Day: 3 April 2018
Crossing the ‘Valley of Death’ – how we can bridge the gap between policy creation and delivery
Tony Meggs – Civil Service Quarterly
A policy which cannot be – or is not – implemented is a pretty pointless thing. The value in policy and strategy is not in the creation of documents or legislation (essential though that might be), but in making something, somewhere better for someone. Good policy is designed with delivery very much in mind. Good delivery can trace a clear and direct line to the policy intention it is supporting.
That’s easily said, but as we all know, there is no shortage of examples where that’s not what has happened in practice. More positively, there is also no shortage of people and organisations focused on making it work better. Much of that has been catalysed – more or less directly – through digital and service design, with the idea now widely accepted (albeit still sometimes more in principle than in practice) that teams should be formed from the outset by bringing together a range of disciplines and perspectives. But as this post reminds us, there is another way of thinking about how to bring design and delivery together, focusing on implementation and programme management.
But perhaps most importantly, the post stresses the need to recognise and manage the pressures in a political system to express delivery confidence at an earlier stage and with greater precision than can be fully justified. Paradoxically (it might appear), embracing uncertainty is a powerful way of enhancing delivery confidence.
Why it’s never a good time for service design
It’s really hard to do things as well responding to a crisis as when they are properly planned. It’s really hard to do proper planning if all your time and energy is taken up by responding to crises. Service design is one of the leading indicators of that problem: there’s no (perceived) time to do it when it’s urgent; but there’s no urgency to do it when there’s time.
The solution to that conundrum argued here is very simple: slow degradation over time has to be recognised as being as bad as the catastrophic failure which occurs when the degradation hits a tipping point – “we need to make doing nothing as risky as change.”
Simple in concept is, of course, a very long way from being simple to realise, and the lack of attention given to fixing things before they actually break is a problem not limited to service design – slightly more terrifyingly it applies just as much to nuclear weapons (and in another example from that post, to apparently simple services which cross organisational boundaries and which it isn’t quite anybody’s responsibility to fix). Changing that won’t be easy, but that doesn’t make it any less important.