Bardach’s Implementation Game

… a core concept in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) summarizes Eugene Bardach’s framework for implementation analysis.

Pal notes (p. 191-192) that Bardach looked for ways to make the implementation process more controlled than that implied in the describes the essence of the Pressman and Wildavsky’s Implementation Model:

“But what if, as Eugene Bardach (1977) asked, “the character and degree of many implementation problems are inherently unpredictable” (p. 5)? Bardach took the dynamic conceptualization of implementation first developed by Pressman and Wildavsky – dynamic in the sense that it occurs over time – and arrived at the notion of “games” as a way of understanding the essentially defensive nature of implementation: games involve players, strategies, resources, rules, and uncertainty about outcomes. In reflecting on what makes the implementation game successful, what enables implementers to deal with its inevitably unpredictable character, Bardach offered several strategies [bullet format added]:

  • First, avoid implementation designs that rely on complex management systems, large organizations, and lots of clearances. Implement through the market, if possible; deliver cash directly to people rather than services that require elaborate bureaucracies, and aim at small and feasible targets.
  • Second, engage in scenario-writing to work out different possible consequences of a string of actions and interactions.
  • Third, and most important, fix the game in the sense of “repairing” it when it goes awry and in the sense of “adjusting certain elements of the system of games … so as to lead to a more preferred outcome” (Bardach, 1977, p. 274).”

See also: Implementation Theory.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

The Study of Implementation and Delivery (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Bardach, E. (1977). The implementation game: What happens after a bill becomes a law. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 12 April 2017.

Image: From cover of Bardach book at, accessed 6 April 2017.