By Julie Rothhouse

Growing up, I learned about policy at the dinner table.  My parents’ policies were short, simple and declarative.  “Finish your milk before you get dessert.” For me, the policy was unambiguous and easy to follow. For my parents, enforcement was a breeze. All they had to do was look at my milk glass – which in those days was actually made of clear glass.

As I got older, I realized that policy is usually more complex and nuanced.  In the government, policy is the foundation for the work of Federal agencies.  It can be hundreds or even thousands of pages long. In some cases, policy may have been written dozens of years ago and for some stakeholders it may still exist as a dog-eared binder with sticky notes on it. Over the years, policy updates may have occurred using a patchwork of policy artifacts and notification methods.

All of this points to the broad need for policy consolidation and clarification. This is a Herculean task requiring significant effort on the part of government Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). In my experience, successful policy consolidation requires a well-orchestrated approach with these seven critical components:

  1.  Leadership and executive sponsorship to set the vision
  2. Defined style for what the policy should look like
  3. Language guidelines to ensure consistency across sections
  4. A well-defined consolidation process
  5. Stakeholder involvement
  6. Focused project management
  7. Understanding of and ability to accelerate the clearance process

Government policy will remain complex, nuanced and long and unfortunately, will never be as simple as “No shirt. No shoes. No service.” However, by incorporating the above approach, the road to a consolidated policy will be more efficient.  And hopefully, your stakeholders will one day be able to throw out their dog-eared binders in favor of a clearly articulated, consolidated policy.

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