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The Science of Muddling Through

published 1959
Alice Christian PA 302 February 13, 2006

Charles E. Lindblom

Rational Comprehensive (Root) Clarification of values or objectives distinct from and usually prerequisite to empirical analysis of alternative policies. Policy-formulation is therefore approached through means-end analysis: First the ends are isolated, then the means to achieve them are sought. The test of a good policy is that it can be shown to be the most appropriate means to a desired end.

Successive Limited Comparisons (Branch) Selection of value goals and empirical analysis of the needed action are not distinct from one another but are closely intertwined. Since means and ends are not distinct, means-ends analysis is often inappropriate or limited. The test of a good policy is typically that various analysts find themselves directly agreeing on a policy (without their agreeing that it is the most appropriate means to an agreed objective). Analysis is drastically limited: I)Important possible outcomes are neglected. II)Important alternatives potential policies are neglected. III)Important affected values are neglected.

Analysis is comprehensive; every important relevant factor is taken into account.

Theory is often heavily relied upon.

A succession of comparison greatly reduces or eliminates reliance on theory.

By Root or By Branch

Intertwining Evaluation and Empirical Analysis (1a)


How to rank values?

A problem of adjustments at the margin p. 180

Relations Between Means and Ends (2b)

How can an administrator know whether he has made a wise or foolish decision if he is without prior values or objectives by which to judge his decisions? p. 181

The Test of Good Policy (3b)

Good if it can be shown to attain a specific objective; it is not possible to judge in the abstract.
Judge by agreement on the policy itself

Noncomprehensive Analysis (4b)

Need to simplify by limiting policy comparisons to those that differ in relatively small degrees from present policies.
Relevance as Well as Realism Compare with existing policies

Achieving a Degree of Comprehensiveness

Every important interest or value has its watchdog. P. 183

Succession of Comparison (5b)

Theorists and Practitioners

Theory is limited in that: 1. It is greedy for facts 2. It is insufficiently precise.

Policyis made and re-made endlessly.

Successive Comparison as a System

It is a method or system, it is not a failure of method for which administrators ought to apologize. P. 185 Diversity within agencies improves decision-making.

Lindbloms World View

Lindbloms worldview is pragmatic and activist. His theory of Incrementalism grew out of his extensive studies of welfare policies and trade unions throughout the industrialized world.
Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_E._Lindblom Feb 7, 2006

Why is this important to Public Sector Organizations?

Compared with Taylors One Best Way, Lindblom advocates for constant input into systems by those involved.
Watchdog system will keep values in balance.