Quality of policy advice
When you produce advice for Ministers, a Council or Committee, senior management or governance body, you want to be confident that you deliver what they need. This applies across the board from high-quality decision-making to information gathering.
It starts with a review to understand the situation
NZIER has a seasoned and practical team that carries out the reviews. As an organisation, we have been doing this for many years, processing thousands of papers. Our team are all people who have been advisors and leaders of advice functions. We understand the pressures and the challenges of the job. This experience has built a culture that means our team can assess the papers carefully and in a way that reflects the situation.
The results are a detailed assessment with a write-up on each paper plus an overview of the strengths and weaknesses shown by the full sample.
And flows naturally into improvement
This feeds into possible improvement programmes. Our philosophy is that every paper – and thus every advisory function – is capable of improvement.
We regularly review the advice of 15-20 central government agencies and a selection of local authorities. Our reviews act as the catalyst for ongoing quality improvements that have been positively received by Ministers, Councils, Boards and senior decision-makers.
Alternative approaches are available
Central Government agencies these days are being processed using the methods prescribed by DPMC's Policy Project tools. Over the last few years, our experience with this approach has given us a broad base to draw examples and experience.
The basis of these assessments is to focus on four critical aspects of advice:
We also still offer our own previously used NZIER appraisal system. This methodology has been honed through its use over many years and in many different settings and situations.
This assesses papers on three key criteria that are the hallmarks of high-quality advice:
- Customer focus
- Credible analysis
- Clarity and conciseness.
Credible and authoritative
Both of these methods mean we can score your advice and report the results to any oversight bodies required. For instance, we can report our results directly to the Auditor General for those agencies who request them.
Each year we look back over the results at an individual paper level and prepare our annual report, including relative results and our reading of the year’s developments and trends. Further, we benchmark your advice activity against the other organisations we assess. This is presented to clients at a gathering.
Our reviews are designed to look past the quality of today’s sample of papers. Our team identify strengths and work-on areas. They will suggest promising avenues to be pursued to improve quality. We watch these evolve and discuss how they are tracking. For regular clients, we follow progress over time.
We can go further with an extra service of ongoing tailored coaching to help you improve the quality of your papers. Over the years, we have given many workshops and training sessions on topics from Risk Analysis to Writing Better Conclusions. In recent years, we have been putting our collective experience onto paper in a series of Masterclasses. These deal succinctly with critical areas of policy advice in both central and local government. There are now over thirty of these. They are distributed to our clients and subsequently put on the NZIER website.
The focus of our team is on improvement. Our standardised, practical feedback allows individual analysts and managers to work out what makes a high-quality paper and why some papers are not as good. As the features that improve a paper become more widely understood, you can move from quality advice being ‘the craft of a few’ to ‘the working style of all’.