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The historian Thomas Kuhn’s seminal work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962, 2nd ed. 1970, 3rd ed. 1996, 50th anniversary ed., 2012) introduced “normal science” and “paradigm shift,” among other terms, as aids to the interpretation of the history of science. Over time, these concepts percolated into popular consciousness and widespread usage in disciplines seemingly far removed from those of the natural sciences. As they did so, their original explanatory power diminished. In the history of ideas, the abstractions of federal grant reform may come to share the same fate as Kuhn’s – dilution of meaning through overuse.


The rhetoric of federal grant reform in the 2010s brims with grand abstractions, which taken together, may constitute both a “paradigm” and a “paradigm shift”. This post introduces some resources for exploring a few of their more salient dimensions.


For some of the leading concepts, quoted here, I invite you to visit the Office of Management and Budget’s Roadmap for a More Efficient and Accountable Federal Government: Implementing the GPRA Modernization Act (2012).


Performance Improvement:

The task of “…creating a culture of performance improvement…” is the focus of Performance Improvement Basics: A Resource Guide for Healthcare Managers (2009) and Fundamentals of Performance Improvement: A Guide to Improving People, Process, and Performance (2012).



Increasing “…the effectiveness, efficiency, responsiveness and transparency of government operations….” is the subject of Understanding E-Government: Information Systems in Public Administration (2008).


Data-Driven Decision-Making:

Engaging in “data-driven decision-making” is popular in both business – Data Driven Business Decisions (Statistics in Practice) (2011) – and education – Data-Based Decision Making (Essentials for Principals) (2012).


Breakthrough Performance:

Achieving “breakthrough performance” is the subject of Reinventing Strategy: Using Strategic Learning to Create and Sustain Breakthrough Performance (2012) and of Benchmarking in the Public and Nonprofit Sectors: Best Practices for Achieving Performance Breakthroughs (2008).


Streamlining Service Delivery:

Using “innovative technologies to streamline service delivery and improve customer experience” is discussed in Digital Governance: New Technologies for Improving Public Service and Participation (2011) and in Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams (2009).



Effective implementation of “leadership teams” is explained in Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes to Make Them Great (Center for Public Leadership) (2008) as well as Who’s in the Room: How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them (2012). The “transformation” of organizations through leadership is the focus of Transformational Leadership (2005) and of the more dated Transformational Leadership in Government (1996), among others.


Evidence-Based Strategies:

Finally, “…emphasizing evidence based strategies that connect… outputs to outcomes…” is a concern of Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management (2006) and of Evidence-Based Policymaking: Insights from Policy-Minded Researchers and Research-Minded Policymakers (2010).


Taken together, such a small library represents a “paradigm” and a “paradigm shift” (pace Kuhn) for contemporary grant reform. A later post will discuss how a grant writer might develop frameworks for competitive proposals during such a shift of paradigms.


For more see on the rhetoric of reform also see: Performance Improvement.


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