Parkinson: implementation is harder than policy, don’t undervalue it

Implementation “should never be seen as the poor cousin of policy development,” says Martin Parkinson, secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, yet too often it is.

“Only recently, an executive from the Indigenous Affairs Group of the Department stood up to remind her colleagues that implementation is 150 times harder than policy, a fact too often forgotten by policy officers,” Parkinson recalled at Thursday’s Australasian Implementation Conference in Melbourne.

“For some reason, many of us involved in the design of new policies think that the work we are doing is somehow harder or more intellectually challenging than the work of those operating at the coal face; the people ensuring that policies actually deliver outcomes that they were intended to achieve on the ground. As a result, there is a tendency to either not seek the input of those with implementation expertise or, perhaps even worse, to ignore this input when it is provided.”

Changing the perception of implementation as the poor cousin of policy development “will go a long way to improving the effectiveness of public servants and the community sector alike,” he argues.

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