Applying Perform or Else in the Public Management Field

Helen Dickinson


As an academic working in public management, I am expected to spend time thinking about performance and encouraging my students to do the same. Yet what it means to perform is rarely questioned and the field has a disconcertingly narrow view on what performance constitutes. Stumbling across Perform or Else (McKenzie 2001) had a profound impact on my work and helped to make sense of a number of phenomena that I had observed. In this essay, I describe this impact and the ways that I have used McKenzie’s work and considerations about its ongoing contribution in a post-pandemic world. 

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