Theoretical Approaches to Public Organizations and Management


TheoreticalApproaches to Public Organizations and Management

Management remains to be a contemporary issue in organizations.Managers have the mandate to make choices on how individuals in anorganization should group together to execute the tasks they havebeen assigned. However, the ability of managers to efficientlyperform such duties depends on the choices made about the identifiedtheoretical approaches. Management at the public sector isparticularly a challenge owing to the dynamic nature of theorganizational structure in such systems. Regardless of the nature ofthe sector, it is critical that managers employ a reliabletheoretical approach to help deal with issues that come up on a dayto day basis. Different theoretical approaches have been introducedthat are essential in ensuring success in organizational activities.The approaches include functional, matrix, divisional, team andnetworking.


The FunctionalApproach

The functional approach defines a well-characterized channel ofcommunication and the authority-responsibility relationships (Miller2014). The approach is essential in enhancing productivity at theorganization. Particularly, the focus is on seeing to it that thereis no duplication of equipment and personnel in the organization.Employees are well-placed to execute their duties. Considering thedynamic public sector, issues of duplication of employees continue tobe reported. About the South African government, it is essential tounderstand the manner of operation of various departments.Duplication of personnel is a common issue, and the government endsup spending a significant amount of funds in paying for wages ofindividuals executing tasks that could otherwise be done by oneperson (Hvidman &amp Andersen 2013). Adoption of the functionalapproach would be instrumental in eliminating such cases.

The DivisionalApproach

The complexity of organizations especially in the public sector makesit difficult to execute tasks efficiently. Managers encounterdifficulties in keeping track of organizational activities andoperations. Because of the same, it becomes mandatory to introducedepartments in various sections to facilitate efficient management.For example, in the public sector, there are different sectionsentitled with the mandate of providing services to the people.Establishment of sections such as customer service, production, andgeographical categories is instrumental in achieving efficiency inmanagement (Lin &amp Lee 2011). The divisions created makes iteasy for the managers to attain objectives that have been set. Thedivision enables the managers to focus their resources on ensuringexcellence in performance (Banker 2012).

The MatrixApproach

The approach combines the functional and divisional approaches in themanagement of organizations. The matrix approach enables employees toexecute their duties in the best possible manner. The matrix approachencourages employee motivation making it possible for them toaccomplish tasks efficiently (Miller 2014). The approach focusesprimarily on better cooperation between the management and theemployees. Through the same, there is a high chance of betterperformance and accountability at the organizations. Organizationsoperating in the public sector have the mandate of ensuring that theydeliver efficient services to citizens (Pang et al. 2014). Theadoption of the matrix approach is essential in facilitating theachievement of goals set in the public sector regarding servicedelivery to citizens.

Team Structure

The team structure approach focuses on the organization of firms intodifferent functions with the ultimate goal of achieving a particularobjective. Notably, members hailing from different departmentscollaborate with each other to solve emerging problems while seekingalternative opportunities for growth. Such an approach is efficientespecially in the public sector since it fosters cohesion betweendifferent departments with the ultimate goal of solving the ongoingproblems in the organization. The South African administration canadopt the approach to see to it that there is the realization ofobjectives that have been set by combining efforts from differentdepartments. The team structure presents with multiple benefits tothe organization that adopts the approach. Decision-making is fastersince individuals combine efforts when it comes to finding solutionsto a particular problem (Banker 2012). Further, the organizationbenefits from the fact that there is a reduction of administrativecosts in the firm. However, the approach presents with significantchallenges such as time wastage. Mainly, the management spends asignificant amount of time in meetings as they struggle to reachconsensus on various issues. Further, conflicts are bound to arise.Notably, some employees in the public sector could be striving to getattention from the management. However, effective teamwork is likelyto accrue the organization with success.


The network approaches focuses on the reliance of an organization onother firms to execute tasks but on a contractual basis. Themanagement can take the initiative of contracting specialists intoperforming essential duties in the organization. The networkstructure is common especially in the South African government asexperts are enlisted into conducting special duties. The approach ispractical in its ability to offer flexibility while reducing overheadcosts in the organization. However, the decision by the management toemploy such a method is detrimental to the organization especially ifit turns out that those contracted fail to execute the tasks thatthey have been assigned efficiently.


Different theoretical approaches can equally be employed when itcomes to the management of public organizations. The neo-classicaland classical approaches are useful in the attainment of setobjectives. The classical approach puts emphasis on the structuralfactors to help in the achievement of goals identified in the publicorganizations (Ehiobuche &amp Tu 2012). Factors that have beenidentified to be instrumental include the application ofspecialization and coordination and respect for the chain of commandto achieve effective communication. The crucial factors under theclassical approach include division of labor, a delegation ofauthority, span of control and structure-line. Public organizationsshould focus on effective ways of management that would help themattain the mandate that they have been meant for (Wæraas &ampByrkjeflot 2012). The classical theory has pointed out the fourpillars that could assist the public organizations in the day to dayrunning of activities. By embracing such pillars, it would bepossible for the public organizations to be more responsive to theneeds of citizens making them relevant in the provision of services.For example, a division of labor is beneficial for the opportunity itprovides for the timely and professional tasks that are in theorganization. Assigning individuals tasks based on their specialtyhelps in ensuring that in the long-run, it would be possible to getthe best results out of the tasks that are being conducted. Forexample, employing South Africa as a point of reference, there aredifferent sectors entrusted with the mandate of offering services tothe people. It could be a challenge for one individual to take thesole responsibility of providing such services to the South Africans.Through the division of labor, it is possible to get experts intocarrying out a given task to completion. The classical theory isefficient and applicable to the management of public organizations.

The Neo-classical approach has been identified as the other possiblemethod that can be employed when it comes to the management of publicorganizations. The method reiterates the need to improve humanrelations as a way of improving the manner in which activities areconducted in the organization. Mainly, it emphasizes on motives,supervision and behavioral science as a way of facilitating themanner in which operations are carried out at the publicorganizations.

Public organizations need to be managed in a professional manner toensure that the objectives initially identified are achieved. Thebenefit of such an approach is that it emphasizes on a participativemanagement style. The complexity of the public organizations negatesthe need to develop a practical strategy that would help achieve theestablished goals (Pang et al. 2014). The contributions of allemployees in the day to day running of activities could help addressthe probable challenges. For example, the behavioral approachemphasizes the significance of incorporating ideas from differentindividuals with the goal of ensuring that the firm realizes success.The appreciation of individual contributions by people could increasetheir commitment to the organization and help in the achievement ofthe identified goals. Through the incorporation of suchcontributions, the management will be in a better position to attainthe individual goals that have been set by the organization as theyoffer services to the public. The neo-classical approach emphasizeson motivation to have people dedicate their efforts in providingservices to the public. Further, there is the aspect of fosteringinterrelationships among people and motivating them to give theirbest to the civil service. The South African public sector canbenefit from such an approach when it comes to service provision.

CaseStudy- PetroSA

The South African National Oil Company has been entrusted with themandate of exploring and producing oil and natural gas. The companysells petrochemical products to both South African and theinternational markets. The organization oversees all of theactivities involving exploration of petroleum products. Further, itlooks into ensuring that all of the activities conducted by theorganization are sustainable and socially responsible.

It is critical that the firm embraces any of the suggestedtheoretical approaches when it comes to the overall management ofaffairs in the company. The management needs to identify the mosteffective approach that will be instrumental in helping toward therealization of the set goals. The method selected should be in linewith the mandate of the firm which is the provision of service to thepublic. Further, it is critical that the organization identifies theresources at its disposal and use the same in working toward theattainment of goals in the organization.

The participative management style is specifically essential infacilitating the quest for the organization in the provision ofservices to the public. PetroSA should create an environment thatenables employees to give their contributions on how best to addressthe issues that arise in the firm. The organization is involved in arelatively competitive business negating the need to employ all theavailable resources to help in the realization of goals that havebeen realized. Input from all of the employees will be helpful inensuring that the organization is competitive and well placed to meetits obligations.

PersonalPerspective on the Issue

Public organizations must continually strive to be responsive to thepeople they serve. The management that is in charge of running suchaffairs in the organization must ensure they develop mechanisms thatwill be vital in ensuring they realize the goals that have been set.Various theoretical approaches have been suggested that are essentialin helping organizations be meaningful to the people they serve.Indeed, the approaches suggested can be employed at different levelsbased on the choice of the management. Of particular significance isthe need to ensure that they select an approach that is relevant tothe service they are offering to the public. It should be in linewith the available resources including the personnel who will be partof the service provision. Personally, I agree that the public shouldset the bar high for organizations. The management needs toacknowledge their responsibility to the public and provide the bestservice.


Management of public organizations remains to be a challenge becauseof the continued negativities they have been associated with.Notably, such organizations have been linked with corruption andembezzlement of funds. It is essential to identify appropriateapproaches that will enable the public organizations to execute thetasks assigned to them. The management should focus on mobilizing therest of the employees and utilizing the most appropriate approachthat will be used in the achievement of goals that have been set. Itis crucial that the departments within the public organizations workin collaboration and adopt appropriate theoretical approachesrelevant to service provision. Through the same, it would be possiblefor the public institutions to remain relevant to service provision.

List of References

Banker, D., 2012. Organizational Change: Pragmatic approaches toOrganizational Change Management. Amity Global Business Review,7, pp.63–67. Available at:

Ehiobuche, C. &amp Tu, H., 2012. Towards the Relevance of ClassicalManagement Theories and Organizational Behavior. In ASBBSProceedings. pp. 310–326. Available at:

Hvidman, U. &amp Andersen, S.C., 2013. The Impact of PerformanceManagement in Public and Private Organizations. Journal of PublicAdministration Research and Theory, 24(1), pp.35–58. Availableat:

Lin, J. &amp Lee, P., 2011. Performance Management in PublicOrganizations : a Complexity Perspective. Public ManagementReview, 12, pp.81–96.

Miller, K., 2014. Organizational Communication: Approaches andprocesses,

Pang, M.S., Lee, G. &amp Delone, W.H., 2014. In public sectororganisations: A public-value management perspective. Journal ofInformation Technology, 29(3), pp.187–205.

Wæraas, A. &amp Byrkjeflot, H., 2012. Public Sector Organizationsand Reputation Management: Five Problems. International PublicManagement Journal, 15(2), pp.186–206.