The nature of knowledge about public management: Lessons for research and teaching from our knowledge about chess and warfare


  • Robert D. Behn

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    • ROBERT D. BEHN is the director of the Governors Center at Duke University and an adjunct scholar at The Center for Excellence in Government. He often wonders what principles of baseball management John McNamara was applying during the sixth game of the 1986 World Series.


Knowledge about public management is similar in form to the knowledge about chess and warfare. It consists of general information about the formal and informal rules, principles of public management, and numerous examples that illustrate when, how, and why these principles apply. A master of public management, like a master in chess, has encoded in long-term memory a large managerial repertoire: patterns of managerial situations and successful actions that can be recalled and applied to new problems. The role of research on public management is to develop these principles and patterns, to weave theminto a repertoire of managerial actions, and to illustrate all this with vivid examples so that the ideas can be taught, learned, and remembered.