Performance failure in the public sector: Misfortune or mismanagement?

Rhys Andrews*, George A. Boyne, Gareth Enticott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)


Central government in the UK has introduced procedures for assessing and categorizing the performance of public organizations. These procedures assume that performance is attributable to organizational decisions rather than external circumstances. This implies that mismanagement, rather than misfortune, is the primary cause of public service failure. We test this argument by developing a statistical model of the impact of internal characteristics and external constraints on service standards, using data from a range of secondary sources and a multiple informant survey in 120 English local authorities. We then apply this model to the results of the comprehensive performance assessment in English local government. The evidence shows that organizational failure is to some extent attributable to difficult circumstances (such as diverse service needs and poverty) and management characteristics (such as weak leadership and poor performance management). Thus performance failure is associated with both misfortune and mismanagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-296
Number of pages24
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


  • England
  • External constraints
  • Local government
  • Management characteristics
  • Performance failure
  • Public organizations


Dive into the research topics of 'Performance failure in the public sector: Misfortune or mismanagement?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this