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“Implementation” by Pressman and Wildavsky Report

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Updated: Nov 3rd, 2021


To realize great ideas, implementation plays an essential role. Therefore it is mandatory and equally important to comprehend the implementation process well for anything meaningful to be achieved. To define and investigate the challenges encountered during implementation, Pressman and Wildavsky came up with the book Implementation that details the reasons for some failures by governments in Implementations and also gives some prescription for what to be done.


There is no doubt that majority of people have an idea about what implementation is all about, but what still remains the same are the hardships that are often experienced during the implementation processes. Also most people hardly notice the successfully implemented government policies but are quick to point out the failed ones. (Wildavsky & Pressman 56)

In 1973, both Pressman and Wildavsky edited the implementation book in which real-life events where great ideas have been successfully implemented and those that failed to get implemented. Among the major government projects that Pressman and Wildavsky highlighted that best explain shortcomings in implementation of most government initiatives was the Oakland EDA program, (Wildavsky & Pressman 63-65).

Reasons the Oakland EDA program failed

The main agenda for the Oakland EDA program was to create employment for the local African American youths as a means to reduce violence that had become prevalent especially in the urban areas through the initiation and allocation of large sums of money to local projects. Due to the grand scale of the Oakland EDA program, several aspiring organizations including governmental, private as well as nonprofit ones wanted to participate in this promising government public policy. (Wildavsky & Pressman 75)

But due to the large number of participants in the project, the whole plan became more complicated. Apart from the complexity of the entire program, the speed at which anything could be done slowed down to almost a halt. As time went on, the Oakland EDA program kept on changing from its original objective to something totally different. The original budget for the project was never followed and therefore the money was not put to its initial use.

Apart from the misallocation of funds intended for the Oakland EDA program, the initial proposal of the whole plan was not crystal clear. The eventual likely outcome of the project on completion was never clear from the very beginning. Because of this, the objectives of the Oakland EDA program kept on mutating along the way with so many compromises that eventually affected the entire project let alone taking a lifetime to get anything done. As this went on unabated, the whole concept of the Oakland EDA program ended up being a piped dream that could never see light of day, (Wildavsky & Pressman 83).

The idea of controlling funds from a single institution while trying to impart changes on the other participants proved to be a tall order. The Oakland EDA program illustrates majority of government-sponsored projects that involve third-party participants to implement more so when they are nonprofit oriented. This has become the norm for most of the government-initiated projects and from the look of things they keep on making the same mistakes time after time.

Prescriptions for Handling Implementation Programs

One of the most trusted government’s remedial techniques in trying to rectify its bundled if not totally failed implementation of public policies is the evaluation to determine what was not done correctly after a project is not well implemented or even worse fails to get implemented. This happens to be the usual government approach but sadly it’s always too little too late but it never seems to learn from its past mistakes as the authors put it.

The government mostly concentrates more on conception and how to make the public policy and forgets the crucial part of implementation. There happens to be very big difference between conceptualization of the public policy on one hand and its implementation on the other. The authors suggest that for any project to be successfully implemented, the conception of the policy needs to address all the issues involved, i.e. from conceptualization, successful implementation as well as proper accountability but not just dwelling on conception alone as it usually is the case in most government projects. (Wildavsky & Pressman 56)

It cannot be emphasized enough to have a persistent oversight in implementation of vital public policies in totality. However, for this to be successfully done, it not only calls for unwavering political will but bureaucratic will as well. This seems to be lacking since the present political culture tends to concentrate mostly only on policy and then focus on what was not done correctly after mistakes have been made.

In most cases, the bureaucrats at the top as well as politicians don’t look at the finer details of the policies they endorse as they are too busy pursuing bigger priorities in their political careers. But these finer details are the ones that make the difference between the success and failure of implementation of public policies in general, (Wildavsky & Pressman 64).


Despite all these shortcomings in implementation of public policies, there are certain exceptional cases where legislative reviews have brought to the fore some of the underlying issues that affect successful implementation of public policies. This is by involving the middle class who in most cases are solidly behind the implementation unlike the big shots in influential political positions who are only good at conceptualization but hardly know anything about implementation and end up overlooking the nitty-gritty of implementation.

Work cited

Wildavsky, Pressman. Implementation. California: Univ. of Calif. Press, 1984.

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