Making Public Policy Decisions: Expertise, skills and experience, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Making Public Policy Decisions

Expertise, skills and experience, 1st Edition

Edited by Damon Alexander, Jenny M. Lewis


194 pages | 7 B/W Illus.

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To understand public policy decisions, it is imperative to understand the capacities of the individual actors who are making them, how they think and feel about their role, and what drives and motivates them. However, the current literature takes little account of this, preferring instead to frame the decisions as the outcomes of a rational search for value-maximising alternatives or the result of systematic and well-ordered institutional and organisational processes.

Yet understanding how personal and emotional factors interact with broader institutional and organisational influences to shape the deliberations and behaviour of politicians and bureaucrats is paramount if we are to construct a more useful, nuanced and dynamic picture of government decision-making. This book draws on a variety of approaches to examine individuals working in contemporary government, from freshly-trained policy officers to former cabinet ministers and prime ministers. It provides important new insights into how those in government navigate their way through complex issues and decisions based on developed expertise that fuses formal, rational techniques with other learned behaviours, memories, emotions and practiced forms of judgment at an individual level.

This innovative collection from leading academics across Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom and North America will be of great interest to researchers, educators, advanced students and practitioners working in the fields of political science, public management and administration, and public policy.


'For too long, the study of public policy-making has ignored the role of individual managers, politicians or community activists. This book brings them back into the frame. Importantly, it avoids the tendency to reduce everything to a question of super-heroic leadership skills and personal charisma. Instead, it takes the debate forward by analysing the ways in which the expertise and skill of individuals interact with their institutional settings and in the context of particular kinds of policy problems. This points towards a new agenda for research into the ways in which public policy is constructed, negotiated and realised.' - Chris Skelcher, Professor, University of Birmingham, UK

'Each chapter in this excellent collection helps clarify the situation with respect to a relevant set of actors; providing a careful assessment of their motivations and inter-relationships as a decision-making process unfolds. As a result, taken as a whole, the volume moves our understanding of this key phase of public policy-making a considerable ways forward.' - Michael Howlett, Professor, Simon Fraser University, Canada and National University of Singapore, Singapore

Table of Contents

1. Making Policy Decisions (Damon Alexander and Jenny M. Lewis) 2: Not Only What, But How: The Role of expertise in developing public sector leadership (Richard T. Marcy) 3. How Governments Think: Skills, expertise, and experience in public policy making (Damon Alexander, Jenny M. Lewis and Mark Considine) 4. A Matter of Personality? Stability and change in EU leaders' beliefs during the Euro-crisis (Femke Van Esch) 5. The Impact of Expertise on Crisis Management: Real-time evidence on response decisions by a public health agency during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic (Erik Baekkeskov) 6. Performing a Collaborative Self: Emotions, expertise and ethics in network decisions (Helen Sullivan) 7. Decision-Making at the Frontline: Exploring coping with moral conflicts during public service delivery (Evelien Vink, Lars Tummers, Victor Bekkers and Michael Musheno) 8. Policy Entrepreneurs, Creative Teamwork, and Policy Change (Michael Mintrom and Chris Salisbury) 9. Prime Ministers’ Chiefs of Staff: Coping with wild treachery and weirdness (R.A.W. Rhodes and Anne Tiernan) 10. Leadership of Reforming Governments: The role of political tandems (Paul Strangio, Paul ‘t Hart and James Walter)

About the Editors

Dr Damon Alexander is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne. His research covers public policy decision making; innovation; political/policy networks; and local government reform. His previous book, Networks, Innovation and Public Policy, was published in 2009.

Professor Jenny M. Lewis is Professor of Public Policy in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow for 2013-16. Jenny is a public policy expert, with particular interests in governance, policy influence, and the policy process. Her most recent book, Academic Governance: Disciplines and Policy, was published by Routledge in 2013.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Public Management

The study and practice of public management has undergone profound changes across the world. Over the last quarter century, we have seen

  • the increasing criticism of public administration as the over-arching framework for the provision of public services
  • the rise (and critical appraisal) of the ‘New Public Management’ as an emergent paradigm for the provision of public services
  • the transformation of the ‘public sector’ into the cross-sectoral provision of public services
  • the growth of the governance of inter-organizational relationships as an essential element in the provision of public services

In reality these trends have not so much replaced each other as elided or co-existed together – the public policy process has not gone away as a legitimate topic of study, intra-organizational management continues to be essential to the efficient provision of public services, whist the governance of inter-organizational and inter-sectoral relationships is now essential to the effective provision of these services.

This series is dedicated to presenting and critiquing this important body of theory and empirical study. It will publish books that both explore and evaluate the emergent and developing nature of public administration, management and governance (in theory and practice) and examine the relationship with and contribution to the over-arching disciplines of management and organizational sociology. Books in the series will be of interest to academics and researchers in this field, students undertaking advanced studies, and reflective policy makers and practitioners.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Government & Business
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Affairs & Administration
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Leadership