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Implementation and delivery of Australian Government policy initiatives is one of the key responsibilities of government agencies. In recent years there has been an increasing focus on and a community expectation of, sound policy implementation and seamless delivery of government policies—on time, within budget and to an acceptable level of quality.
Better Practice Guide: Implementation of Programme and Policy Initiatives, October 2006
This guide is designed to help departments and agencies formulate robust implementation plans that clearly articulate how new policies, programs, and services will be delivered on time, on budget and to expectations. It supports the Australian Government’s approach to strengthening Cabinet decision-making and improving program governance and implementation.
This guide aims to assist those involved in implementation planning to understand how they should formulate an implementation plan. It is not intended to be a mechanical guide on how to complete an implementation plan, because it is not possible to formulate an implementation plan using a mechanistic or template-driven approach. Nor is it intended to be used in isolation from other guidance: implementation planning requires a much deeper understanding of management approaches than can be conveyed in a single guidance document.
We recommend that, in addition to this introduction,
senior responsible officers familiarise themselves, at a minimum, with section 2, ‘Governance’ and section 7, ‘Management strategy’
plan owners and members of project teams familiarise themselves with all sections.
We encourage departments and agencies to refer to this guide while developing their implementation plans. A step-by-step approach is not essential to the planning process—planning is an iterative exercise, and multiple rounds are necessary. We encourage implementation planners to consult with the Cabinet Implementation Unit during the drafting process.
The Better Practice Guide: Implementation of Programme and Policy Initiatives, the Cabinet Implementation Unit’s toolkit and the documents supporting the Gateway Reviews Process are also useful references.
We encourage departments and agencies to monitor the implementation planning website at www.dpmc.gov.au/implementation for updates.
Implementation planning is the process of determining how an initiative will be implemented and setting this out in sufficient detail to enable the Cabinet to make an informed judgment about whether to proceed in the light of the risks and requirements involved.
Implementation planning is critical to ensure outcomes are delivered on decisions made by government. The Australian Public Service (APS) successfully delivers thousands of initiatives every year. Many of these policies, programs and projects involve a high level of implementation risk, and thus require appropriate management discipline, including engagement with central agencies, to maximise the prospects of successful delivery.
While there are administrative as well as legislative (under the FMA Act) requirements for agencies to develop implementation plans as part of their new policy proposals, it should not be viewed as an onerous task. Rather, the plan is a useful tool that will assist agencies in successfully delivering the initiative.
Policy reform often involves major transformational change across multiple programs and services, and several agencies. The drivers for the change can be varied and powerful; they may be complex; and they may create ambiguity and uncertainty. Such changes can have radical impacts on the way departments and agencies do business.
Implementing change often requires teams of people with different skill sets to work together across normal functional boundaries within and between departments and agencies.
Experience shows that traditional departmental and agency structures and processes are sometimes illsuited to cross-portfolio delivery—this is when a disciplined approach to implementation planning is crucial.
Implementation planning has a strong management focus that requires best practice approaches, skills and experience to be applied. Effective implementation planning requires a structured approach to thinking and communicating in seven areas:
Monitoring, review and evaluation
A structured approach will create a shared understanding among those who will drive the implementation process, from the most senior leaders to managers, and across boundaries between and within government agencies and non-APS bodies.
Implementation planning is not about ‘filling in an implementation plan template’: rather, the implementation plan should document the structured thinking and communication (through face-to-face workshops, discussions and conversations) that has occurred between key leaders, managers and project teams.
A word of warning: No matter how comprehensive the implementation plan is, successful implementation hinges on the development of strong working relationships and a shared commitment to collaboration and acting with integrity. Fostering a culture of collegiality, where there is a clear, common understanding of the outcomes sought, is essential for successful implementation.