Managing with less

Geoffrey Hawker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Managers everywhere are faced always with problems of scarcity, with setting priorities, making trade‐offs and allocating short resources. One part of the administrative task is necessarily about getting the most done for the least cost. But is Australian government administration now entering a particularly severe period of restraint, which will place even sharper challenges upon managers in the public service? I think the answer to this question is yes, and that there is general agreement about this within the public service itself. Problems of managing with less are therefore contemporary and pressing; and this paper is a summary of ways in which those problems are being approached. One way issues in calls for improved efficiency in government. This is not, however, a straightforward matter at all. Improvements or so called improvements to efficiency will always meet some resistance for a mixture of reasons. Some managers think that the need for change is not as great as critics maintain, so giving them no cause to do more than continue their normal practices of good management. Others see a renewed emphasis on efficiency as cutting into the resources properly available to the public service, so harming the community which the administration is supposed to serve. Managing with less is not then merely a technical issue. It involves questions about the meaning of efficiency and the role of management, and also judgments about the nature of the period in which we live and about who gains and who loses when we do indeed have to manage with less: that is, political and even moral considerations are mixed up with considerations of good management and efficiency. These matters of value, choice and conflict cannot be avoided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-212
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1980


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