Managing for Results in State Government: Evaluating a Decade of Reform


Donald P. Moynihan is an assistant professor of public affairs at the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research analyzes the process of selecting and implementing public management reforms, especially in the area of performance management. His work has appeared in a number of edited volumes and journals, including Public Administration Review and the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. He received his doctorate from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.


State governments in the United States have enthusiastically embraced the idea of managing for results. This appears to represent a victory for New Public Management policy ideas transferred from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The managing for results doctrine that emerged from these countries called for an increased focus on results but also increased managerial authority to achieve results. In return, it was claimed, governments would enjoy dramatic performance improvement and results-based accountability. This article assesses the implementation of public management reform in the United States and argues that the managing for results doctrine has been only partially adopted. State governments selected some of the New Public Management ideas but largely ignored others. In short, state governments emphasized strategic planning and performance measurement but were less successful in implementing reforms that would enhance managerial authority, undermining the logic that promised high performance improvements.