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Hard Lessons from Hard Times: Reconsidering and Reorienting the “Managing Decline” Literature

Authors

  • Barry Bozeman

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Georgia
      Barry Bozeman is Regent's Professor and Ander Crenshaw Professor of Public Policy at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on public management and science and technology policy.
      E-mail:bbozeman@uga.edu
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Barry Bozeman is Regent's Professor and Ander Crenshaw Professor of Public Policy at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on public management and science and technology policy.
E-mail:bbozeman@uga.edu

Abstract

Does the public administration research from the late 1970s and 1980s on managing decline contain useful lessons for today's Great Recession? Do these studies serve our current research needs? Why has decline continued to be a major focus of research in generic management, but not in public administration? The answers to these questions give some clues as to a possible new, revitalized research agenda for our field. Whereas public administration often viewed organizational decline as a self-contained set of problems requiring remedial action, generic management and sociology research on decline tended to view the topic as part of organizational phases and life cycles, linking decline to growth, stability, and change. Viewing decline as part of the organizational life cycle encourages researchers to take a longer view of organizations and their management, and thus its orientation is more strategic than reactive. Three areas of decline studies are identified as relevant irrespective of sector: (1) implications of decline for human resources management, (2) effects of decline on organization structure and design, (3) the relation of strategy and decline.

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