MG402      Half Unit
Public Management: A Design-Oriented Approach

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Michael Barzelay NAB 3.19


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, Global MSc in Management, Global MSc in Management (CEMS MiM), Global MSc in Management (MBA Exchange), MBA Exchange, MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MPA in Social Impact, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Human Resources and Organisations (Human Resource Management/CIPD), MSc in Human Resources and Organisations (International Employment Relations and Human Resource Management), MSc in Human Resources and Organisations (Organisational Behaviour), MSc in Management (1 Year Programme), MSc in Management and Strategy, MSc in Management of Information Systems and Digital Innovation, MSc in Public Administration and Government (LSE and Peking University) and MSc in Public Policy and Administration. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course cannot be combined with MG467 Strategy and Change in Public Sector Management. This course is available on course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The public needs capabilities from public organizations, such as those to implement major shifts in public policies; to provide safe and otherwise adequate public services; to deliver technological and programmatic systems through projects; to create credible scientific information for public and policy use; and to deter corruption across the public sector. Furnishing capability to accomplish such purposes requires management of public organizations, and, management, in turn, involves using professional knowledge and skilful abilities to devise mechanisms that will work in challenging situations and settings. 

In this course, students will learn how to engage creatively – as designers and managers -- with practical theories and case-based knowledge in creating mechanisms that work in enabling public organizations to play their crucial roles in government. In particular, the course will focus on how a design-orientation in professional practice can be directed toward overcoming specific conditions and widespread tendencies that work against any specific public organization’s success in furnishing the capabilities required of it.  Case studies will be used to develop this design-orientation, while also expanding students’ familiarity with varied roles played by public organizations, e.g., using regulation to promote waste-reduction in a region’s industrial sector; using international cooperation projects to promote advanced technological education in a partner country; using design-projects to formulate and test operational concepts for performing sanitation functions in delivering a public event attended by millions; using project organizations and tools to control the use of public money and authority in infrastructure projects; and using national-level auditing and criminal investigation tools to combat corruption at the local level.  In this sense, and by using pedagogical methods common to professional schools of public policy and management, the course is emblematic of the design-oriented professional discipline of Public Management.  (Additional course content information on the Course Moodle site.)


30 hours of combined lecture/seminars in the LT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Essay: Write a 1500-2500 word essay about a specific publication on the reading list to develop the skilful ability of presenting a research publication that furnishes professional knowledge about public organizations and their management.

Case analysis: Contribute to a group-project whose deliverable is a report about how a specific organizational mechanism (namely, the Brazil in Action management system) worked in achieving innovative change and in fulfilling the functional-intent of public administration, from a whole-of-government standpoint, so that the analysis can be used in tackling challenges elsewhere.

Based on a specific teaching case, write a 2000-3000 word script, supported by 4-7 presentation slides, that explains how a public organization’s capability was furnished by its value-chain configuration and/or was changed through a design-project.

Indicative reading


L Andrenacci, M Barzelay, & Y Yan, ‘Managing the Government’s Emblematic Project: The Case of the 2019 Kumbh Mela Pilgrimage Festival in Uttar Pradesh, India’ (2020); E Bardach, ‘The Extrapolation Problem’ (2004); M Barzelay, Public Management as a Design-Oriented Professional Discipline (2019); M Barzelay & C Campbell, Preparing for the Future: Strategic Planning in the U.S. Air Force (2003); M Barzelay & S Seabra, ‘Auditing Against Corruption’ (2020); J Bryson, Strategic Planning in Public and Nonprofit Organizations (2017);T Cellucci, ‘Developing Operational Requirements’ (2008); B George, ‘Revisiting Public Management as a Design Science’ (2020); J Koopenjan, et. al., ‘Competing Management Approaches in Large Engineering Projects’ (2011); B Lawson, What Designers Know (2004); J Tendler & S Freedheim, ‘Trust in a Rent-Seeking Society’ (1994); J van Aken et. al., Problem-Solving in Organizations (2007); D Vaughan, ‘Organizational Rituals of Risk and Error’(2005).


Videos: ‘Programs and their Mechanisms’ (2017); ‘Public Management Gallery Tour’ (2017); ‘Furnishing Professional Knowledge about Public Management with Case Studies: A Long Primer’ (2020).


Teaching case studies: ‘Paying the Bills in the Junta of Andalusia’; ‘Preventing Pollution in Massachusetts: The Blackstone Project’; Cleanliness for Millions:Preparing to Keep the Festival Grounds Clean During the 2019 Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India.”


Essay (45%, 2500 words) in the ST.
Case analysis (45%) and class participation (10%) in the LT.


Essay: Write an essay about one of a small selection of publications on the course reading list to (a) explicate the publication’s argumentation about its case study and overall topic and (b) assess its relevance and importance in furnishing professional knowledge about public organizations (2500 maximum word length). (45%)

Case analysis: Write an individual case-analysis based on the formative case analysis assignment completed in groups (3000 maximum word length) (45%)

Class participation: Based on attendance and contribution to class discussion. (10%)

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Management

Total students 2019/20: 22

Average class size 2019/20: 22

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills