Pal’s Good Governance Benchmarks

… a core concept in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) concludes his book, Beyond Policy Analysis, with a set of suggested benchmarks of good governance.

Pal writes (pp. 413-414):

“Our approach to good governance is guided by the conviction that policy development, despite its messiness, does have some identifiable stages or phases, principally moving through problem identification, analysis of issues, development of options, and finally, recommendations based both on analysis and other input in the process. As well, we have to acknowledge the balance of craft and skill that defines policy development work. A crucial issue, then, is how to enhance craft, how to build in mechanisms that will improve a process that resists easy categorization or measurement, despite recent attempts at developing more precise indicators. And finally, we need to acknowledge that policy work is part of a larger democratic conversation and that it should reflect strong democratic values as well as contribute to them. In these terms, then, we can suggest several benchmarks. While they will not guarantee good policy design, they will certainly contribute to it:

Training of policy development staff. This effort should not be occasional but continuous. Policy development staff have to know what the policy process is about, the different elements of policy design and implementation and evaluation, and various techniques for both the development of policy ideas and communication. They should have a solid grounding in policy analysis and administration.

Well-organized information and research resources. Having information, being able to access it quickly, and organizing it well comprise a basic requirement of good policy work. As we noted earlier in this book, there are huge new developments in social networking technology that are enabling much better pooling of and access to information.

A balance of scanning and service orientations. Good policy work not only requires immediate and effective responses to demands from political masters but also demands the scanning of the political and social environment to see what is coming up in the near to medium term. Policy work needs to be tactical as well as strategic.

Horizontal coordination. The policy function is a whole-of-government process, mapping out broad, consistent priorities and linking them to spending priorities. As policy problems become more complex and multidimensional, there needs to be better horizontal policy coordination across departments, pooling knowledge and sharing perspectives.

Rigour and honesty. Policy development, as we noted above, is at the intersection of political necessity and analytical research. Policy analysts should keep that balance in mind and be wary of sacrificing professional standards and rigour for political purposes. The concepts of “speaking truth to power” and offering “fearless advice” capture this quality.

Transparency and consultation. Confidentiality is often unavoidable as policy problems and options are being debated and defined. To the greatest extent possible, however, policy development work should hear from all sides, consult widely both within and outside government, and put out as much information as possible for public discussion, debate, and review. This approach builds on the wisdom of crowds, the capacity of many independent and dispersed minds with diverse information resources to arrive at surprisingly good judgments.

Development of a good challenge function. Further to the previous point, the policy development process should be designed in such a way as to incorporate challenge and debate and testing – this is a key ingredient for ventilating policy ideas, avoiding group think, exposing unacknowledged errors, and working through limitations and unexpected design flaws.

“Policymaking is nothing less than developing public responses, primarily through government but in close cooperation with citizens and other organizations in the private sector and civil society, to public problems. Doing it well matters for lots of reasons, not least because the quality of the responses affects our everyday lives as well as the texture of our democracy. In the end, governance matters, and effective public policy is a crucial ingredient of good governance.”

See also: Policy Analysis; Policy Analysis’s Impact on Policymaking.

Topic, subject and Atlas course

Identifying Best Practices (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107 Implementation and Delivery


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

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 15 April 2017.

Image: Amazon Canada, at, accessed 11 April 2017.