What Policy Process?
The problem is that new policies, and policy decisions, can arise in, and are handled in, a multitude of different ways. Mark Turner and David Hulme were spot on when they said:
'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 both objectives and unwanted consequences,
- Gathering statistics and other data,
- Analysing and exploring options,
- Navigating Whitehall and gaining collective Ministerial agreement.
And it is vital 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.
It is important to realise that the above five individual stages do not operate sequentially, but overlap as policies become firmed up. The IfG's Catherine Haddon notes that 'Policy-making is not a linear process. It involves extremely complex interactions between influencers, decision-makes, and implementers of policy'.
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 should also certainly refer to one or more of the excellent checklists and sets of questions which should be thought about before embarking on, and whilst designing, significant new policies or changes of direction.
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.
Finally, for the moment at least, 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: