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UPADM-GP 103: Introduction to Managing Public Service
Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
New York University
Professor Monte Kurs
Office: Puck Building, Phone: 212-204-7089
Office Hours: by appointment
Location: Room C-20, 25 West 4th Street
Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11am to 12:15pm
Course Goals and Objectives
The goal of Managing Public Service Organizations (MPSO) is to enhance your leadership skills.
The course provides you with the tools you need to diagnose and solve organizational problems, to influence the actions of individuals, groups, and organizations, and to lead prosperous public service organizations.
A key leadership task is to assemble the skills, talents, and resources of individuals and groups into those combinations that best solve the organizational problems at hand. You must manage people, information, and processes to accomplish organizational goals; you must make things happen, and often not under conditions or timeframes of your own choosing; and you must learn from the challenges you experience. The successful execution of these tasks requires leaders to understand what skills and abilities they bring to and need from their teams and organizations, to formulate a mission and strategy, to make effective and ethical decisions, to influence and motivate diverse individuals, to optimize the structure of their organization, to measure and improve performance, and to drive organizational change.
MPSO prepares you to achieve these objectives by providing you with fundamental frameworks and tools developed from the behavioral and social sciences and tested by leaders in organizations representing all sectors.
Course Format Each week we will focus on a particular set of leadership skills. Our goal will be to distinguish between effective and ineffective strategies. We will accomplish this by discussing key concepts, analyzing related cases, engaging in role-play exercises, and completing team projects.
This course reflects a dual focus on practice and conceptual training. The course readings introduce key concepts and useful ways of thinking about common situations in complex organizations. Case studies and class exercises provide opportunities to apply theories, concepts, and research findings to particular situations, sectors, and fields of interest to students and to hone your skills in problem definition and problem solving. The written assignments, including the team project, ask you to consolidate your insights and to practice your analytic skills.
Preparing for Class It is important that you complete the reading for each session in advance. You and your classmates will not benefit as much from the class session if you come unprepared. For weeks with a case, you will not be able to contribute to class discussion of the case if you have not read it in advance.
Many of the principles and issues involved in MPSO are relatively timeless and not limited only to organizations of a public service nature. Consequently, you should not rely on the copyright dates or specific organizational applications of either the readings or the cases in evaluating their usefulness. “Classic” readings and cases are included because they speak to important issues in useful, interesting, and time-tested ways.
The readings provide key ideas and theoretical insights into human behavior and its impact on
productivity and performance. To be sure you have grasped the point of each piece, ask yourself:
• What is the author’s main argument?
• What are the key concepts and principles introduced?
• How does this matter for an organization?
• What are the implications for the kinds of challenges I face as a leader, a manager, a policy analyst, an urban planner, or a financial analyst?
• How can I apply this to my organization, my job, and/or my career?
The case studies provide concrete situations to which you should apply the concepts introduced in articles. They provide an opportunity for you to practice diagnosing the nature and causes of organizational performance and thinking through the potential consequences of decisions.
A class like this requires careful attention to fairness and mutual respect for one another. It is especially important that if you do have an unavoidable conflict, that you notify me before class and that you do not disturb your classmates by arriving late, leaving early, or otherwise causing interruptions. If you are familiar with a case or an exercise introduced in class, please do not discuss your prior knowledge with other students until after the class session, as this can ruin the learning experience for them.
1. All but four of the readings are posted on the course Blackboard website.
2. The remaining readings (4) are case studies available for download via the Harvard Business Review website (hbr.org/magazine). They each cost $7 or less and will be required for classes in weeks 4, 5, 6 and 13. They can be found by using the authors or case names, as found in the syllabus, input to the HBR search bar.
Optional The syllabus indicates a number of optional readings provided on Blackboard for students who would like to read more about a particular topic. For students who want to read a thorough, academic treatment of many of the topics we will cover in class, reviewing the literature in organizational theory and organizational behavior in public organizations, I would recommend
the following textbooks:
• Rainey, H. G. (2009). Understanding and Managing Public Organizations (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
• Kahneman, Daniel (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Blackboard You must have access to the class Blackboard site at http://classes.nyu.edu/
• Many class related documents (extra readings, discussion questions, class handouts, etc.) and surveys/exercises will be posted here. If you have not activated your NYU account or have forgotten your password, you can activate or change your password at http://start.nyu.edu. Your account must be activated to access Blackboard.
• Some class announcements will also be distributed via e- mail. Thus, it is important that you actively use your NYU e- mail account, or have appropriate forwarding set up on NYUHome https://home.nyu.edu/ Grading
Your grade for the course will be based on the following elements:
30% Class participation (see guidelines below) 30% Team project (intermediate assignments and paper; team member evaluations) 15% Individual assignments (10% MGOA analysis, 5% Vision of Value memo) 25% Final exam Class Participation All class sessions will involve active discussion based on the readings and cases, with an emphasis both on theoretical questions and practical implications. You should be prepared to share your ideas and to listen to and interpret the issues presented by others. Please carefully read the readings and cases before class sessions. Most participation will be voluntary; however, to insure that everyone has the opportunity to be involved, individuals will occasionally be called upon at my discretion. Keep in mind that your goal should be to contribute high quality, rather than high quantity, discussion comments and questions. High quality comments and questions
possess one or more of the following attributes:
Relevance: How is your comment/question related to the current discussion?
Accuracy: Do you use terms and concepts in ways that are consistent with definitions provided in readings and lectures?
Analysis: Can you explain the reasoning behind your comment/question using careful analysis?
Integration: Does your comment/question move the discussion forward by building on previous contributions with new insights?
Individuality: Does your comment/question contribute a new perspective to the discussion, or does it simply repeat what others have already said?
Application: Does you comment/question apply the theory and concepts to real-world situations?
Regular participation in discussions and class exercises is expected. If you must miss a class, it is essential that you notify me in advance so I can make arrangements for any in-class exercises.
Phones should be turned off in class. Computers/tablets can be used only for note taking.
Team Project: The goals of the team project are: (1) to practice using team concepts (2) to connect theory to practice by utilizing a conceptual framework to analyze an actual organization and (3) to develop your professional network with leaders of organizations that are engaged with topics that interest you. Limited class time will be provided for team assignments. Teams are expected to meet outside of class hours to complete team projects.
You will be assigned to teams of three to five students. Each team will focus on one of the
following areas covered by the course:
• Mission & Strategy • Employee Motivation & Incentives
• Organizational Structure • Performance Management & Measurement
• Employee/Client Diversity • Organizational Culture Your team will select an organization in New York City in which to study one of these topics. The organization you select can be in any sector that provides public service (government, nonprofit, or for-profit), should have at least 50 employees and can be one you previously worked or interned for, one you would like to work for, or simply one that interests you. Your team will make contact with the organization and approach and interview two senior managers to learn about the topic you have selected in the context of that organization. Your final deliverable is a theoretically grounded and applied analytical paper
that discusses the topic as applied to the organization in the following ways:
• Theory/Prior Evidence: What does the management/organizations literature we have covered in class say about the topic in conceptual/theoretical terms, and what is the evidence regarding organizational performance?
• Data/Evidence: What do the senior managers say about how the topic you are studying affects the day- to- day work in the organization and the organization’s performance? What is the history behind why things work as they do? What is working well? What could be improved? What would they change? Are there any constraints that prevent feasibly improving the organization with respect to your topic?
• Analysis: Based on the theory/prior evidence, explain what has happened/is happening at the organization. Can you illuminate what the leaders have told you?
Can you reconcile anything that the managers told you that seem inconsistent with theory/prior evidence?
• Recommendations: What would your team recommend, with respect to your topic, to increase organizational performance?
Your team will be working on this project throughout the semester and periodically will be asked to provide information about your progress. Consult with my TC or myself if you have any questions or concerns about how to proceed. The project includes the following steps (although the tasks in bold are required in the order presented, the remainder is only
a recommended order in which to proceed):
1. Discuss members' expectations regarding teamwork, team decision- making and leadership. Develop agreement regarding team roles, ground rules, and protocols in the form of a team charter.
2. As a team, find a government, nonprofit, or for-profit organization to serve as the case study for the team's theme. Identify two senior managers who are willing and available to be interviewed. Submit a team project brief.
3. Discuss the initial individual and team tasks to be done in preparation for completing the steps outlined below. Divide and coordinate tasks among team members.
4. Develop interview questions and conduct your first interview. Identify a theoretical framework, model, or set of concepts with which you can analyze your chosen topic at the organization you are studying. Submit a team project status report memo.
Conduct your second interview.
5. Prepare a final paper according to the criteria for all written assignments (below)
and the following:
• The paper should be no more than 10 pages double- spaced, excluding
references and an optional appendix.
• Your paper should include a list of references at the end. An appendix may follow with a figure or table.
• Use the Example Final Paper Table of Contents (Blackboard/Assignments/Team Project Materials) as a guideline for how you might structure your paper. Use the format for the readings in this syllabus as a guide for how to format the References section. To cite a work in the body of the text, list the author(s) and year of publication in parentheses as follows: (Phillips, 2004).
• Due December 11th in class.
Assignments and Outside- of- Class Exercises: To facilitate application of the class concepts and your project team development, you will be asked to complete some individual and team exercises, reflections, and assignments, outside of class in addition to the team paper. Most of these are very brief; the exceptions are the two Written Analyses and the Team Final Paper. The instructions for the assignments, exercises, and reflections, will be found at Blackboard /
Assignments and their due dates are listed below: