much management theory and practice with those implicit in inquiry-centered management. The article concludes that management by inquiry has dramatic effects on administrative behavior because it takes advantage of universal communicative norms that public administration has long overlooked.