Professor Gunn's approach to the problems of program implementation
Professor Gunn approaches the problems of program implementation by creating a ten stage theoretically 'perfect' system, by which any program implemented will achieve desired outcomes flawlessly. But as he points out, such a system is unachievable in the real world.
Stages 1 - Circumstances external to the implementing agency do not impose crippling constraint.
Sometimes obstacles are encountered whilst implementing programs that are out of ones control. These include both political (activists, unions…) and environmental factors (weather). For this reason, policy makers must create buffers within policy to incorporate obstacle confrontation.
Stage 2 - Adequate time and sufficient resources are made available to the program.
Policies may encounter failure due to a lack of resources (time & finance). Gunn suggests that it is difficult to see what administrators can do in these situations, except through advice to their political masters - but obviously better planning on the behalf of policy makers would most likely amend this fault.
Stage 3 - Not only are there no constraints in terms of overall resources but also that, at each stage in the implementation process, the required combination of resources is actually available.
Bottlenecked resources may occur within programs because of internal mismanagement and/or external factors. Gunn points out that responsibility for such crisis lies with program designers and executives, who should utilise advanced administrative techniques (manpower, network and control planning) to counter their emergence.
Stage 4 - Policy implemented is based upon a valid theory of cause and effect.
Failure maybe attributed to implementation, but occasionally it is the policy itself that fails because it was based on an inadequate understanding of the issues at hand. In such cases, the cause and effect process of policy should have been better analysed - though effective problem identification is difficult, particularly when an issue is the product of several combined factors.
Stage 5 - The relationship between cause and effect is direct and that there are few, if any, intervening links.
Sequence of cause and effect relationships have a tendency to break down due to loss of direction in high reliance links. A more direct, less reliant approach should prove beneficial in such cases.
Stage 6 - There is a single implementing agency which need not depend upon other agencies for success or, if other agencies must be involved, that the dependency relationships are minimal in number and importance.
Where implementation requires complex events, linkages, and agreement at each level among participants, then the probability of success is reduced. To obtain a 50/50 chance of overall agreement would require a probability rate of 99% at any given clearance.
Stage 7 - There is complete understanding of, and agreement upon, the objectives to be achieved; and that these conditions persist throughout the implementation process.
Objectives need be clearly defined, specific, quantified, understood, agreed upon, mutually compatible, supportive, and provide for monitoring. Unfortunately, objectives are rarely ever met because they maybe difficult to identify. Even if objectives have initially been understood and agreed, there is no guarantee that they will be followed because they are susceptible to change (succession, multiplication, expansion and displacement).
Stage 8 - In moving towards agreed objectives it is possible to specify, in complete detail and perfect sequence, the tasks to be preformed by each participant.
There should be room for discretion and improvisation in even the most carefully planned program. This involves a balance between flexibility an rigidity, so that there is clear direction, as well as the ability to adjust with change.
Stage 9 - There is perfect communication among, and co-ordination of, the various elements or agencies involved in the program.
For successful implementation, it would be necessary to have a unitary administrative system - like that of a huge army featuring non-conflicting single line authority - as well as perfect communication. But realistically, this is likely impossible to achieve within any organisation that features distinct groups with personal attitudes and various comprehension abilities.
Stage 10 - Those in authority can demand and obtain perfect obedience.
There should exist no resistance to authoritarian command. Management should secure total and immediate compliance from all, be they staff, traders, or even people not directly related to the organisation. Realism dictates this is unlikely to happen - particularly when staff have a tendency to oppose quick change, and find it difficult to cope with dictatorship like systems that suppress individuality.
The 'perfect' system for policy implementation - this is what we are faced with if all the preconditions are adhered to - but in all reality, even though this theory may seem sound, it is far from practical. No system of policy creation or implementation can ever be called completely perfect, unless of course that particular system was created within a hypothetically sterile environment, where all aspects of normal day to day activities never faulted, whilst external factors remained remarkably constant. The title of 'Systematic guidelines to better implementation and design' would be more suited to Gunn's plan.
What we need to understand, and can learn from this system is that in any form of planning or implementation:
Written By Evan Sycamnias - 10-9-99