Cops, Teachers, and the Art of the Impossible: ‎Explaining the Lack of Diffusion of Impossible ‎Job Innovations

33 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2010

See all articles by Patrick Wolf

Patrick Wolf

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Robert Maranto

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Date Written: August 27, 2010

Abstract

In their now classic Impossible Jobs in Public Management, Hargrove and Glidewell (1990) ‎argue that public agencies with limited legitimacy, high conflict, low professional authority, and ‎weak "agency myths" have essentially impossible jobs. Leaders of such agencies can do little ‎more than "cope," which is also a theme of James Q. Wilson (1989), among others. Yet in the ‎years since publication of Impossible Jobs, one such position, that of police commissioner has ‎proven possible. Over a sustained 17-year period, the New York City Police Department has ‎achieved dramatic reductions in crime with relatively few political repercussions, as described by ‎Kelling and Sousa (2001). A second impossible job discussed by Wilson and also by Frederick ‎Hess (1999), city school superintendent, has also proven possible, with Houston and Edmonton ‎having considerable academic success educating disadvantaged children. In addition, Atlanta ‎and Pittsburgh enjoyed significant success in elementary schooling, though the gains were short-‎lived for reasons we will describe. More recently, under Michelle Rhee, Washington D.C. schools ‎have made the most dramatic gains among city school systems. These successes in urban crime ‎control and public schooling have not been widely copied. Accordingly, we argue that the real ‎conundrum of impossible jobs is why agency leaders fail to copy successful innovations. Building ‎on the work of Teodoro (2009), we will discuss how the relative illegitimacy of clients and ‎inflexibility of personnel systems combine with the professional norms, job mobility and ‎progressive ambition of agency leaders to limit the diffusion of innovations in law enforcement ‎and schooling. We will conclude with ideas about how to overcome these barriers.‎

Suggested Citation

Wolf, Patrick and Maranto, Robert, Cops, Teachers, and the Art of the Impossible: ‎Explaining the Lack of Diffusion of Impossible ‎Job Innovations (August 27, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1667128 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1667128

Patrick Wolf

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Robert Maranto (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States
479-575-3225 (Phone)
479-575-3196 (Fax)

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