All Governments expect their policies to be implemented on time, on budget and to expectations. For that to occur, implementation considerations must be a fundamental part of all stages of policy development.

This Better Practice Guide was first released in 2006. It has now been reviewed and updated, in collaboration with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to incorporate key developments since that time. We believe that there is real value in drawing together lessons from experience about how to successfully implement government policies, and in using those insights to strengthen performance in the future.

There are always lessons to be learnt from the implementation of most policies, not least the importance of good planning. This guide offers advice to public sector senior leaders on the successful implementation of policies so that unintended consequences, which deny the community the full benefits of a new policy or waste public resources, can be avoided.

The messages contained in the guide apply not only to new initiatives but also to adjustments or changes to existing measures or areas of regulation. The advice is equally relevant to senior leaders advising on policy proposals and those responsible for implementing policy initiatives. All have to collaborate to ensure success.

Our current environment involves government actively considering the extent and limitations of its service delivery and regulatory roles, at a time of significant pressures on public finances. Stakeholder and community engagement and interaction with government is becoming broader and more intense, enabled by the advent of the internet, social media and other transactional and communication methods. These developments all have implications for the successful implementation of policies.

While some policies can be developed and implemented with long lead-times, others must be developed and implemented quickly, even rapidly, on occasion. The advice presented in this guide has been developed in recognition of the pressures on the modern public sector, and taking into account experience gained in recent years.

The checklists included in this guide are a tool to be used by senior leaders. They reflect the collective experience and wisdom of senior executives and managers across the Australian public sector. The guide quotes from interviews with many public sector chief executives, and we acknowledge that the apparent simplicity of those quotes sometimes belies the often challenging way in which the experience behind them was gained. We sincerely thank all those who contributed their ideas and advice.

We encourage the use of this guide to assist public sector leaders in their stewardship of public resources invested in policies and programs that significantly affect the interests and wellbeing of the Australian community.

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