Managing Risks in Public Organizations: A Conceptual Foundation and Research Agenda Academic Article uri icon


  • Over the past 20 years, the subject of public management has received much attention. Although this research has clearly demonstrated relationships between management and performance in the public sector, there have been few attempts to incorporate the management of risk and its effect on performance. In this article, we seek to provide a discussion and research agenda from which scholars can begin to address this gap. After clarifying the notion of risk and distinguishing it from other related concepts, we consider some behavioral foundations for a research agenda focused on how public managers deal with situations in which they face risky prospects. We explicate the relatively limited treatment of risk thus far in the public management research literature, as well as how agencies and governments have typically approached the theme of risk. Fortunately, fields including risk analysis, behavioral psychology, and decision making provide starting points for scholars. We build from these foundations to sketch the beginnings of a theoretically driven research agenda on risk and managerial decision making. It is our hope that this effort draws attention to the subject and points toward an agenda that can stimulate work in this important area.

altmetric score

  • 2.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Bullock, J. B., Greer, R. A., & O’Toole, L. J.

citation count

  • 13

publication date

  • March 2018