The policy/project nexus: lessons learned from a policy implementation project

Margetts, Fiona (2016) The policy/project nexus: lessons learned from a policy implementation project. In: Australian Institute of Project Management and International Project Management Association Inaugural Regional Conference - Project Management: Building Capabilities, 16-19 Oct 2016, Sydney, Australia.

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The higher education sector forms an integral part of Australia’s economy and is becoming increasingly global, dynamic, competitive and regulated. Comprised substantially of universities, the standards of governance, academic quality and management that enable universities to operate in this environment are established in their policies. These critical organisational instruments are fundamental to providing students with relevant learning experiences and enable a university to respond to opportunities and innovation and research agendas.

Notoriously complex, yet foundational to all organisational activity, policy development and review is a key means by which a university achieves strategy, ensures quality, mitigates risk and complies with its regulatory environment.

This presentation explores the impact of a three-year, policy implementation project undertaken in an Australian university. Effectively a change program, it established a flexible and sustainable framework for the development, deployment and ongoing review of policy.

The presentation identifies the vital role of development and implementation of a governance-level policy framework (the ’meta policy’ or ‘policy on policies’), the positive impact of an engaged sponsor and application of a project management methodology.

A reflection upon the challenges and lessons learned will explore the key role of keen organisational knowledge and a strong, yet flexible and adaptive, approach to project management.

The presentation will provide an analysis of the critical success factors and benefits realised from the project, including the critical nature of policy deployment, establishment of organisational policy development capability and the consequent maturation of cross organisational collaboration and change facilitation.

The key role of planning to embed project outcomes into ‘business as usual’ activity is brought into focus, as is the need to plan for and integrate evaluation, review and continuous improvement.

Consistent with this, post-project lessons and subsequent high-level policy change agenda adjustments are explored. The nexus between policy development and project management is considered and clear parallels drawn between the approach taken and the recommendations provided in the report of Professor Peter Shergold, AC, Learning from Failure (2015).

Outcomes from this project and its subsequent embedding in standard organisational practice continue to inform change, research and efficiency agendas. They have the potential to impact similarly across the higher education sector and more broadly.


Shergold, P. (2015). Learning from Failure - Why large government policy initiatives have gone so badly wrong in the past and how the chances of success in the future can be improved. Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia Retrieved from

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Speech)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: oral conference presentation - unpublished.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - USQ Other
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2017 23:45
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2017 03:14
Uncontrolled Keywords: opportunity, challenge, change, capability, maturity, collaboration
Fields of Research : 16 Studies in Human Society > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160506 Education Policy
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150303 Corporate Governance and Stakeholder Engagement
16 Studies in Human Society > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160599 Policy and Administration not elsewhere classified
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150312 Organisational Planning and Management
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9305 Education and Training Systems > 930501 Education and Training Systems Policies and Development
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