“Muddling Through” Election Administration

For several years I have written periodic columns in a series called “Public Administration Insights” for a local news/politics website www.utahpolicy.com.  A particular column invokes the scientific term “muddling through” as a management and decision making style.

Effective management is probably the most important thing an election administrator can do to prevent or minimize situations that introduce ambiguity into an electon.  Rather than write something new specifically for election folks and this blog, I am posting a link to the original article.

Utah Policy logoUtah Policy – Smart Public Administration “Muddling Through” Reprised

Despite the highly visible nature of election administration, it is no more “special” than any other public sector management context and can be well managed using the same concepts as a Public Works Director, an HR manager, or a Human Services supervisor.

How does one know if they are a muddler or part of a muddling team?

“A muddling team may be earnest and hardworking but may not be effective if their  activities do not correlate to the services and functions they are expected to  provide.  Some manifestations of muddling include the inability to answer  the question “Why do you do ‘it’ that way?” without saying “We’ve always done ‘it’ that way.”  Muddling teams do not have documented procedures and often  solve routine problems differently each time they occur and/or team members each  solve the same problem differently.  Although technology, laws and  expectations change over time, muddling teams do not reassess and revise their  practices to account for the changes, preferring instead the security and  familiarity of outdated processes.  Muddling teams make decisions based  upon what people can agree on rather than on an objective analysis of ends and  means.”

No single administrator, manager or leader can change a “muddling through” culture.

“The commitment [to effective management] must be made by the entire management/leadership team of an  organization who must be willing to critically examine its business functions,  objectives, assumptions, processes and “way of doing business” for the purpose  of improving its performance and level of service to its customers while  increasing its effective use of human, capital and fiscal resources.”

Read more:  Utah Policy – Smart Public Administration

Stay Tuned


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