Brief book review – Implementing Public Policy (4th Edition)

Michael Hill and Peter Hupe, 2022, SAGE Publications, 290 pages

Prof Michael Hill (University of Newcastle Upon Tyne) and Prof Peter Hupe (University of Leuven) have just released the 4th Edition of their popular and practical handbook Implementing Public Policy. The book has a much broader focus than regulatory scholarship but is relevant for those interested in the study of regulatory practice.

Hill and Hupe stress that after the policymaking process, ‘the rest is often a matter of implementation’. “Seeing implementation as the residual of the policy process is a major problem”, they argue (p. 4). Not considering it part of the policymaking process will make implementation exceptionally difficult, and policies may not achieve their desired results.

Another point that Hill and Hupe keep coming back to is that scholarly interest in policy implementation is not as high as it could and maybe should be. It could simply be that it is too challenging to undertake proper implementations studies.[1] In addition, after a period of increased scholarly interest in policy implementation, the shift to New Public Management in the 1980s and 1990s has moved scholarly interest in a different direction (Ch. 5).

Still, Hill and Hupe distil different models of ‘governance in action’ (Ch. 7). A first model is governance-by-authority, in which an enforcement perspective and management via inputs are central. A second model is governance-by-transaction, in which a performance perspective and management via outputs are central. A third and final model is governance-by-persuasion, in which a co-production perspective and management via outcomes as shared results are central. Such models could be a starting point for future research on regulatory governance in practice. In addition, they may provide starting points for regulatory agencies to reflect on their own management models.

As Chair in Regulatory Practice, I enjoyed Chapter 9 the most. This chapter deals with implementing rule-oriented policies (such as regulation). If the implementation is challenging for any policy, it is perhaps even more so for rule-oriented policies. They are often deliberately open and vague, which complicates their implementation, but even more problematically is that in the development of these policies, “discretion [is] a leftover” (p. 195).

Because implementation is often seen as ‘the rest’ and discretion as ‘leftover’ in the policymaking process, it is essential that cultivate and maintain an attitude of public service professionalism in those who implement regulation. I fully agree with Hill and Hupe that such professionalism can be mapped and empirically investigated to set a baseline of where we are now and understand how we can do better.

In short, the book gives some good starting points to various audiences. For scholars interested in studying regulatory governance in practice, it provides a good starting point for undertaking implementation research. For leaders of regulatory agencies, it gives a systematic approach to map their regulatory management systems. Finally, it is an important reminder for policymakers that their regulatory policies are unlikely to achieve their anticipated results if the implementation is not considered in the design process.


In these brief book reviews, I discuss classic and contemporary books that make up the canon of regulatory scholarship (or help undertake regulatory scholarship). I focus on their central ideas or core notions and aim to keep the reviews to around 500 words. Unfortunately, this implies I must sacrifice a considerable amount of detail from the books reviewed.

[1] For example, causal mechanisms of implementation can only be uncovered from rigorous cross-sector or cross-country comparative studies and those are timely and expensive.

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