Why are implementation and evaluation so challenging? Essay Example

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Implementation is the process of putting an absolute decision into effect. Once the leaders have made an individual decision, the decision goes through the application cycle. People get informed of the decision and policy instruments begin working, staff given guidelines, money spent, and legislative bills prepared. Later, the Government machine affects the cabinet’s final decision. However, the process of implementation does not always fall to plan because the gap between outcome and intention may be significant. Evaluation, on the other hand, is an integral part of implementing a policy, for it gives information on the progress, creating a bond amongst the team members, as well as using the evaluation methods to provide feedback to revise public policies or processes. Evaluation can also be performed to check the effects the policies have in the implementation phase. Implementation and Evaluation failure in the public sector becomes the subject of political debates, which political opponents and the media identify as forms of government incompetence (Hill & Varone, 2016, p.22). For a better understanding of the challenges faced during Implementation and evaluation processes, it is important to analyze some of the theoretical perspectives and debates in the real world.

Implementation and Evaluation

Implementation deficit or application failure means giving a normative requirement because of the judgment of the observation and the expected results. Application failure defined the values of the observer or the values of the actors involved in the process; evaluation then gets provided. However, the difference between evaluation and implementation as two different but consecutive stages of the policy making process appears analytically pertinent enough to maintain. The evaluator gathers data and analyzes it to give relevant information about program results (Althaus, Bridgman & Davis, 2012, p.23). On the other hand, the implementer ingests the information from the evaluator and uses it to check on earlier choices and give advice on future actions. Therefore, the application is all about learning from assessment. It is through production and ingestion of data that evaluators engage in contemporary relationships.

Researchers argue that there is a massive confusion between outputs and outcomes. In implementation literature, policy makers only seem to care about the degree to which they successfully contended with the question of whether their strategies intended to correct the problem, they were trying to solve (Kørnøv, Zhang & Christensen, 2015, p.26). Thus, the outcome examination in assessment research began including all sorts of results that applied to the understanding of public rules, including results that had no direct relation to the system but affected the assessment of whether a system prospered or not.

Implementation Research

The study of application is gradually changing into a growth industry where hundreds of new studies are ongoing. Scholars are visibly uneasy; some are not even sure whether they are addressing the right queries. However, the latter situation is not a surprise because the attempt to study execution raises the most questions about the relation between action and thought: How ideas can appear in a world controlled by conduct (Hill & Hupe, 2008, p.34). Implementation researchers have grown to a point where most scientists perceive it as a sub-discipline, advanced within the subjects of administrative science (Elmore, 1979, p28). In the last three decades, the field has flourished, but there has been a significant setback due to lack of cumulative effect from research and a small degree of theoretical consistency.

The study of implementation and evaluation literature is divided into two major thoughts, bottom-up and top-down. An alternative model has been developed trying to reconcile these models. The alternative model combines these two concepts on the theoretical level of uncertainty and policy implementation disagreement.

Influence of Street Level Bureaucracy on Implementation

Street level bureaucracy is one of the most detrimental factors to implementation and evaluation of public policies. In strategic environmental implementation is planned from top to bottom, meaning that planners who then execute the SEA at the lower part of power ranks interpret the politically decided report. However, it may take a much-extended period from the announcement of the report before it influences decision-making and planning practice (Kørnøv, Zhang & Christensen, 2015, p.42). The top to a bottom standpoint on policy application rests upon the assumption that the organizers at the bottom or street level fail to execute substantial discretion. The compliance model where the planner’s model centrally controlled is one of the most controversial issues that experts believe is a major challenge in implementation and evaluation.

The assumption within the top-down approach is that the first administration regulates the strategy and its purposes, and the application takes place distinctively from the arrangement. The critical question for policy assessment result is to find out to what degree the set goals got achieved over time. People involved in the top to the bottom model received criticism for not considering the limitation of the hierarchical control and adaptive policy procedure. Nevertheless, the legislative terms viewed as ambiguous, thus open to interpretation, which could bring more difficulties in complying with the preliminary objective (Lipsky, 2010, p42). Moreover, the chief actors at the top of the chain are not the only player, which means that they do not have control over the behavior of other junior implementers at the street level. The street level bureaucrats are urban and ecological planners who are vital program makers due to their critical decision making during undertaking or interpreting of SEA.

Challenges Faced During Theory Development

In the 1980’s, the most academic debates got polarized around the assertions of top-down and bottom-up procedures in the conceptualization of the application process. In some cases, the polarization of discussion, related to differing disciplinary perspectives and value of the role of policy in Governance. The top to the bottom plan reflected in traditional governance structures and organization of public structure. The top to bottom concept emphasized on separation of administration and politics and control and coordination through hierarchy and authority (Barrett, 2004, p.22). Those defending the top down model viewed it as a normative ideal for actualizing policy. The role of implementation studies was to recognize the causes of application and suggest proper ways of enhancing the likelihood of getting compliance with policy objectives. The implementation also focused on improving communication of intentions, coordinating the links in the chain and managing the resources.

The bottom-up concept somewhat looked like a deceptive label, with some alternative approaches, which viewed enactment as part of policy making and in which an individual system got modified for making intentions. Although the bottom up and top down strategies somehow got contracted and confusing, they raised some crucial issues for implementation analysis, and indeed, the meaning of application (Matland, 1995, p.32). Interactive and negotiative implementation models tend to view performance as the achievement of a certain possibility within a particular policy implementation area. From this viewpoint, judging performance is a matter of more bottom up and pluralistic assessment to evaluate outcomes regarding losers or winners.

Combination of Two Perspectives

There has been an insufficient number of attempts made to combine two implementation aspects. One group of researchers has proposed various ways of combining two models within the same concept, and another group has found suitable conditions under which one approach is more applicable than the other has (Sabatier, 1986, p.41). Elmore’s idea of forwarding and backward mapping is one of the early attempts to pool together the bottom up and top down concepts. In his argument, Elmore claimed that designers of government policies should choose policy instruments according to the incentive structures of target groups. The idea of forwarding mapping includes stating precise policy goals, elaborating elaborate arrangements, and stipulating clear result criteria by which to judge at each particular stage (DeLeon & DeLeon, 2002, p.19). The combination concepts also consist of precisely stating the behaviors to for a change at the lowest levels and giving a set of operations to ensure the change, then repeating the process upwards to the fundamental level.

Some researchers prefer to discuss the appropriate application of one model rather than a combination of both. Dungier argues that the two models should get into the application during different stages of implementation for the best results (Sabatier, 1986, p. 41). The researchers argue that the top down model is more applicable in the early stages of planning while the bottom up model is more appropriate in the later stages of evaluation. Researchers claim that one of the factors that make implementation and evaluation such a difficult task is the number of concepts and their changing dynamics due changing factors in different phases of planning (Windholz, 2014, p.54). The implementation plan enacted using either of the models depending on a set of parameters describing a certain policy concept. The complex parameters include the validity of the technology, the scope of change, institutional setting, goal conflict, and environmental stability.

The Complexity of the Joint Action

Researchers observed the counter connection between the dealings required to implement a result and the probability that an effect or any effect would occur. Even when the likelihood of the chosen result improves at every step, the cumulative product of an enormous number of transactions is a high low likelihood of positive outcome (Noll 1992, p.41). The analysis complemented by an extended discussion on the devices that administrators use to divert, dissipate, and delay the effect of policies by attempts of other researchers to specify the effect of bureaucracy on implementation. The stated notions have now become part of the standard explanations used for why most policies fail. However, the policies have had a minimal effect in enhancing our understanding of how to avoid failure. Very little can be done about the issue if policymakers and analysts persist in seeing implementation as a hierarchical order. The viewpoint further makes execution and evaluation more difficult because of the application process as dominated by formal organizational structures, regulation, and management control. The tighter the structure of legal corporate, the greater the number of checkpoints and decision points required. More opportunities for delay, diversion is also created and more reliance of juniors on superiors for guidance.

Governance and Complexity

Governance and complexity are other challenges facing evaluation and implementation. Procedures such as climate variation, the spread of epidemic diseases, and technological innovation all contest a scale free linear and static world view that has directed vast parts of the study of politics and society (Duit & Galaz, 2008, p.31). Such processes also affect the future and present levels of human wellness, democratic vitality, and political steadiness. The multiplication of linkages and the speed of interactions among elements in technical, biophysical, and human systems seem to be increasing, creating a worldwide solidity. All negative response loops working on a range temporary and spatial scales result in expansions characterized by fast and irreversible with immense consequences for human welfare.

Lack of Financial and Human Resources

During the implementation stage, some organizations have the inadequate personnel to accomplish all the drawn tactics to implement the determined strategy they have developed. Financial constraints mostly caused by strong monitor laws can be a limitation on implementation (Vedung 2017, p. 23). The management sometimes forced to prioritize its plans and make a critical verdict about which ones are the most important given the limited or scarce available resources.

Another general but detrimental challenge that makes implementation and evaluation involved is the difficulty in planning the order of the strategies. The application is a multifaceted process because policies need a long series of steps, where skipping one can affect the entire operation (DiNitto & Johnson 2015, p.33). The procedures also require good timing to be successful such as deciding which season or time of the year to launch a new project. In Australia, a good example of implementation difficulty is the planning and implementation of new roads and bridges. Using the most common concept, which is the up to bottom, the sequence of strategies could get altered due to confusion between leaders at the top of the hierarchy and implementers at the bottom. Leaders at the summit of the hierarchy should have the skill and well informed of the plans to be able to envision each of the steps required to complete the project.

Resistance to change is another common challenge faced during implementation and evaluation processes of public policy. A slight change in tactical direction causes a wave of change throughout the body. Divisions or entire departments may have to get rearranged to implement the new strategy (Vedung, 2017, p. 51). Reporting relationships from the bottom up may also require rearranging. Some players involved in the plan may disagree with a new strategic direction and recent their new responsibilities (Althaus, Bridgman, Davis, 2012, p. 19). Part of the leader job at the top of the hierarchy is to persuade all the players’ involved that the variations in the plan will benefit everyone in the end.

Solution to the Problem

Implementation of policies can turn out to be challenging, especially in environments where scarcity of resources is experienced. Whereas there are challenges that are faced with policy implementation, researchers have suggested a solution that can help to go around some of these challenges. The best strategy is developing and deciding on the implementation plan for solving the issues. Taking a step-by-step procedure for solving issues will greatly help. The institution should also have a clear communication plan for giving the stakeholders appropriate notifications concerning the implementation process. The stakeholders should be well informed and prepared for a change that might be caused by the execution of the new policy. Resources should be identified and allocated appropriately to ensure smooth flow of implementation within its timeline. Monitoring the progress is also very crucial, as it is possible to review other implementation alternatives.

Clear management objectives will be a driver to success. However, reaching an agreement on the achievable goals for a new policy might prove challenging. The stakeholders in play will have disputing goals. Existing regulations and authorities might conflict with each other. Bringing their disagreeing goals together is hard. Therefore, it is, therefore, important to establish consensus in the material selection stage (Vedung 2017, p. 51). When the goals are not adequately described, then the solutions to the issues at hand might be insufficient. Again, if the scope is too broad, there is a risk of the process becoming unfocused and overextended; thus belittling everything and achieving less. Establishing objective starts with a presupposition that evaluations that are scientifically founded. Real priorities and actual issues can be addressed when the prevailing conditions and goals are apparent to all team players.

In brief, personnel across all practice areas must build a spirit of cooperation, pulling together to competently implement the policy, regardless of the concept used in the process. When friction arises within divisions or practical areas, even the best plans may not need application due to lack of vital communication between the main players. Successful implementation requires each stakeholder to contribute his or her effort and time. Finally, yet importantly, Governments should emphasize on new research and practice on the affiliation between public accountability, ethics and social responsibility and control in policy implementation and evaluation.


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