Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Richard A. Wandling


The debate between the differences and similarities of public and private sector organizations has been waged over the last half of the century. A majority of these scholarly works target the comparison of large corporations and federal government agencies. Through these comparisons, three different approaches emerge. The generic approach argues that organizational sector differences are moot and this approach promotes a generic form of management. The publicness approach argues differences have become blurred to a point of degrees and that all organizations are public to an extent. The core differences approach argues that the differences between organizational sectors are significant. This study aligns itself with the core differences approach and will make two valuable contributions to the comparative organization literature by systematically analyzing government, private sector business, and nonprofit organizations at the local organizational level. This study was conducted by completing 60 semi-structured elite interviews of local government, business, and nonprofit organization leaders, in a direct attempt to investigate seven key differences indicated in the scholarly literature. The seven noteworthy differences analyzed in this study are the primary organizational goal, organizational values, personnel procedures, the propensity of managerial risk taking, organizational formalization, organizational environment, and monetary performance incentives. This study discovered that distinct sectoral differences do exist.