Source: Mary K. Feeney and Craig R. Smith, Public Performance & Management Review (subscription req.), Volume 31, Number 4 / June 2008
As public agencies become increasingly familiar with outsourcing public services, public managers face the challenge of building and maintaining contract management capacity while balancing the demands of external actors, including, but not limited to, contractors, executives, legislators, and clients. Although a great deal of recent research examines contract management capacity in the public sector, few studies have investigated consultants’ and public managers’ perceptions of one another. Here, within a long-term research project working to build contract management capacity at the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), we draw from in-depth interviews with private consultants to develop and test a model and hypotheses about how public managers’ previous work experiences, communication patterns in working relations, and professional and social activities affect their perceptions of outsourcing and consultants. We outline a full model of the relationships between past experiences, perceptions, trust, and relational governance; however, the analysis presented here focuses on the antecedents of public managers’ perceptions of contractors and contracting. We test the model and hypotheses with data from a 2003 survey of GDOT managers’ perceptions. Our analysis highlights the importance of social mechanisms in creating positive perceptions among public managers. Our findings contribute to the literature on contract management capacity and our understanding of how public agencies can use public management theory, evaluations, and consultant feedback to understand managerial perceptions.