Effective Policy – 17 Characteristics of Good Policy

How do we go about determining whether policy is good policy. In other words has it achieved the desired objectives of the organisation and the required outcomes.

A relatively simple way to determine whether policy is effective is to apply the following 17 criteria.The 17 characteristics of good policy can help us determine whether it is going to be effective prior to its implementation. The 17 characteristics can be used as an audit tool to identify any shortfalls in the documentation prior to its implementation.

The 17 characteristics of good policy are;

Outcomes are clearly stated.

Assumptions are clear and explicit.

There is linkage to organisational direction.

Due process in the development stage has been observed.

Stakeholders have been included in the development.

Public interest has been given a high priority.

Organisational expectations have been met.

The policy is likely to be both efficient and effective.

Outcomes are stated in measurable terms.

There is a capacity to evaluate outcomes.

It has been appropriately funded and resource.

There is clear accountability.

It follows all appropriate laws.

It is enforceable.

It is historically informed.

Ideas have been tested prior to implementation.

The policy outcomes are clearly stated.

Policy must have a clear purpose and outcome if it is to be of any value to the organisation. It is important that staff recognise the problem that is being addressed through the policy implementation. It is extremely difficult to implement policy in a situation where people do not perceive there is a need for the specific policy unit to be developed or implement. If policy is being implemented to support an organisation in its growth and develop it is imperative that policy outcomes are clearly stated so that everyone and understands why the policy has been implemented in what the policy expectations are.

The assumptions are explicit.

Part of the policy statement must clearly express why the policy has been written and what is hoped to be achieved by its implementation. Part of the consultative process prior to the implementation of policy needs to be a testing of the process and ideas as to why the policy needs to be implemented. One of the common problems within organisations is that people among level of the organisation believed policy next year it meant to resolve the specific problem may not necessarily exist across the entire organisation. The assumptions that have been made about why policy needs to be implemented must be tested within the organisational context. Is a perceived problem in one department a rule problem that needs to be addressed from an organisational point of view or is a specific issue relating to that department and had particular personnel within the Department.

There is linkage to organisational direction.

Policy makers must ensure that policies linked to the overall direction and goals the organisation. The overall framework of the business will provide some strategic direction, and will be important in assessing the direction of the organisational policies. Policy writers must ensure that the policy supports existing policies and procedures within the organisation. One of the tests of good policy is that it supports the organisation in achieving its goals and objectives. Often time policy through its implementation can in fact hinder staff in achieving the organisational goals. Policy should be seen as pillars supporting the structure of an organisation. Policy should be written in such a way that they clear obstacles to staff and enable them to better achieve their full potential.

Due process has been observed.

The organisational rules and principles must be established and clearly understood as part of the policy development process. It is crucial that all components of the organisation have some input into the policy development.

Policy implemented in one department may seem fair and reasonable until that policy has a deleterious effect impact on other parts of the organisation as a whole.

As part of the organisational framework the structure needs to be both developed and implemented that will enable policy development to happen in a concise and engaging manner so that all aspects of the organisation have their input into the policy development and implementation.

Stakeholders have been included.

Stakeholders in other words those who are directly affected by the implementation of policy and the policy outcomes need to have some inclusive process developed whereby they can participate in the policy development. Part of the policy development process therefore is to clearly identify who all the stakeholders are. And appropriate consultative strategy needs to be implemented as part of the policy development process.

One of the significant problems that can develop a stakeholders are invited to participate in policy development is the expectation from each stakeholder their specific outcomes or desires will be achieved by the policy implementation. Oftentimes it is difficult in fact almost impossible to achieve all the desired outcomes from each stakeholder group.

One of the key components of policy development is to discuss with each of the stakeholder groups the policy outcomes that are going to be implemented. Where these outcomes clearly do not meet the stakeholders expectations it is imperative that the organisation identify these issues and resolve these conflicts as much as possible.

Public interest has been given a high priority.

Public all government policy needs to have as its core public interest. In other words has the policy been written with the general outcome and expectation being that the public will be better off as result of a policy implementation. One of the core challenges for government as they implement policy is to ensure that the policy impacts do not have a deleterious effects on members of the community.

Organisational expectations have been met.

Policy writers must realise that they have two audiences they are dealing with first audience is a group of people that policy has a direct impact on. In other words the staff that are going to be directly impacted by the policy implementation. Staff may be required to implement new procedures as result of the new policy being implemented. Their work practices may alter to some extent. The second audience and in oftentimes more crucial audience other leaders within the organisation. Have the leaders expectations being addressed and realised in the policy outcome. It serves little purpose of the policy is tabled at a board meeting to find the majority of the board in fact do not support the policy intent or specific outcomes.

Policy writers must have a clear understanding of the organisational expectations and what the policy intent and the outcome is as they develop the policy.

The policy is likely to be effective.

The intended policy is to achieve a specific outcome is outcome needs to be effective in terms of the impact that it has on the organisation. Part of the consultative process is undertaken appropriately will help identify areas where the policy may not be effective i within the organisation.

The policy is both efficient and cost effective.

Policy directives must ensure that organisational resources are being used in an appropriate manner. It achieves very little of the new policy is implemented in a cost impact on the organisation is significant.

The policy is measureable

This refers to measurable indicators that will provide proof a specific policy is having a desired effect. This is especially useful for the evaluation stage of the policy cycle.

There is capacity for evaluation

As indicated in the desired characteristic above, the ability to measure the effectiveness of any policy gives it capacity to be evaluated. Evaluation of policies helps an organization determine effectiveness and possible areas where change is needed, enabling that particular organization to work at its’ most efficient level.

It is appropriately funded

Not only must an organization ensure its policies, and policy development initiatives, are properly and appropriately funded, it is imperative to identify and set aside the necessary funds for its implementation. Your organization should be budgeted for these initiatives; stay within budget.

Clear accountability

It should be easily apparent in the policy which persons and departments are accountable for what actions, and within what time frame. Everyone, from the policy officers to the direct worker are accountable for some part of the policy, whether it be proper use of funds, proper protocols for developments, or the recommended implementations, must be held directly accountable.

It follows all appropriate laws

Policies, whether within government organizations or business, must adhere to certain laws. If the policy officers are uncertain if the policy they propose are crossing any legal lines, then the organizations lawyers must be consulted. Not doing so and allowing improper policy to be adopted in to implementation could be very costly on a legal level.

It is enforceable

A policy that cannot be enforced is not worth the time and effort put in to it, much less the paper it is written on. If the policy is practical then it should be enforceable. If not it may need to be revisited and amended.

It is historically informed

If an organization is not paying attention to past experiences they often find themselves “reinventing the wheel”. It is a waste of time and effort, and money. Using a good policy framework can help prevent repetition as the organization should be constantly reviewing and revising, as necessary, all policies, learning from the evaluations.

The ideas have been tested

Ideas can be tested through “field testing” or “dry runs”. More practically however testing can be accomplished by looking back with a historical view, as mentioned previously. Consultations with staff and others who understand and have better “first hand” experience can also be useful when testing a proposed policy.

If policy implementation is to be effective in the policy outcomes to be achieved it is crucial that an audit of policy be undertaken prior to its implementation using the above 17 criteria as a guideline.

The 17 characteristics of good policy also provide a strong foundation to enable policy to be reviewed and evaluated on a regular basis. It is critical that existing policy be reviewed and evaluated regularly to ensure that is still achieving the policy outcomes, and organisational objectives that was originally intended to do so.