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Policy Design and Instrument Choice

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Applying an Implementation Lens
Balanced Scorecard as a Strategy for Performance Improvement
Building Coalitions
Bureaucratic Politics, Organizational Design and Decision-Making
Cognitive Biases
Defining Policy Problems and Policy Making Under Pressure
Developing Networks for Improvement
Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Instrument Choice
Financing and Fundraising in the Third Sector
Implementation and Policy
Implementation and Policy
Implementation and Risk
Implementation and the Budget Context
Implementation Environment
Implementing through Markets
Implementing with Partners
Improving Organizational Performance Through Competition
Learning as a Performance Strategy
Leveraging Diversity
Managing a Global Team
Managing Conflict
Managing Partnerships: Multi-Party Arrangements
Managing Risk: The “New” Way Forward in Managing?
Mission and Strategy
Models of Policy Making
Modernization of Public Sector Organizations
Multi-Level Governance
Network Assessment and Analysis
Operations and Marketing Strategy
Organizational Alignment
Organizational Behaviour
Organizational Culture
Organizational Performance and Management Reform
Organizing for Collaboration and Partnership
Organizing for Performance
Overview of Recent Trends in Public Administration
Performance Information as a Management Tool
Policy Analysis and Contemporary Governance
Policy Design and Instrument Choice
Policy Evaluation
Public Services in the Age of Restraint - new public service delivery models and the quest to do better with less
Public-Private Partnerships
Recent Trends from Comparative Public Administration
Rules vs. Discretion
The Crisis of “Governability” (1970s) and its Effects
The Meaning of Strategy in Public Management
The Role of Leadership in Strategy and Implementation
The Role of the Board and Strategic Governance in Third Sector Organizations
The Shift to Public Governance
Theories of Human Motivation and Decision Making: Rational Choice
Working in Teams


A Teaching Topic in Strategy and Implementation

Policy Design and Instrument Choice

This teaching topic introduces students to the concept of policy design. Students learn about the role played by different actors and institutions (such as central agencies and officials within line departments) in shaping the design of public policies.  Students are asked to consider how well-designed policies can help overcome the institutional biases that may exist toward short-sighted decision making. This topic also introduces students to instrument choice, and teaches students the importance of thinking about the different tools governments have available to deliver on policy commitments and the appropriate processes for choosing between those tools.

Topic Learning Outcome: Upon mastering this topic, students will understand that policymakers often have multiple “tools,” “instruments,” or “levers” to choose from when deciding how to achieve a policy objective, and they will understand the analytical processes through which policymakers can seek to identify the best option.   Students will also understand the concept of policy design, and will be able to explain the roles of various actors and institutions in designing policy.

Core Concepts Associated With This Topic: Instrument ChoiceInstrument Design; Policy Instrument; Satisficing; Static Response; Deterrence; Nonlinear Policy Problems; Program; User Charge

Recommended Reading (Carleton University PADM 5116)

Leslie A. Pal, Beyond Policy Analysis 4th ed. (Toronto: Nelson Education, 2010), chap. 4.

Peter Aucoin, “The Policy Roles of Central Agencies: Bruce Doern’s Approach to the Policy Process,” in Policy G. Toner, L.A. Pal, and M.J. Prince (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010), 59-76

Susan McDaniel and Paul Bernard, “Life Course as a Policy Lens: Challenges and Opportunities” Canadian Public Policy, Supplement Vol. XXXVII, 2011

Katherine L. Milkman, Todd Rogers and Max H. Bazerman 2008 “Harnessing Our Inner Angels and Demons: What We have Learned About Want/Should Conflicts and How That knowledge Can Help Us Reduce Short-Sighted Decision Making” Perspectives on Psychological Science 3(4) 

Source: PADM 5116 Syllabus, 2012

Sample Assessment Questions

       1.)  Define the concept “instrument choice” and describe why instrument choice is an important component of the policy process.

       2.)  What are some of the institutional, cognitive and political factors that can sometimes introduce bias towards short-sighted decision making in government?

       3.)  What is a static response to a policy problem? When might a static response be the appropriate choice for policymakers?

       4.)  In a one-page paper, discuss the role of two different actors or institutions in shaping the design of public policies.


Page Created By: Ben Eisen, last edited 5 April, 2015.


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