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Managing for Performance*

Vak 2015-2016


Although public service performance has always been a critical dependent variable in the study of organizations in the public sector, it has become even more pivotal considering the massive reforms (predominantly related to increased constraints, such as budget cuts) that are planned or have recently been initialized in Western democracies. In the course, we adopt the viewpoint of an upper-level manager – an individual who is expected to diagnose complex situations and resolve problems in ways that enhance service delivery. Managers in contemporary public organizations have to attain a complex set of goals: they are expected to stimulate innovation, to meet work-life balance needs of employees, to ensure diversity and representativeness in their workforce, and to activate, mobilize, and accommodate stakeholders in their organizational environment. We focus on the questions how and to what extent public managers ‘make a difference’ for the performance of their organization through the strategic choices they make and the management techniques they use. Given inevitable time and resource constraints, prioritizing certain tasks over others is expected to matter a great deal for organizational performance. Moreover, the effectiveness of decisions is contingent upon the (policy, institutional, network) context in which the organization is embedded. In a series of seven seminars, we discuss and evaluate the state-of-the art theoretical-empirical literature on management and public service performance. Students will also conduct their own small scale research on a public or nonprofit sector organization.

Course objectives

After this course, students are able:

  • to understand and compare the key theories in the field of strategic management and public service performance;
  • to critically evaluate state-of-the art empirical research in this field;
  • to design and execute a small scale empirical study on the link between management and performance in an actual public sector organization;
  • to provide strategic advice (in written form) to managers in collaboration with other students



Mode of instruction

The course is taught in seminar format. Each 3-hour seminar consists of a lecture part and an interactive (working group) part. Attendance in class is compulsory.

Course Load

Total study load is 140 hours, of which contact hours: 3 hrs. per week x 7 weeks = 21 hrs. Self-study hours: 119 preparing for lectures/tutorials, studying literature, completing assignments, etc.

Assessment method

  • Individual exam (weight 60 percent).
  • Group assignment (weight 40 percent). Specifics to be announced in the course manual.

NB. The final grade is the weighted average of the assignment and paper. Important: in order to receive a final grade, students must have earned a minimum grade of 5.5 for both the assignment and the paper.

You can find more information about assessments and the timetable exams on the website.
Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Blackboard.
On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website, uSis and Blackboard.

Students will be permitted to resit an examination if they have taken the first sit and have a mark lower than 5.5 or with permission of the Board of Examiners.

Resit written exam
Students that want to take part in a resit for a written exam, are required to register via uSis. Use the activity number that can be found on the ‘timetable exams’.


Yes. This page, including the course manual, will be made available approximately two weeks before the start of the course.

Other course materials/literature

To be announced.


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.
Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.
Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted here.


Dr. J. (Jelmer) Schalk