… a core concept in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

deliverologyConcept description

Rachel Curan (reference below) defines deliverology as “simply the science (or art, depending on your perspective) of delivering on goals and promises, particularly those made by governments. It relies on a clear identification of priorities; the setting of targets and the collection of data related to those priorities; and the exercise of central oversight through a unit reporting directly and regularly to the leader.”

The term is associated with Sir Michael Barber, a former aide to UK prime minister Tony Blair, who led the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU).

Challenges in applying deliverology in the Canadian government

Curan underlines two problems with trying to improve performance of the federal government by applying the techniques of deliverology:

“First, the reality is that the federal bureaucracy already operates under a deliverology-like structure. The Privy Council Office (PCO) creates and maintains a list of campaign promises and other commitments made by a government. It works with line departments to develop plans to meet those promises and tracks the progress of work on meeting commitments. …

“And if the measurement of success is “getting things done,” the current structure is a successful one. Whether or not you agreed with Stephen Harper’s agenda, he said what he was going to do and then he did it, in no small part due to the efforts of the federal bureaucracy. From the five key priorities Harper identified in 2006 – including cutting the GST, passing the Federal Accountability Act, setting mandatory minimum sentences for gun crime, providing cash payments to parents, working with the provinces to reduce health care wait times and the 100-plus other commitments that were outlined in his 2011 election platform – more than 95 percent of them were eventually completed. Harper established a clear record of delivering on the promises he made.

“Second, Barber’s concept of deliverology does not lend itself easily to the scope of federal responsibility in Canada. Deliverology has been applied, with varying degrees of success, in the context of direct delivery of services by government, particularly in the education sector – in other words, where the delivery system is complex and multifaceted, where government has almost exclusive control over outcomes and where measurements are relatively easily obtained. …

“However, our system of federalism means that the national government is rarely in sole control of program outcomes beyond the timely delivery of money, for example, for pension or unemployment benefits. The federal government is largely uninvolved in direct service delivery, with the exception of programs for veterans and Indigenous people. It is difficult to imagine how reforming tax or electoral systems, or investing in infrastructure, or legalizing marijuana, or increasing support for innovation and cultural industries, or many of the other campaign promises made by the Liberals, would lend themselves to a deliverology approach, given that these issues either include no “delivery” aspect, or their delivery does not rest in federal hands.”

Topic, subject and Atlas course

Promoting Innovation and Driving Change (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107


Rachel Curran (2016), Will “deliverology” work for the federal government? Policy Options, 27 April 2016, at, accessed 20 November 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 20 November 2016.

Image: at, accessed 20 November 2016.