The Policy-Making Process

The Policy-Making Process Policies are ubiquitous. They practically exist in everything, in everywhere. Needless to say, policies are set of rules, protocols or principles that serve as guide towards an optimistic outcome. Policies may marginally differ in description, specifics and goals depending on the context one may want to put it in but they always hold a common denominator – to achieve the desired favorable result. Policies are always in place because it is one of the major reasons that keep an organization strong and intact. Imagine an organization without guide, rules or direction. Imagine the devastations of having improper policies to no policy at all. Thinking of the hardships that may arise is already mind-boggling let alone having to face it in an actual setting. Policy-making is clearly not just a walk in the park. There are tons of factors that must be considered in order to come up with a sensible and effective policy. That said, policy-making should be critically done in a step-by-step, detail by detail procedure. Below are the key stages in policy-making process and every stage is packed with essential points to ponder: I. Problem Identification and Agenda Setting The first stage of policy-making process is the identification of the problem. It is very important that the problem be defined clearly. Apparently, unclear problem equates to unclear solution, worse is wasting time addressing a problem that is vague and blurry. There are different techniques out there that involve critical thinking and analyses to clearly define what the problem is so that appropriate solution could be formulated and applied. Listed below are some of the techniques:

  1. Observation – this is probably the most basic technique in identifying the problem. Through keen and factual observation, the management or the administrator would be able to anticipate and identify an arising problem. One basic example is in a school or classroom setting, a school head officer notices that a significant number of students consistently come in late to class which affects their learning scope as well as the instructors teaching plan. The school head officer may define or implement a policy with the goal of minimizing and even eliminating tardiness instances.
  2. Root Cause Analysis – this technique is basically asking 5 Why’s in order to dig deep into the problem until the root cause is finally determined. According to Six Sigma, asking the 5 Why’s is the simplest tool in analyzing a problem. It is most useful to problems that involve human factors and interactions as well as day-to-day business life. [1]
  3. Cause & Effect Analysis or “Fishbone” Diagram – this technique is majorly designed to identify the causes of a problem. It’s alternately called fishbone diagram because of the use of fishbone-like diagram to present cause and effect. The analysis involves brainstorming sessions so as to extract all possible causes of a problem and rate them according to importance.

After clearly defining the problem and gathering the essential information through the techniques listed above, the next on the list is to set the agenda. This is the point where the defined problem is recognized and hyped so as to get the policy makers’ attention and get it addressed. II. Policy Formation Policy formation is where the negotiation takes place among parties in order to satisfy various interests and eventually build a solid support. Policy formation may vary according to the nature of policy and the organizational structure in which it is made but often includes:[2]

  • assembling information
  • developing arguments
  • developing alternatives
  • persuading others

In a health care context, policy formation is said to be influenced by a framework called the health policy triangle which was proposed by Walt and Gibson. The triangle presents a complex inter-relationship among context, actors and process.[3] https://www.healthknowledge.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/publichealthtextbook/4ceep/4c8.gif Source: https://www.healthknowledge.org.uk Where, Actors – these are the individuals within the organization whose actions affect the policy. Context – these are factors that may affect the policy: situational, structural, cultural and international.[4] Content – the scope of the policy. Process – the policy-making itself. Generally speaking, policy formation is the stage of policy-making process that involves consideration of the different factors and proposals in order to come up or form a clear cut policy. It is important to bring these factors into the scene so as to address any underlying opportunities that could hinder the implementation of the policy. The framework shown above may or may not apply to the actual setting but it sure informs us that the inter-relationship among the individuals or groups that affects the policy is a key point to take note of. III. Policy Adoption Policy adoption is the stage where the management adopts the policy and put it into recognition and effect. At this stage, the adopted policy may still be subject to revisions or reconstruction based on the inputs or influences of the various interests of involved individuals or groups. IV. Policy implementation Policy implementation is where the action and execution of the plan occur. Lineberry, American Public Policy, described policy implementation as follows: “Policy making is the stage of policy-making between the establishment of a policy and the consequences of the policy for the people whom it affects. Also, implementation involves translating the goals and objectives of a policy into an operating, ongoing program.” (via macrothink.org)[5] The implementation stage also includes analysis of the possible scenarios that may arise be it best or worst. During this stage, a systematic approach is recommended from the implementation itself through identifying possible scenarios or issues and finally formulating action plans to address them. V. Policy evaluation Evaluation is the last step of the process. In this stage, several questions may be asked to measure or assess the crafted policy. A published study course of the California State University cited some questions which may be used in assessing or evaluating a policy:

  • Was the problem correctly identified?
  • Were all important aspects covered?
  • Were recommendations properly implemented?
  • Is the policy meeting the desired effect?
  • Should there be any need for changes, revisions or redesigning, what should be done differently?

According to the study course, if the desired effect of the policy was not met it is either of the two failures known as theory failure and program or implementation failure. [6] Where, Theory failure – this failure occurs when the policy was implemented however did not meet the desired effect or result. Yes, the policy was implemented as intended however it did not hit the specific target. This often occurs when the theory formulated to solve the problem is wrong or is not entirely applicable which may be a cause of not considering all factors that may affect the policy during the formation stage. Implementation failure – this failure occurs when the policy was not successfully implemented or executed. Lack of communication may be one of the causes which results to non-compliance of some of the participants that are expected to comply.


[1] Asking “Why?” may (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2014, from Six Sigma, Six Sigma Tools & Templates website, https://www.isixsigma.com/tools-templates/cause-effect/determine-root-cause-5-whys/ [2] Steinbach, Rebecca. (n.d.) Principal Approaches to Policy Formation. HealthKnowledge (Education, CPD and Revalidation from PHAST), https://www.healthknowledge.org.uk/public-health-textbook/medical-sociology-policy-economics/4c-equality-equity- policy/principle-approaches-policy-formation [3] Steinbach, Rebecca. (n.d.) Principal Approaches to Policy Formation. HealthKnowledge (Education, CPD and Revalidation from PHAST), https://www.healthknowledge.org.uk/public-health-textbook/medical-sociology-policy-economics/4c-equality-equity- policy/principle-approaches-policy-formation [4] Steinbach, Rebecca. (n.d.) Principal Approaches to Policy Formation. HealthKnowledge (Education, CPD and Revalidation from PHAST), https://www.healthknowledge.org.uk/public-health-textbook/medical-sociology-policy-economics/4c-equality-equity- policy/principle-approaches-policy-formation [5] Noruzi, Mohammad Reza & Irani, Farhad Nezhad Haj. (2011). Policy Affairs and Policy Implementation Issues; How Policy Implementation Can Be Effective?. Journal of Public Administration and Governance, (1)1, 3-4. Doi: 10.5296/jpag.v1i1.718 [6] Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2014 from California State University Long Beach website, https://www.csulb.edu/~msaintg/ppa670/p&sch9.htm#POLICY EVALUATION

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