Nowadays, many public policies focus on economic values, such as efficiency and client choice. Public professionals often show resistance to implementing such policies. We analyse this problem using an interdisciplinary approach. From public administration, we draw on the policy alienation concept, which consists of five dimensions: strategic powerlessness, tactical powerlessness, operational powerlessness, societal meaninglessness and client meaninglessness. These are considered as factors that influence the willingness of professionals to implement policies (change willingness - a concept drawn from the change management literature). We test this model in a survey among 478 Dutch healthcare professionals implementing a new reimbursement policy. The first finding was that perceived autonomy (operational powerlessness) significantly influenced change willingness, whereas strategic and tactical powerlessness were not found to be significant. Second, both the meaninglessness dimensions proved highly significant. We conclude that clarifying the value of a policy is important in getting professionals to willingly implement a policy, whereas their participation on the strategic or tactical levels seems less of a motivational factor. These insights help in understanding why public professionals embrace or resist the implementation of particular policies. Points for practitioners Policymakers develop public policies which, nowadays, tend to focus strongly on economic values, such as increasing efficiency or offering citizens the opportunity to choose among suppliers of public services. Public professionals, who have to implement these policies, are often reluctant to do so. This study shows that the causes of this resistance are unlikely to be found in the lack of influence these professionals have in the shaping of the policy at the national or organizational level. Rather, professionals might resist implementing policies because they do not see them as meaningful for society, or for their own clients. Therefore, policymakers should focus on this perceived meaninglessness and adopt ways to counter this, for example by intensively communicating the value associated with a policy.

change management, policy alienation, policy implementation, public professionals, resistance to change,
International Review of Administrative Sciences: an international journal of comparative public administration
Department of Public Administration

Tummers, L.G. (2011). Explaining the willingness of public professionals to implement new policies: A policy alienation framework. International Review of Administrative Sciences: an international journal of comparative public administration, 77(3), 555–581. doi:10.1177/0020852311407364