Leadership Strategies

Implementation of Public Policy Issues of Theory and Practice

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Implementation of policy in the public and private sector is increasingly being scrutinized due to its crucial role especially in the delivery of programs.Therefore much needs to be understood in developing an adequate understanding of the difference between theory and practice when a senior executive such as a CEO implements policy.

However there is a tremendous variety of identifiable means for implementation of a policy, which are often contestable, especially in the public domain. Academic understanding of these issues highlights a wide range of considerations including the ideal conditions required for a very good final result and an examination of the limitations resulting in circumstances of less than perfect implementation resulting when obstacles and trade-offs are encountered.

However academic models of implementation are only constructs of ideal types (theories only). Therefore one possibility is that the many theoretical models of implementation should be regarded as rivals hypotheses and that at some stage a single model will be found superior to others. This seems unlikely. It is well established that this has not eventuated because of the many practical difficulties usually encountered in achieving quality results in most cases.

Consequently many annual reports for example of public agencies often emphasize the positive outcomes of implementation only because of the politics encountered in the public domain. Reporting formats for many organizations therefore need better design to more accurately portray implementation of policies.

Sometimes the mandate to implement a policy is to vague for a CEO. Then a such an executive may be uncertain of the boundaries of authority resulting from key instructions with the result that the implementation process devised may be less than or exceed the aim of those responsible for the initiation of the implementation decision.

Consequently definitions of success when implementation is underway or complete can be difficult. Theoretical models of implementation although helpful do not sufficiently recognize the key role and limitations of an executive (usually a CEO) in the implementation process.

Further research is needed to understand the competency of leaders such as a CEO or indeed other key personnel responsible for implementation and other leadership activities. There is also the need which should be recognized to resource leadership development programs within the wider community to enhance leadership wherever it is required.

More about this author: Stephen Kendal

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