Quality advice is the foundation of good decision making.
The Policy Quality Framework
The Policy Quality Framework provides the policy community with a set of standards that specify what good quality advice means. Government agencies can use the Policy Quality Framework’s standards to hold themselves accountable for the quality of their advice, and to support better government decision making. Policy advisors and managers can use the framework to help them develop quality policy advice and to peer review the advice of others.
The framework was refreshed in 2018 to incorporate the best elements of the original Policy Quality Framework and other policy quality frameworks then in use by government agencies in New Zealand. The refreshed Policy Quality Framework has three levels of detail – depending on the purpose you are using it for. While mainly intended for assessing and improving the quality of written policy advice papers to decision makers, most elements of the framework are also relevant to assessing the quality of oral policy advice.
The Policy Quality Framework is one of three improvement frameworks co-designed with the policy community to help government agencies improve their policy quality and capability. The other two frameworks are the Policy Skills Framework – outlining the skills policy practitioners require to deliver quality advice, and the Policy Capability Framework – outlining what government agencies with policy functions need to focus on to produce quality policy advice. All three frameworks have been endorsed by the Head of the Policy Profession and the Tier 2 Policy Leaders’ Network.
Overview of the refreshed framework
At the highest level, the Policy Quality Framework identifies four key aspects of quality policy advice: namely context, analysis, advice and action. Decision papers offering policy advice need to perform well on all four aspects.
Policy Quality Framework: standards for quality policy advice
Each of the four high-level elements of the quality of policy advice have a number of specific characteristics that policy advice papers should achieve.
The summary version of the framework can be downloaded here.
The full version of the framework provides more detail on each of the standards of the Policy Quality Framework summarised above.
How to use the Policy Quality Framework
The Policy Quality Framework and associated tools can be used by:
- individual policy advisors developing advice or providing peer review
- policy managers commissioning or reviewing policy advice
- panels or others assessing the quality of a government agencies' written advice before or after it has been delivered.
If you are developing advice or peer reviewing someone else’s advice, you can use this checklist to help you.
The checklist provides a set of questions to ask, as you review your own or someone else’s draft paper. It also outlines things to do that will enable a paper to meet the quality of advice standards. Agency quality assurance panels who review policy advice papers before they are delivered may also find the checklist helpful.
Since 1 July 2019, all government agencies with a policy appropriation have been required to use the refreshed Policy Quality Framework to assess the quality of their policy advice after its delivery. They have to set performance targets for their quality of advice score in the Estimates of Expenditure for their agency, tabled in Parliament as part of the Government’s Budget process. They report on their results relative to the performance targets in their agency’s Annual Report each year.
We have developed a guide to help agencies with their quality policy review processes. The guide provides advice on how to run a panel-based assessment of policy and other advice papers after their delivery. It includes advice on how to set up and run panels, and assess and score papers. It also provides a paper-scoring template. Where external parties are used to assess an agency’s quality of policy advice, they are also required to use the Policy Quality Framework as the measuring stick.
The scoring template provided in the guide on panels and processes is also available separately here. It can be used by panel members to record their preliminary assessment of each paper they read.
The benefits of a universal quality framework
The benefits of adopting the Policy Quality Framework as the universal standard for policy advice across the New Zealand public service include that:
- Most policy issues are of interest to and require input from a number of government agencies – making it sensible for them to have a common standard for quality advice.
- The refreshed Policy Quality Framework provides agencies with a learning tool that they can use to help improve their policy performance, by building it into their policy project planning and quality assurance processes.
- Having New Zealand public service-wide standards for the quality of policy advice enables agencies to benchmark the quality of their advice over time, and relative to their peers.
- Policy practitioners don’t need to relearn quality standards when they move from agency to agency – good practice as a policy professional remains the same
- The refreshed Policy Quality Framework incorporates up-to-date expectations for how policy advice will reflect the Māori Crown relationship and the Treaty of Waitangi.
Support in using the refreshed Policy Quality Framework
The Policy Project is available to run agency workshops on using the Policy Quality Framework. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the features of quality policy advice
You may also be interested in checking out our Policy advice themes page. There you will find information on aspects of producing great advice and how to apply them - including free and frank advice, evidence and evaluation, and innovation.