In ongoing 21st century, public administration playing a pivotal role. There are many discussions among scholars, academic students and civil servants about the scope of public administration all across the world. In the previous articles on definitions of public administration, we came across the diverse viewpoints.

The based on the previous public administration definition above we can briefly categorised the scope of public administration into two which are as follows –

  1. Broader Scope of Public Administration: It takes into account the complex structure of all the three branches of the government like, Legislative, Executive and Judiciary.
  2. Narrow Scope of Public Administration: It includes only the managerial part of the executive branch of government work.

The differences of opinion is centred around whether the administration is mere execution of an formed policy or is a factor in the formulation of policy.

Aside from the above categorised broad and narrow scope of public administration, there are broadly two dominant views for understandig public administration scope in 2023. These two dominant views are as follows:

  1. POSDCORB View
  2. Subject Matter View

The above stated views for scope of public administration has been explained in detailed in below sections:


The POSDCORB view in Scope of Public Administration takes into account the only executive branch of the government. Henry Fayol, L. Urwick, and Luther Gulick support this view.

Henri Fayol believes that the main categories of administration include Planning, Organisation, Command, Coordination, and Control.

L. Urwick’s Seven Elements of Administration

L. Urwick has mentioned seven elements of administration and has summed up these elements in the acronym ‘POSDCORB‘, each letter of which implies one element of administration. He explains these seven elements of administration in the following way:


The meaning of P is Planning. That is working out in a broad outline the things that need to be done and the methods for doing them to accomplish the purpose set for the enterprise.


The term O meaning in the scope of public administration is “Organizing”. It means the establishment of the formal structure of authority through which work sub-divisions are arranged, defined, and coordinated for the defined objective.


It means all personnel functions of bringing in and training the staff and maintaining favorable work conditions.


It is the continuous task of making decisions and embodying them in specific and general orders and instructions and serving as the leader of the enterprise.


This means the all-important duty of interrelating the work of various divisions, sections, and other parts of the organization.


That is keeping informed to whom the executive is responsible for what is going on. This includes keeping everybody informed of records, research, and inspection.


This means all that goes with budgeting in the form of fiscal planning, accounting, and control.

2. Subject Matter View to the Scope of Public Administation

POSDCORB view to the scope of public administration was acceptable for quite a long time, but with changing system of governance in recent times, the scope of public administration has widened a lot.

It was then realized that the POSDCORB cannot define the scope of public administration as it represents only tools of administration. In contrast, the actual core of administration consists of various services performed for the people like defense, health, agriculture, education, etc. These services have specialized techniques that are not covered by POSDCORB activities. For example, food and agriculture administration has found the technique of production distribution extension, etc., which POSDCORB does not cover.

It was also realized that the common techniques of management are very often influenced by the subject matter of the services to be rendered by a particular department of the government; for example, the organization for the maintenance of law and order is very much different from the organization for education, public health, agriculture.

Therefore the emphasis on the subject matter cannot be neglected. In short, it can be said that there is no need to reject either of these views regarding the scope of public administration.

The two views about the scope of public administration have been discussed above. It is, however, not necessary to accept only one of them to the exclusion of the other. Just as the human organ has both anatomy and physiology of its own, the public administration has the common techniques of POSDCORB as its skeleton and the specialized methods of various programs as its muscles and ligaments. Without either of them, the public administration cannot function.

Here we can take a quote from Lewis Meriam:
Public Administration is an instrument with two blades, like a pair of scissors. One blade may be a knowledge of the fields covered by POSDCORB; the other blade is knowledge of the subject matter in which these techniques are applied. Both blades must be good to make an effective tool.

Similarly, M.E. Dimock observed, “Administration is concerned with ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the government. The ‘what’ is the subject matter, the technical knowledge of a field, which enables the administrator to perform its tasks. The ‘how’ is the technique of management, the principles according to which the cooperative programs are carried out to success. Each is indispensable; together, they form the synthesis called administration.”

Way forward for the Scope of Public Administration

Reconciling the two views, the scope of public administration ought to include –

  • Administrative Theory: It is general and abstract; and largely consists of “POSDCORB” techniques common to all administration.
  • The study of the concrete application of the common administrative activity, such as agriculture, animal husbandry, public health, social welfare, defense, etc.
  • In addition, the scope of public administration should also include the administrative organization and methods at different levels of government, such as local administration, national administration, and international administration. It may also include the study of the administrative system in other countries and under different forms of philosophies of government.

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