Elements of Public Policy


The governmental action of any nation can be understood in terms of several basic elements of public policy. Many factors, or inputs, influence the development of public policy. Government may determine its course of action on the basis of economic or foreign policy concerns, domestic political pressure from constituents and interest groups, technical information, and ideas that have emerged in national politics. Public policy also may be influenced by technical studies of complex issues such as taxation or the development of new technologies such as fiber optic electronics. All of these inputs can help shape what the government chooses to do and how it chooses to do it.

Public policy goals can be noble and high-minded or narrow and self-serving. National values, such as freedom, democracy, and equal opportunity for citizens to share in economic prosperity—that is, high-minded public policy goals—have led to the adoption of civil rights laws assistance programs for those in need. Narrow, self-serving goals are more evident when nations decide how tax legislation will allocate the burden of taxes among various interests and income groups. Public policy goals may vary widely, but it is always important to inquire: what public goals are being served by this action?

Governments use different public policy tools, or instruments, to achieve their policy goals. In general, the instruments of public policy are those combinations of incentives and penalties that government uses to prompt citizens, including businesses, to act in ways that achieve policy goals. Governmental regulatory powers are broad and constitute one of the most formidable instruments for accomplishing public purposes.

Public policy actions always have effects. Some are intended, others are unintended. Because public policies affect many people, organizations, and other interests, it is almost inevitable that such actions will please some and displease others. Regulations may cause businesses to improve the way toxic substances are used in the workplace, thus reducing health risks to employees. Yet it is possible that other goals may be obstructed as an unintended effect of compliance with such regulations.

In assessing any public policy, it is important for managers to develop answers to four questions:

  • What inputs will affect the public policy?
  • What goals are to be achieved?
  • What instruments are being used to achieve goals?
  • What effects, intended and unintended, are likely to occur?

The answers to these questions provide a foundation for understanding how any nation’s public policy actions will affect the economy and business sector.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Greening of Management


Environmental regulations, such as the laws governing clean air, water, and land establish minimum legal standards that businesses must meet. Most companies try to comply with these regulations, if only to avoid litigation, fines, and, in the most extreme cases criminal penalties. But many firms are now voluntarily moving beyond compliance to improve environmental performance in all areas of their operations. Researchers have sometimes referred to the process of moving toward more proactive environmental management as the greening of management. Green management can improve a company’s strategic competitiveness.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Contractual Relationship


A contractual relationship exists when employers and employees have a legal agreement regarding how employee issues are handled. Under such contractual arrangements, discharge may occur only if it is based on just cause. Inasmuch as a distinct definition of just cause does not exist, they are guidelines derived from labor arbitration of collective bargaining relationships under which just cause can be shown as follows:

  • Was there adequate warning of consequences of the worker’s behavior?
  • Are the rules reasonable and related to safe and efficient operations of the business?
  • Before discipline was rendered, did a fair investigation of the violation occur?
  • Did the investigation yield definite proof of worker activity and wrong doing?
  • Have similar occurrences, both prior and subsequent to this event, been handled in the same way and without discrimination?
  • Was the penalty in line with the seriousness of the offense and in reason with the worker’s past employment record?

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Change and Satisfaction


Organizational change can be protracted and costly. For example, termination payments to people and penalties relating to changed property arrangements can both be expensive. In some companies it would appear that decisions regarding who should be kept or made redundant are governed more by accumulated rights in the event of termination than managerial merit or quality. Some assets are also difficult to dispose of in a recession.

Occasionally, companies become carried away with concepts and push their application to the extreme. Judgment is needed to decide how far to go in relation to the current situation and context of a company.

For a period, and until the benefits appear to come through, corporate transformation may be accompanied by a slide in the employee satisfaction ratings. The trends need to be monitored, the causes identified and, where appropriate, remedial programs put in place. Opinion surveys can be used to track attitudes to change in various parts of the corporate organization.

Understanding the reasons for dissatisfaction could lead to a change in transformation priorities, if not in direction. Japanese companies, such as Honda encourage their staff to be dissatisfied with whatever has been achieved in order that they will aspire to do even better.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Policy Structures


One of the major purposes of organizations is to relate and coordinate individuals and groups separated by task and space. The authority structure helps accomplish this by defining, at least partially, who can tell whom to do what, and who has the authority to make what kinds of decisions and to take what actions. This authority structure is supplemented with a structure of explicit and implicit policies, procedures, methods, and rules, which channel and direct many decisions and actions.

A policy is a statement of intent that is made to guide others in their decision making without being so specific as to specify decisions. Theoratically, the top executives of any company, but especially the larger ones, necessarily determine policies that help guide the behavior of people within the organization. However, in fact, people at lower levels often have an important hand in fashioning policy. This happens in two ways. First, people at lower levels make recommendations to those at upper levels. Second, people in upper levels sometimes formalize policies to fit behavior patterns that have already emerged at lower levels. In the latter case, policy follows practice.

A frequent characteristic of policy statements is that they are vague enough to permit managers to select among specific decesions, depending upon the managers’ view of the specific conditions surrounding the decision.

In addition to policies, certain procedures and methods are usually designed to facilitate work. For example, there may be eight discrete steps in a particular work process, and a sequence established for each step. Step three might involve notifying two departments that the first two steps are completed. Such a suggested process is called a procedure. It tells people when they should do something. How they do it is the method they use. The method is formally prescribed in some cases and is left to the operant’s discretion in others. Anyone who fails to follow the prescribed procedures and methods is usually open to censure if problems result. Yet much of life in organizations involves evading required procedures and methods, or redesigning them, and again the reasons are usually people-problems rather than errors in the logic of the design of the procedures and methods.

Most organizations have rules and regulations to supplement policies, procedures, and methods. Rules and regulations say what one must do or not do and often specify penalties for infractions. “No one is to punch another’s third card” is an example. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It says “no one,” period.

So there is a sliding scale from guides (policies) to suggestions (procedures) to requirements (rules and regulations). Nearly all organizations include the entire svcale, but different companies may vary widely in their relative emphasis upon various parts of the scale. At the less specific end of the scale, there is more freedom but less certainty, and the reverse is true of the more specific end. Knowing where a particular organization stands on the scale is thus important in understanding how it functions.

Furthermore, there is wide variability between organizational units (eg., research division versus accounting department) in the reliance placed upon or the attention paid to the policy structure.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight