The lines between policy development and implementation are blurred.
The policy cycle
Policy development and implementation are often described as distinct and separate stages within policy cycles. In practice, the lines between policy development and implementation can become quite blurred.
During the policy development stage, both political and technical issues have to be addressed. Political issues include getting buy-in, setting a vision and managing opposition. Technical issues include gathering evidence and data of what works, implementation planning and other mandatory steps required in government policy development, including public consultation.
There is no good way to implement bad policy. Poor policy design is a common reason for poor implementation. Likewise, a well-designed policy can be poorly implemented (Gold, 2014).
Thinking about policy implementation during policy development
Thinking about how a policy will be implemented should be an integral feature of the policy development stage. Policy makers and front line services need to be involved in the entire policy process. Policy initiatives tend to be more effective when they are designed with direct front line input. Policy professionals do not always have training or direct experience in delivering frontline services. Practitioners can provide a real world perspective on the feasibility of a particular policy initiative.
Why policy implementation differs?
Priorities and actions need to be clearly articulated during the policy development process.
The diffuse nature of policy
There is often a gap between the intentions of policymakers and how a policy looks when services are delivered to citizens. Government policy is often articulated as high level goals and objectives. A range of stakeholders are involved in implementation, for example institutions, agencies, service providers and intermediary organisations, before they have an impact on citizens. This can make policy implementation very challenging and diffuse.
Priorities and actions need to be clear and during the policy development process, to ensure that diverse stakeholders can interpret and implement them consistently at a national level.
Complex context for policy implementation
The context for policy implementation is crucial. When implementing policy, many other implementation efforts may be occurring at the same time in different parts of the system. Coherence can help to create a climate for implementation success.
Legislation may be required before a policy can be fully implemented, or there may be a need to ensure coherence with existing domestic and international legislation.
There may be synergies with, or divergence from other government policies or strategies. Policies may interact with each other, producing new, unplanned and sometimes unintended consequences. More complex governance and accountability arrangements are required to oversee policy implementation.
What enables implementation of policy?
There are many similarities between implementing policies and other types of interventions. Implementation enablers are important for policy implementation. Examples include leadership, communication and feedback mechanisms.
Leadership is needed at all levels of the system for policy implementation. From a political perspective, the appropriate level of leadership is needed to reshape mandates, resources, structures and programmes. Consistency in leadership has also been suggested as an enabler of implementation, such as fixed-term positions for senior government department officials, to ensure continuity and strengthen relationships. The literature on leadership for policy implementation also points to the need for a ‘craftsman’ style of political leadership, which has a focus on building and sustaining relationships, managing complexity and interdependence, and managing multiple and conflicting accountabilities.
Communication plays an important role in facilitating successful implementation of a policy and should be a core part of policy development from the beginning and throughout the stages of implementation. Systematic communications are important to share information and feedback on how implementation is progressing across sites, and to share wins and important policy milestones to maintain buy-in and motivation of stakeholders.
Feedback mechanisms should be established between policymakers and front-line practitioners once implementation has begun, to ensure the policy is being implemented as intended, unplanned consequences are addressed efficiently and to support the learning capacity of the system. Feedback mechanisms can include regular, standardised reporting arrangements from front-line services to oversight structures for the policy, and policy reviews carried out at key points in the policy life cycle, for example mid-term reviews.
Guides to policy development and implementation
Implementation of programme and policy initiatives: Making implementation matter (Australian National Audit Office, 2006) is a better practice guide for public service managers, covering themes such as implementation planning and monitoring and review. Click here
A practical guide to policy making in Northern Ireland (OFMDFM, 2016) is a guide for public servants working on developing or reviewing policy, to help them to ensure that policy is evidence-based, focused on outcomes, forward looking, ‘joined up’ and meets citizen needs. Click here
Implementing public service reform: Messages from the literature (Colgan, Rochford & Burke, 2016) highlights emerging messages from research and experience about implementing public service reform. Click here.
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- About This Guide
The A—Z of Implementation
There are a range of terms used when writing or talking about implementation and in implementation science. This glossary provides a short definition for each of these terms.
Elements of an intervention which may be tailored to local settings during implementation without undermining the integrity of the intervention itself.
Factors which hinder the implementation process and reduce the probability of successful implementation.
The ability or power to do, understand or absorb something. This can apply to an individual, a team, an organisation or a whole system.
A formal, typically short-term, arrangement between a coach and an individual focused on developing work-related skills or behaviours.
A group of people living in an area or having characteristics in common (e.g. city, neighbourhood, organisation, service, business, professional association); the larger socio-political-cultural context in which an intervention is intended to operate.
The action or process of formally discussing something with stakeholders, generally asking stakeholders a relevant question and receiving answers to that question. While the views of stakeholders may then be used to influence decisions, there is no commitment or requirement to do so.
The set of circumstances or unique factors in which implementation takes place. This can refer to both the wider, systemic context, as well as the specific setting in which a specific intervention will be implemented.
Continuous Improvement Cycles
Ongoing use of emerging data and evidence on outcomes and implementation, and using that information to learn from experience, inform future implementation and improve outcomes. Progress is, therefore, achieved in an incremental manner over time.
Indispensable elements of an intervention or implementation plan, which cannot be changed without undermining it. All core components should be delivered with fidelity.
Data-Based Decision Making
Using processes for collecting and analysing different types of data to guide decisions with the aim of improving outcomes on an ongoing basis.
A process by which an intervention is communicated through certain channels over time. The spread of ideas through diffusion is generally a passive process, following an unpredictable, unprogrammed, emergent and self-organising path, e.g. word of mouth.
An active, negotiated and influenced means of spreading an intervention or information about an intervention to relevant target groups.
Factors which increase the probability of successful implementation.
A planned investigation of a project, programme, or policy used to answer specific questions. It can be related to design, implementation, results, and outcomes (cause and effect) of an intervention.
Practices, programmes, policies, strategies or other activities that have been empirically shown through scientific research and evaluation processes to improve outcomes to some degree.
Delivering an evidence-based intervention exactly as intended by those who developed it.
A structure, overview, outline, or system consisting of various descriptive categories and the presumed relationships between them.
The carrying out of planned, intentional activities that aim to turn evidence and ideas into policies and practices that work for people in the real world. It is about putting a plan into action; the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’.
A plan outlining the key activities, responsibilities, timelines and other important information required to achieve the desired outcomes from implementing an intervention.
The extent to which organisations and individuals are both ‘willing’ to, and ‘capable’ of, implementing any specific intervention.
The scientific study of how interventions are incorporated into service settings. It seeks to identify activities, contexts and other factors that increase the likelihood of successful implementation and lead to improved outcomes for people.
Any specific method or action aimed at overcoming barriers, increasing the pace and effectiveness of implementation, and sustaining interventions over time.
A group or structure that oversees, supports and attends to, moving an intervention through the stages of implementation. They actively use strategies to facilitate implementation.
Resources needed to carry out activities and outputs.
Any policy, practice, service or programme that is being implemented. It can be a change to something already in existence, or an entirely new intervention.
The action of leading a group of people, or the ability to do this. This does not just apply to leading a whole organisation or system – leadership can take multiple forms and can occur at any level of an organisation or system.
An adaptable tool that describes the theory of change underpinning an intervention, a programme or a policy. It allows the user to systematically work through the connections between the components of an intervention or process, usually in graphical format on a single page.
A formal or informal arrangement which typically involves an ongoing relationship of support for significant transitions in knowledge, thinking and skills.
A deliberate simplification of a phenomenon. Models are intended to be descriptive and need not be a completely accurate representation of reality to have value.
The routine and systematic collection of information against a plan. It makes use of existing data and information about inputs, outputs, outcomes, or about outside factors affecting an organisation or project, with a view to ongoing cycles of improvement.
A process which clarifies the extent to which needs, as well as enablers and barriers to meeting those needs, are accurately known and prioritised by an organisation or group of people.
Intended or unintended changes that occur as a result of implementing interventions. These changes can occur at the level of individuals, groups, organisations or population, and can occur in the short-, medium- or long-term.
Key activities and areas of work that will help to achieve the desired outcomes.
The norms, values and beliefs that exist and govern behaviour within an organisation.
A stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organisation in order to effectively implement an intervention.
Anyone who is affected by or is involved in the intervention being implemented. This includes staff, public, clients, managers, professional bodies, unions, educators, policy-makers and funders.
Methods or actions that aim to overcome barriers, increase the pace and effectiveness of implementation, and sustain interventions over time.
An intervention can be considered to be sustainable when not only have the process and outcomes changed, but the thinking and attitudes behind them are fundamentally altered and the systems surrounding them are transformed as well. In other words, the intervention has become an integrated or mainstream way of working rather than something ‘added on’.
A structured process where relevant information and evidence on a topic is gathered, reviewed, assessed and brought together to support decision making.
A set of analytical principles or statements designed to structure our observation, understanding and explanation of the world.
Theory of Change
An explicit, step-by-step statement of the expected relationship between the intervention and the outcome, i.e. why providing input X should lead to a change in outcome Z, by way of output Y.
A special interest in maintaining or controlling an intervention, arrangement or institution, usually for personal gain.
Examples include leadership, communication and feedback mechanisms. Leadership is needed at all levels of the system for policy implementation. From a political perspective, the appropriate level of leadership is needed to reshape mandates, resources, structures and programmes.What are the three elements of policy implementation? ›
bringing them back to the three basic elements, i.e. actors, resources and institutions. institutional rules.Why is policy implementation important? ›
It helps to identify how, when, and by whom implementation will be assessed. Monitoring of implementation keeps everyone involved aware of any possible barriers—as well as any intended and unintended impacts of the work. After implementation, resources and other supports from stakeholders may decrease.What are the strategies of policy implementation? ›
Key strategies to enhance policy implementation and enforcement include building community members' and local leaders' understanding of their responsibilities in implementing community conservation policies and increasing the capacity of government officials to roll out climate smart agriculture policies.What are the 4 types of implementation? ›
- Direct cutover. ...
- Pilot implementation. ...
- Parallel operation. ...
- Phased implementation.
The five stages of the policy process are (1) agenda setting, (2) formulation, (3) adoption, (4) implementation and administration, and (5) evaluation.What is policy implementation process? ›
1. A stage in the policy process that involves actions needed to put laws or policies into effect, or to solve a problem.What are the 7 Stages in policy process? ›
These are agenda building, formulation, adoption, implementation, evaluation, and termination. Before a policy can be created, a problem must exist that is called to the attention of the government.What are the tools of policy implementation? ›
Governments employ a number of tools such as legislation, sanctions, regulations, taxes and subsidies in order to change behavior in the interest of the public. The rising number of policy problems has created a challenge for governments to influence behavior.What are the factors of policy implementation? ›
- Knowledge and innovation:
- Social, political and economic context:
- Legal framework:
- Specific events, especially traumatic events that demand a political response. ...
- Institutional influences:
- External influences:
Implementation is the carrying out of planned, intentional activities that aim to turn evidence and ideas into policies and practices that work for people in the real world. It is about putting a plan into action; the 'how' as well as the 'what'.What influences policy implementation? ›
Public policies are influenced by a variety of factors including public opinion, economic conditions, new scientific findings, technological change, interest groups, NGOs, business lobbying, and political activity.How can policy implementation be improved? ›
This could include, for example, quality improvement initiatives, education and training, performance feedback, prompts and reminders, implementation resources, financial incentives, penalties, communication and social marketing strategies, professional networking, the use of opinion leaders or implementation consensus ...What are the three methods of implementation? ›
There are three main methods used: phased implementation, direct changeover and parallel running. Phased implementation: A staged method whereby one part of the overall system that needs changing is changed. If any problems arise, they are limited in scope and therefore non-critical.What are the three C's to successful implementation? ›
No matter how excellent your plan success, it could lead to disaster if executed incoorectly. Sucess begins by focusing on the three Cs of implementing strategy: clarity, communication, and cascade. Each of these three Cs rolls into the next.What are the 4 steps to program implementation? ›
Planning, build-up, implementation, and closeout.What are the 5 key areas of a good policy? ›
- Right-size. Right-sizing a policy is crucial. ...
- Clear hierarchy. ...
- Principles-based. ...
- Provenance. ...
The policy process is normally conceptualized as sequential parts or stages. These are (1) problem emergence, (2) agenda setting, (3) consideration of policy options, (3) decision-making, (5) implementation, and (6) evaluation (Jordan and Adelle, 2012).What are the 4 components to make a policy? ›
|1||A statement of what the organisation seeks to achieve for its clients|
|2||Underpinning principles, values and philosophies|
|3||Broad service objectives which explain the areas in which the organisation will be dealing|
|4||Strategies to achieve each objective|
- Set Clear Goals and Define Key Variables. ...
- Determine Roles, Responsibilities, and Relationships. ...
- Delegate the Work. ...
- Execute the Plan, Monitor Progress and Performance, and Provide Continued Support. ...
- Take Corrective Action (Adjust or Revise, as Necessary)
The implementing organization is responsible for the implementation of the policy. In most instances, the organization is a unit of the governmental bureaucracy.What are the 8 stages of policy formulation? ›
- problem Identification.
- agenda building.
- policy formulation.
- policy adoption.
- policy evaluation.
- policy succession.
The policy life cycle consists of policy formation, policy adoption, policy implementation, policy implementation evaluation, and policy maintenance. All of these make up the policy life cycle and flow into each other in a continuous circle.What are the 3 types of policy? ›
Public policy can be studied as producing three types of policies (distributive, regulatory and re-distributive) related with decision making process.What are the challenges in policy implementation? ›
Challenges to implementation are referred to as “implementation barriers.” They can be rooted in a variety of causes, including opposition from key stakeholders, inadequate human or financial resources, lack of clarity on operational guidelines or roles and responsibilities for implementation, conflicts with other ...What are the major problems in policy implementation? ›
Some implementation problems identified in the study include corruption, lack of continuity in government policies, inadequate human and material resources, all of which often lead to implementation gap, i.e. the widening of the distance between stated policy goals and the realization of such planned goals.What are the major elements of implementation? ›
Often overlooked are the five key components necessary to support implementation: people, resources, structure, systems, and culture. All components must be in place in order to move from creating the plan to activating the plan.What is the full meaning of implementation? ›
Implementation is the execution or practice of a plan, a method or any design, idea, model, specification, standard or policy for doing something. As such, implementation is the action that must follow any preliminary thinking for something to actually happen.What is a implementation plan? ›
A project implementation plan is a document that defines how a project will be executed. Implementation plans explain the strategic goals and steps involved in a project, define the project completion timeline, and list the resources (including team members) necessary for a successful project.What are barriers to policy implementation? ›
Four types of barriers were identified: physical, attitudinal, communication, and structural (related to systems, policies, and norms).
Many policies fail because of incompetence, corruption, lack of resources, and/or bad governance, but could be set straight with more effort, resources and good will.What are some policy examples? ›
- Affirmative action.
- Air pollution.
- Animal rights.
- Assisted suicide and euthanasia.
- Automobile safety.
- Capital punishment (death penalty)
Examples of company policies include employee conduct policies, dress code, attendance policies, equal opportunity policies, and other areas related to the terms and conditions of employment.What is the meaning of implement policies? ›
verb. If you implement something such as a plan, you ensure that what has been planned is done.What is an example of a policy decision? ›
For example, a government may make a policy decision to raise taxes, in hopes of increasing overall tax revenue. The question of ethics also relates to issues of policy decision-making.What are the 4 types of policy? ›
The four main types of public policy include regulatory policy, constituent policy, distributive policy, and redistributive policy. These four policy types differ in terms of what their goals are, and who they impact or benefit.What are the 5 types of policies? ›
Categories of Policy Statements. There are various types of policy statements that each have their own style, scope, and purpose. These include human resources, financial, legal, safety, and operational policy statements.What is good policy? ›
Good Policy means, with respect to the Company, the credit granting and collecting policies commonly adhered to or approved by a significant portion of loan originators in the United States for similarly situated companies operating in the industries in which the Company is operating, or any of such policies, which, in ...What are key policies? ›
A key policy is a resource policy for an AWS KMS key. Key policies are the primary way to control access to KMS keys. Every KMS key must have exactly one key policy. The statements in the key policy determine who has permission to use the KMS key and how they can use it.How policies are made and implemented? ›
Policy is made in a series of stages but it is not a linear process. The stages of policymaking include: Agenda setting, formulation, evidence-gathering, debate, evaluation, implementation.
The policy process is normally conceptualized as sequential parts or stages. These are (1) problem emergence, (2) agenda setting, (3) consideration of policy options, (3) decision-making, (5) implementation, and (6) evaluation (Jordan and Adelle, 2012).What are the types of policies? ›
- Term insurance.
- Term insurance with return of premium.
- Unit Linked Insurance Plans.
- Endowment plans.
- Whole life insurance.
- Group life insurance.
- Child Insurance Plans.
- Retirement Plans.