Tag Archives: paradox

Week in Public Organizations, 21Sep2008

Climate change, role-playing games, leadership shifts, open-source intel, nationalized oil, juries and policy, paradoxes of attention, and thoughts on torture.  These were some of the stories involving organizations in public life this week:

WP: Intel agencies predict climate change challenges

Danger Room: Terror plots could be hatched in online role-playing games

Hayden: bin Laden no longer al Qaeda’s manager

OSINT contractor shares thoughts on improving the process

Slate: National oil companies hold political future

Judge: Juries do not engage in policy analysis

O&M: Your well-being is guaranteed

May, Workman, and Jones: Bureaucracy faces paradox of attention

APA: We probably shouldn’t aid in torture

May, Workman, and Jones: Bureaucracy faces paradox of attention

One of the things I have missed since taking a hiatus from academe is ungated access to journals.  That feeling was tweaked as I read the abstract of Organizing Attention: Responses of the Bureaucracy to Agenda Disruption by May, Workman, and Jones in the current issue of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory:

Federal agencies are routinely confronted with requests from policymakers that they must address in some manner. These range from routine directives to cut through red tape to exceptional demands to alter policy priorities. We theorize that how attention is organized by public bureaucracies affects their responses. We draw on a variety of scholarship about public bureaucracies to develop a theory about the bureaucratic organization of attention and its consequences. In illustrating these notions, we trace federal agency attention to the threat of terrorism as it gained prominence on the national policy agenda over the 1980s to 1990s and became a prominent issue after the terrorist attacks of 2001. The consequences of the Department of Homeland Security’s centralized attention to the terrorism threat suggest a paradox of issue attention. Though concentration of authority at the top of the organization holds the prospect of control over the substance and speed of policymaking, this control is highly circumscribed by the limits of attention faced by all organizations.

That’s the sort of important work urgently needed in public bureaucracies.  I’m looking forward to giving this a thorough read.

By the way, gifts of journal access are always appreciated.

Note: the timeline above is from the Center for American Progress.  Click through for the larger version.