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Quality management in public organizations: The United States and Germany

Mark Edward Secan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation explores philosophies and techniques used to establish quality in public management in the United States and Germany. Both democracies are under pressure to reform their administrative systems to accommodate growing demands for improved customer satisfaction. The hypothesis is that American administration is embracing Total Quality Management (TQM) as the solution to improved service quality, while German administration is still trying to decide which path to take. Germany appears to be on the brink of departing from its traditional roots, toward methods similar to TQM.^ A case is built for using TQM in public administration, reinforced by a detailed exploration of Deming's and Juran's work. A composite picture of TQM as a public administration tool is presented. It is found that pure TQM applications are difficult in the public sector, because producing public goods and services is not as easily adapted to TQM's mathematical basis.^ The state of TQM application in the United States follows. Three legal foundations for pursuing quality improvement are addressed, and corresponding strategies for implementing quality public management are explored. Quality strategies of thirteen government agencies are analyzed to determine irrecognizable implementation patterns exist. Legislative barriers prevent public agencies from pursuing some TQM aspects. The result: quality management methods are being implemented, but without a standard application.^ Finally, quality is placed within the German context, brought up to date from its guild system roots. Public TQM is largely unknown here. A discussion of Beamtentum and its relationship to German society highlights a tendency for traditionalism, formalism, and the need to pass foreign innovations through a cultural filter. The focus of German administrative reforms are discussed in a historical setting, leading to descriptions of recent changes to improve quality in government service. Recognizing this need, the primary reforms made recently in Germany are to privatize government monopolies. A popular strategy has appeared, called "Lean Management." It espouses TQM-like philosophies, yet there is no collective public move in that direction. Most German reform efforts are, and will be limited to the margins because of a lack of interest and political will to break with tradition. ^

Subject Area

Political Science, Public Administration

Recommended Citation

Secan, Mark Edward, "Quality management in public organizations: The United States and Germany" (1996). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9628250.