Marshall E. Dimock

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Marshall Edward Dimock (1903 - Nov. 14, 1991) was an American political scientist, Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Government at New York University, known for his work in the field of public administration.


  • Organization is the arrangement of personnel for facilitating the accomplishment of some agreed purpose through the allocation of functions and responsibilities. It is the relat­ing of efforts and capacities of individuals and groups engaged upon a common task in such a way as to secure the desired objective with the least friction and the most satisfaction to those for whom the task is done and those engaged in the enterprise.

"The Study of Administration." 1937


Marshall E. Dimock, "The Study of Administration." American Political Science Review 31.01 (1937): 28-40.

  • It is now fifty years since Woodrow Wilson wrote his brilliant essay on public administration.' It is a good essay to reread every so often; there is so much in it that sounds modern, so much that will hold permanently true... Political scientists owe Woodrow Wilson a debt of gratitude for opening their eyes to the broader importance and implications of administration. His keen mind also discerned the task which would occupy the attention of administrative theorists long after he was gone.
    • p. 28
  • Public administration is a process or a theory, not merely an accumulation of detailed facts. It is Verwaltungslehre. The object of administrative study should be to discover, first, what government can properly and successfully do, and secondly, how it can do these proper things with the utmost possible efficiency and at the least possible cost both of money and of energy.
    • p. 29
  • Administration is generic. It is a social science concept which applies to all organized group activity. Administration arises whenever organization occurs. There are common problems and processes in the household, the school, the church, the business corporation, and the vast modern state. After deciding upon objectives, means must be devised for carrying out the program. This latter process is administration. Anyone who is responsible for directing the work of others thereby becomes an administrator
    • p. 29
  • Administration is both social engineering and applied psychology. It is apparatus and mechanics, incentives and human nature. Let no one think it is merely the former. Nowhere is the need for psychology greater than in the organization, direction, and inspiration of men working in large groups. Outstanding administrative results are produced by spirit, morale, atmosphere; these, in turn, are the product of psychological mainsprings and invigorating incentives. As Benjamin Lippincott has recognized, both governmental and business administration resolve fundamentally into the role played by effective incentives.
    • p. 30

The Executive in Action, 1945


Marshall E. Dimock. The Executive in Action. Harper and Brothers.

  • The executive in every walk of life, whether he knows it or not, directs social forces and determines the destiny of countless people, not only those who work in his immediate organization but among the larger public as well. He should comprehend this and recognize his responsibility. The role of statesman is thrust upon him by the nature and demands of the position he occupies. To fulfill it he mnst be a philosopher. But he cannot be a successful philosopher unless he understands the inherent life of institutions, the reasons why people in institutional situations behave as they do. This knowledge is the philosophy and technique of management.
    • p. 1, as cited in Albert Lepawsky (1949), Administration, p. 418-9
  • Management is not a matter of pressing a button, pulling a lever, issuing orders, scanning profit and loss statements, promulgating rules and regulations. Rather, management is the power to determine what shall happen to the personalities and to the happiness of entire peoples, the power to shape the destiny of a nation and of all the nations which make up the world. Executive work, therefore, is statesmanship and the techniques which the executive employs are only incidental to the forces which he sets in motion and helps to direct. It is no exaggeration, therefore, to say that the management of the nation's large institutions, both in business and in government, determines the fate of millions of individual lives as well as the lives of generations unborn.
    • p. 3-4, as cited in Albert Lepawsky (1949), Administration, p. 419
  • The opposition of some executives to formalized organizational analysis stems in part from a reaction against the too zealous advocacy of organization as the universal panacea of all management ills. These executives correctly understand that organization is not the whole of management any more than personnel or budgeting or public relation. Organization analysis, therefore, is not properly the periodic pursuit of the expert; rather, it is the continuous responsibility of the executive. His clue is found in mal-functionings; not in the blind following of preconceived stereotypes.
    • p. 53-4, as cited in Albert Lepawsky (1949), Administration, p. 406
  • Management experts can do much harm simply by being doctrinaire when, because of some customarily accepted formula, they tear apart established ways of doing things even though the existing structure is producing satisfactory results. They evidence a form of professional conceit-not confined to them by any means-which contributes invariably to the bad opinion which many successful executives hold of the management expert. It is a serious thing to operate on a going concern, because an institution is made up of people with established ways of doing things; people who, in consequence, develop certain institutional attachments which are an important part of institutional success. They are like the traditions of a family. Men take pride in them.
    • p. 79; as cited in Albert Lepawsky (1949), Administration, p. 406-7
  • The wise executive never looks upon organizational lines as being settled once and for all. He knows that a vital organization must keep growing and changing with the result that its structure must remain malleable. Get the best organization structure you can devise, but do not be afraid to change it for good reason: This seems to be the sound rule. On the other hand, beware of needless change, which will only result in upsetting and frustrating your employees until they become uncertain as to what their lines of authority actually are.
    • p. 168; as cited in Albert Lepawsky (1949), Administration, p. 408

"The Meshing of Line and Staff", 1945


Marshall Dimock: "The Meshing of Line and Staff." The Executive in Action. Harper & Brothers, 1945

  • The staff officer must be kept in his place. But this does not mean that he must be kept down, that he must be discouraged, that his initiative and imagination must be checked. On the contrary, all these characteristics should be encouraged. The important question is, through what channel are they to be directed? They should, of course, Bow through the responsible operating executive, not around him.
This process may be described in terms of the following sequence: the staff official makes a recommendation; it is approved by the responsible executive who, in his authoritative capacity, announces to those below him in the hierarchy that the recommendation is going to be adopted. Thereafter there are many details in connection with putting it into effect that can be carried out more effectively by the staff official than by the line official and with a saving of time to the latter. So long as the subordinates in the hierarchy are aware that this delegation is authorized and that the staff officer is not acting independently, unification of managerial responsibility is not impaired and there is no loss of influence and responsibility in the part of the executive.
  • pp. 102-104, as cited in Albert Lepawsky (1949), Administration, p. 306-7
  • Just as the chief executive is aided by staff officials in the carrying out of his program, so also do subordinate line executives establish normal and continuous relationships with staff officials in the development of their work. If the line official cannot satisfy the staff assistant as to the necessity of his proposal, then the door of the executive's office must be open to him and he should be free to state his recommendation, explain any points of difference he has with the staff assistant, and leave the decision to his superior. As a general proposition also, if the decision is close, the chief executive should decide in favor of the line official, since presumably he knows his own needs better than any staff assistant because he is closer to them and is responsible for results. If the chief executive fails to back him up then he is bound to feel that his judgment is in question. This injures his initiative and self-confidence-as well as his confidence in his superior-and is to be avoided if possible. Ordinarily, however, if both line and staff men are competent, they will be able to reach an agreement and make a unified recommendation. Close decisions are rare when all the facts are known.
    • pp. 102-104, as cited in Albert Lepawsky (1949), Administration, p. 306-7
  • In some organizations where staff assistance is overemphasized, from the standpoint of both the influence and the number of staff officials, the chief executive is likely to be cut off from his department heads. An executive should never lose sight of the fact that his closest contacts must be with the heads of the operating departments, and that it is upon them more than any others that the success of the program depends. If he permits himself to become cloistered because of the more favored position of the staff officials, the morale and driving force of the program will be impaired.
    • pp. 102-104, as cited in Albert Lepawsky (1949), Administration, p. 306-7

Quotes about Marshall E. Dimock

  • Dimock makes the generalization that 90 percent of the characteristics of public government executive management are identical with those of private executive management. In spite of large areas of similarity, I strongly dissent. I would place the percentage very much lower - whether 30 per cent or SO per cent lower, I shall not attempt to say.
    • Wallace B. Donham. "Governmental and Business Executives." Public Administration Review, Spring 1946, volume 6, p. 17
  • I find from experience both with government agencies and with private business that there are striking differences. One of those differences is that, in government, there is more continuity and definition in the mandate. The limits of action are often clearly defined. in many cases by Congress. No such situation exists in large private business. Dimock says bureaucracies are related, for example, to size. Yet he points out some bearings on bureaucracies of the inadequacies in our federal civil service system and the conflict of loyalties which arises out of it. This, he states, he succeeded in overcoming.
    • Wallace B. Donham. "Governmental and Business Executives." Public Administration Review, Spring 1946, volume 6, p. 17
  • Marshall Dimock, emphasizing the importance of the line rather than the staff agencies, here presents a formula for the reconciliation of both... Dimock's advice, not to overemphasize staff against line, represents an emerging pattern of thought in both government and business. The chief danger in preferring staff is not merely one of neglecting the line's crucial operating experience, but the related possibility of falling into the habit of channelizing decisions and activities from all agencies through some selected staff agency, which becomes virtually the "boss's pet."
    • Albert Lepawsky (1949), Administration, p. 307-9
  • When I was president of the American Society for Public Administration, I grappled with questions of where that field was going, how it could make itself relevant to those who must steer the business of government on a daily basis, to those who must respond to citizens 24/7... Now I find myself asking a similar question, but this time in terms of political science. Happily, I see glimmers of light, giving hope that the field is returning to that which made it relevant in the first place: a search for guidance and truths about what it takes, as first Woodrow Wilson (1887), then Marshall Dimock (1937), and more recently John Rohr (1986) remind us, to "run a constitution."
    • Mary E. Guy, "Ties that bind: The link between public administration and political science." Journal of Politics 65.3 (2003): 641-655; p. 642-3.