It begins with a description of the publications that most often have been associated with the reinvention movement. The primary purpose of the paper, however, is to review reinvention's assumptions, themes, and purposes. It concludes by presenting critical views of REGO's approach and some assumptions toward human resource reforming.
For decades the civil service, also known as the merit system, has been accused of being too narrowly focused on protecting government employees from political or personal favoritism. It also has been criticized for not adequately supporting managerial objectives and organizational missions. These kinds of complaints constitute the motivating force behind reinventing government (REGO), which one notable scholar called the most energetic and robust reform movement in the past half-century (Light, 1994, 63). Human resources constitute the most influential of all factors that bear on the quality of an organization's products and services. If employees are not well trained, focused, and committed, then high quality organizational performance is not likely to materialize. This is the basic reasoning that underpins organizational concern for how human resources are managed. It is a logic that applies to both the private and public sectors. REGO claims that the traditional public sector employment principles of fitness and merit can coexist with increased managerial discretion and greater employee independence. It also contends that flexibility and innovation can be combined with a system that demands high levels of accountability and equity. (Thompson and Riccucci, 1998) The reinvention critique extends to most areas of government, in addition to targeting many of its recommendations at the civil service.
Reinventing Government Reports
Management reform is not new to the federal government. At least one major reform initiative has been undertaken every decade of the twentieth century. As Shafritz et al. (2001) report, they "all began with an assumption that government . . . was broken, fragmented, badly organized, and incapable of performing at a level acceptable to the public" (p. 61). The 1980s and 1990s were times during which an extraordinary amount of government reform activity took place (Peters, 1996, p. vii). One scholar of public sector change says the period reflected the greatest pressure ever placed on the U.S. government to innovate (Light 1994, p. 63). The reform movement is not just a United States phenomenon. The National Academy of Public Administration claims that "government performance and accountability is an issue throughout the world" (1995, p. 61).
In announcing the creation of the National Performance Review, President Clinton stated that one of its principal goals was "to change the culture of our national bureaucracy away from complacency and entitlement toward initiative and empowerment" (National Performance Review, 1993, p. 1). This may be as succinct a summary of reinvention as