A checklist for successful policy implementation

Posted on March 4, 2019

In December, we discussed a review of 20 major government policy initiatives, which found that only half qualified as ‘good’ policy. The high failure rate was a result of faulty conception, flawed design or poor implementation. Some, a combination of all three.

It’s therefore timely that the Centre for Public Impact (CPI) has recently released Public Impact Fundamentals, a framework that sets out how governments can improve the results they achieve for citizens. According to the report, three things are fundamental to improved public impact: legitimacy, policy and action.


  • Public confidence
  • Political commitment
  • Stakeholder engagement


  • Clear objectives
  • Evidence
  • Feasibility


  • Management
  • Measurement
  • Alignment

Policy development is as much a political activity as it is a technical one, so there is always a risk that using a checklist will codify it into something superficial or simplistic. Nevertheless, given the poor design and implementation in the reviewed policies, there is clearly some benefit in having a tool that can guide the policy process.

In his foreword to the Public Impact Fundamentals report, Mark Moore of the Harvard Kennedy School notes there is an alignment between the CPI checklist and the widely adopted public value framework he developed. This relationship is reflected in the figure below.

Central to both approaches is the notion of legitimacy and support – from government, stakeholders and the community. It’s this authorising environment that distinguishes public sector work from mere one-on-one transactions between private organisations and customers.

In government, it’s not simply a matter of creating a product and selling it. You can have the best product or service in the world, but without support from stakeholders it’s likely to flounder. This is true for large scale policy and reform, as much as it’s true for services and programs at a local level.

To gain legitimacy, it’s important to clarify the value of your service as well as the resources, skills, technology and systems required to support implementation. For example, the ABS Census website crash in 2016 risked legitimacy and support from stakeholders, due to a technology failure.

One of the things we pride ourselves on at Nexus is doing comprehensive stakeholder analyses, as well as community and staff engagement. By clarifying your authorising environment, you can gain support from stakeholders and make sure your policy or program leads to improved public impact.

Want to know more? Get in touch with our team and change your organisation for the better.