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Philosophy of Management

Volume 5, Issue 1, 2005

Real Worlds

Brian Brewer, Anthony B. L. Cheung, Julia Tao
Pages 3-14

Whose Reason? Which Rationality? Understanding the ‘Real Worlds’ of Hong Kong’s Public Managers

Based on empirical data from a qualitative study, this paper explores the complexity of ‘real world’ management in Hong Kong’s public sector, as contrasted with various paradigmatic claims under ‘new public management’ (NPM). A plurality of sub-worlds within the broad public sector is identified, which makes the management roles and responsibilities much less ‘homogenised’ than depicted in NPM exhortations. The instrumental rationality underpinning NPM is identified as too restrictive in understanding the way in which public managers reach decisions. When the daily challenges of reconciling values and practices arising from the complexities of politics, policies and service delivery are considered it is necessary to incorporate ideas related to procedural and expressive rationality to fully appreciate the nature of management in public organisations.

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