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Differences between public administrators' and elected officials' perspectives on the role of the citizen in service quality improvement processes

Fabio Cassia (Department of Business Administration, University of Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy)
Francesca Magno (Department of Business Administration, University of Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy)

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Article publication date: 23 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

According to the “New Public Management” paradigm, citizens are viewed as active participants through all the different steps of service planning and provision. Nonetheless, citizens' involvement is still far from being systematically applied within local governments. The purpose of this paper is to give a contribution to this stream of research by investigating whether a part of this resistance could be explained by the differences between public administrators and elected officials' perspectives on the role of the citizens in service quality improvement processes.

Design/methodology/approach

A mail survey was conducted among a sample of Italian town municipalities in May and June of 2010. A total of 102 questionnaires were returned (59 from politicians and 43 from public managers), and these questionnaires were then analysed through t‐tests and regressions.

Findings

Findings support the existence of a statistically significant difference between public administrators' and elected officials' attitudes. Differences exist in three main issues: the relative importance of citizens as sources of inputs to improve public service quality, the objectives of citizens' involvement and the structure of citizens' preferences.

Research limitations/implications

Results could have been influenced by the degree of New Public Management development within the specific research setting (Italian local governments).

Practical implications

Formalising the role, the timing and the contribution of citizens' involvement to the municipal decision‐making process could help to mitigate the mentioned dualism. Creating a favourable cultural background and sharing a citizen‐oriented vision within the whole organisation, from top levels to front‐line employees, is fundamental.

Originality/value

This paper is the first to suggest that these resistances toward involving citizens in quality improvement processes could be due to the differences between administrators' and elected officials' perspectives.

Keywords

Citation

Cassia, F. and Magno, F. (2011), "Differences between public administrators' and elected officials' perspectives on the role of the citizen in service quality improvement processes", The TQM Journal, Vol. 23 No. 5, pp. 550-559. https://doi.org/10.1108/17542731111157644

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited