By Dr David H Dombkins 


1. Executive Summary

Rather than focusing on policy content, this paper provides a robust methodology for governments to design, implement, deliver, and manage emergent complex policies.

There is a broad acceptance that the existing policy making methodology and its theoretical foundations are not effective in today’s complex world.

In response to these policy failures there is a growing number of new ideas for policies in economics, education, sustainability, energy, health, etc. being developed that are based on complexity, emergence, and adaptive systems.

While there is considerable merit in these new policy ideas, they lack detail in HOW they can be effectively designed and realized.

howThe paper defines three distinct policy strategies: Bespoke, Evolutionary, and Emergent and provides a tool for categorization of policies. Each policy strategy has a range of applications dependent upon its complexity and uncertainty.

This paper’s focus is on providing governments with reliable strategies and methodologies to design and realize complex policies.

The paper brings together policy, complexity, and the innovative work from defense. Many of the terms and language used in the paper draw from complexity and the work undertaken in defense.

Whilst some of the ideas presented may not be easily understood, the paper provides a valuable foundation for governments and researchers to develop strategies, methodologies, and capabilities to deal with the world’s most pressing complex issues.

2. Introduction

The future of our ‘quality-of-life’ and ‘sustainability’ are dependent upon today’s policies for complex real world issues in sustainability, health, economic development, defense, infrastructure, energy, education, etc. These complex world policy issues cannot be resolved by using the traditional strategy for policy design and implementation. Neither can they be resolved through attempting to establish meta policies that integrate multiple component policies.

Real world complex policies are very difficult to design and plan, as they are complex adaptive systems that are affected by: ongoing social, political, financial, technical, change; and emergence. Adding to the complexity is the delivery of complex policies through multiple agents where the policy owner often does not have directive control over the agents. Traditional methodologies, where planning is completed by experts and then sequentially implemented and delivered, are inappropriate for complex policies.

This paper presents strategies and methodologies for the design, implementation, delivery and emergent management of complex policies. The development of strategies and methodologies for the management of complexity has been a pivotal issue in defense, where asymmetric warfare and network-centric warfare are complex endeavors that cannot be designed, planned, implemented, and operated using traditional strategies and methodologies.

Complex policy is non-linear and recursive, and does not reflect the sequential planning of the traditional approach.


To read entire paper (click here)

About the Author

flag-australiadavid-dombkinsDavid Dombkins, Ph.D. 

Dr David H Dombkins has devoted the past twenty years to developing competencies and methodologies to plan and manage complex endeavors. He is past President of the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM).  Dr Dombkins authored the Complex Project Management Competency Standard and developed WAVE Planning. Over the past five years Dr Dombkins has worked with the United Nations in the establishment of the PPP Centre of Excellence in Geneva as a key activity to realize the United Nations Millennium Goals.  Dr Dombkins was personally invited by Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to lead the strategic development of a new industrial city in Abu Dhabi to drive the development of a post-oil economy on behalf of the Government of the United Arab Emirates.  Dr Dombkins has worked closely with the US Government Office of the Secretary of Defense in developing the Systems-of-Systems: Systems Engineering Guide and the Systems-of-Systems Best Practice Model (that is based on WAVE Planning).  Dr Dombkins can be contacted at [email protected]