Policy Sciences

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 73–89

Governance modes, policy regimes and operational plans: A multi-level nested model of policy instrument choice and policy design


DOI: 10.1007/s11077-009-9079-1

Cite this article as:
Howlett, M. Policy Sci (2009) 42: 73. doi:10.1007/s11077-009-9079-1


Policy goals and means exist at different levels of abstraction and application and policies can be seen to be comprised of a number of components or elements, not all of which are as amenable to (re)design as others. Defining and thinking about polices and policy-making in this way is very useful because it highlights how policy design is all about the effort to match goals and instruments both within and across categories. That is, successful policy design requires (1) that policy aims, objectives, and targets be coherent; (2) that implementation preferences, policy tools and tool calibrations should also be consistent; and (3) that policy aims and implementation preferences; policy objectives, and policy tools; and policy targets and tool calibrations, should also be congruent and convergent. Policy instrument choices can thus be seen to result from a nested or embedded relationship within a larger framework of established governance modes and policy regime logics. In this contextual model, the range of choices left at the level of concrete targeted policy instrument calibrations—the typical subject of policy tool analysis—is restricted by the kinds of decisions made about policy objectives and the appropriate tools to attain them, and both of these, in turn, by the kind of choices made at the highest level setting out general policy aims and implementation preferences.


Public policy Policy tools Governing instruments Policy design 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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