The Policy Process Implementation
• Real test of government power is not whether they
can get a policy approved, but whether they can get
a policy implemented.
• Tends to be a high proportion of policies in the UK
that do fail to meet with their objectives. See case
study analysis.
• Implementation studies remain wedded to top-down
& bottom –up analyses (there are others!)
Implementation Failure
• Non-implementation – a policy is simply not put into
effect as intended, because of lack of cooperation,
obstacles, inefficiency
• Unsuccessful implementation – policy is carried out
in full but policy still fails to produce the intended
• Three reasons for policy failure – bad execution, bad
policy or bad luck!
Perfect Implementation
(10 preconditions…)
External circumstances do not pose any significant
constraint to the implementing agency
Adequate time and sufficient resources are available for the
Combination of resources is actually available
The actual policy is based upon a valid theory of cause and
effect and isn’t irrational
Relationship between cause and effect is direct with few/no
intervening links
Perfect Implementation
(10 preconditions…)
Dependency on other agencies/organisations is
Understanding and agreement re: objectives
Tasks are fully specified in the correct sequence
Prefect communication and co-ordination
10. Perfect obedience – those in authority can demand
and obtain perfect compliance
(Adapted from Hogwood & Gunn, 1984)
Top Down Models
• Top initiated and goal directed activity.
• Principle concerned with why a successful outcome
does or does not occur.
• Come in for lots of criticism.
• What's good with a top down approach? - those who
are making policy are elected by us and therefore
have a degree of legitimacy, those charged with
implementation are not, and therefore may have less
Bottom-Up Models
• “An approach to the study of implementation that
stresses the involvement of lower level bureaucrats
and others who carry out public decisions. The
ideas and influences of these actors feed back to the
peak decision-makers to influence policy-choices”
(John, 1998)
• Focuses on the significance of relationship between
policy-maker and policy deliverer
• Stresses that implementers have large degree of
discretion in how they implement policy (if at all)
• Shows how bureaucrats and professionals offer
illustration of this
• SLB’s are public sector field workers who interact
directly with citizens/public in implementing and
delivering public policy and have a degree of
discretion in their jobs.
• Street level bureaucrats have become important
policy makers because of the decision they make in
delivering services or interpreting the law.
• SLB’s employ variety of coping mechanisms to make
fieldwork manageable – but can distort
• Is it the case that SLB’s might be blamed for policy
failures that were resultant upon another variable?
• The ability or power of a group to define and control
their work (Parsons p.154) – e.g. medical profession
• Arguments in favour – possession of inaccessible
expertise; relationships are governed by ethical
codes and altruistic values
• Arguments against – used to obscure professional
power; to deliver a protected working environment;
occupational control; and high rewards
• Recent development of questioning professional
advice – a good thing or not?
• Are they regulated enough in terms of the policy
decisions that they make?
Contrasting top-down
and bottom-up
Policy Rule
seen as:
Policy seen
seen as
depending on:
Hill (1997:140)
Top Down
Bottom Up
An input
An output
Deference to Adaptability to
a legislative
client needs
The Best of
Both Worlds…?
• Sabatier (1986) tried to synthesize the work of both
models to create a set of conditions for effective
• Takes into account concerns of the bottom-up
approach in that it emphasises networks which
structure implementation
• Stresses the importance of top-down consideration
e.g.. The beliefs of the policy elites
The Best of
Both Worlds…?
• Clear and consistent objectives
• Accurate theory of HOW to bring about change
• Implementation structures that are legally structured so as
to enhance the likelihood of compliance with policy
• Committed and skilful implementers
• Support of interest groups and ‘sovereigns’ in the executive
and legislature
• Changes in socio-economic activity that does not
undermine the support of groups and sovereigns or subvert
the theory underpinning the policy.
Thatcher’s Policy
• Poll Tax introduced in 1990
– See ‘Policy-Making in Political memoirs – The case of
the Poll Tax’ by Conor McGrath
• Child Support Agency introduced in 1993
– See Dolowitz, DP (2001) 'The British Child Support
Agency: did American origins bring
failure?' Environment and Planning C: Government
and Policy, Vol. 19
• Healthcare Reforms
– See Cairney (2002) ‘New Public Management and the
Thatcher healthcare legacy: enough of the theory,
what about the implementation?’
Labour and New Deal
• New Deal for Lone Parents, welfare to work
• Labour upbeat about impact – lone parents
claiming benefits had fallen by 130,000 in 2001
from 1997
– Lone parents and children still disproportionately poor
– Is work the best place for parents of young children?
Review of Policy
Implementation under
New Labour
• Strengthening of central government not
necessarily good for policy analysis and
• Transport Policy
Typical Questions
to Consider
• What are the main difference in the focus of ‘top-down’ and
‘bottom-up’ models of policy implementation?
• Are the two models mutually exclusive?
• Where is the ‘top-down’ control over ‘street level bureaucrats’
and ‘professionals’?
• Once the policy has been decided, its implementation should
be relatively straight forward. Discuss
• Is ‘perfect implementation’ ever possible in the real world?
What is the best that we can hope for?
Seminar for next week
• Review with articles mentioned in this
weeks lecture. Details on webct.
• Research a current government policy
success or failure of your choice and
articulate your reasons why, using the
theory to back up your argument.

The Policy Process - Implementation - C