Good Policy Making: The Policy Process
What policy process? The problem is that new policies, and policy decisions, can arise in, and are handled in, a multitude of different ways, as was made clear by Mark Turner and David Hulme: 'What must be banished is any lingering idea that policy is some highly rational process in which expert technicians are firmly in control using highly tuned instruments to achieve easily predicted outcomes. Such an image is inappropriate for OECD countries let alone the developing world...'
But it is often possible to discern a number of separate key stages. Advice on each of them can be found by following these links:
- Identifying a problem, issue or opportunity, and then researching and gaining knowledge and experience of it,
- Consultation, including impact assessment and identifying unwanted consequences,
- Analysing and exploring options, and
- Navigating Whitehall and gaining collective Ministerial agreement.
But it is important to realise that these individual stages do not operate sequentially, but overlap as policies become firmed up. I sometimes liken policy development to a game of snakes and ladders in which occasional rapid process up the policy ladder is too often followed by rapid descent down the snake of an unintended consequence. But you will never get to your goal unless you have a clear strategy so it is vital that you consciously tackle each of the above key stages.
You must also take great care to establish a strong communications strategy which respects the maybe deep-rooted concerns of those opposing your Minister's policy objectives. Click here for a more detailed discussion of this subject.
And you may need to consider
- How to handle lobby groups and lobbyists, and
- Compliance issues, and the transposition and gold-plating of European Directives.
You should certainly refer to one or more of the following four checklists and sets of questions which should be thought about before embarking on, and whilst designing, significant new policies or changes of direction:
- A set of World Class Policy Tests - were first distributed in 2013 and encapsulate much of the advice in this website about policy development – and more besides.
- A list of six key questions which policy makers should address before announcing ambitious (audacious even) Big Hairy Audacious Goals.
- A Policy Checklist - is an earlier, simpler version of the World Class Policy Tests mentioned above.
- The X Factors: A short list, prepared by David Laughrin, of the Key Factors and Approaches that underlie Good Decision-Making.
There aren't many policy areas that don't have a European dimension. Follow this link to learn how to work most effectively within the EU. And here are two useful documents if you are helping to draft or transpose EU legislation:
Finally, there are several reports which contain much valuable and more detailed advice:
- Professional Policy Making for the Twenty First Century
- Modern Policy-Making: Ensuring Policies Deliver Value for Money
- Better Policy-Making: Examples of good policy-making and sound advice from practitioners
- Better Policy Delivery and Design
- Policy Making in the Real World
- Making Policy Better
- Better Public Services through Experimental Government