The Tools of Policy Formulation

The Tools of Policy Formulation

Actors, Capacities, Venues and Effects

New Horizons in Public Policy series

Edited by Andrew J. Jordan and John R. Turnpenny

A PDF version of this book is available for free in open access via the Elgaronline platform - Policy analysts are accustomed to thinking in terms of tools and instruments. Yet an authoritative examination of the tools which have been developed to formulate new policies is missing. This book is the first of its kind to distinguish the defining characteristics of the main policy formulation tools, and offer a fresh way of understanding how, why and by whom they are selected, as well as the effects they produce in practice.

Chapter 11: The effects of targets and indicators on policy formulation: narrowing down, crowding out and locking in

Christina Boswell, Steve Yearley, Colin Fleming, Eugénia Rodrigues and Graham Spinardi

Subjects: economics and finance, valuation, politics and public policy, european politics and policy, public administration and management, public policy


Targets have become an increasingly important component of governance and public sector management in the last two decades, especially across OECD countries. Such targets often involve the use of performance indicators, a policy tool introduced to measure and vouchsafe how far specific targets have been met. Indeed, the possibility of reliably measuring the achievement of targets through performance indicators (PIs) is generally a precondition for the selection of targets (Bevan and Hood 2006; Audit Commission 2000a). The two policy instruments are thus closely interconnected. The received wisdom among policymakers is that PIs and targets are management tools, adopted to improve the quality and value-for-money of public services. By introducing clear and transparent targets, and subjecting these to regular monitoring through measuring them against PIs, governments incentivize improvements in the performance of those involved in service delivery, and increase public accountability (HM Treasury 1998; Audit Commission 2000a; 2000b). Ostensibly, then, targets and related PIs might be best characterized as instruments for ensuring the effective delivery, or implementation, of policies and programmes that have already been adopted.