People Skills for Policy Analysts

Michael Mintrom

"Old hands have learned these skills informally, but this clearly-written text will surely accelerate necessary learning about professional life in all policy-related fields."
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Policymaking is of its very nature a people-centered business-a good reason why highly effective policy analysts display not only superb technical expertise but excellent people skills as well. Those "people skills" include the ability to manage professional relationships, to learn from others about policy issues, to give presentations, to work in teams, to resolve conflict, to write for multiple audiences, and to engage in professional networking. Training programs for policy analysts often focus on technical skills. By working to enhance their people skills, policy analysts can increase their ability to produce technical work that changes minds. Fortunately, this unique book fills the gaps in such programs by covering the "people side" of policy analysis.

Beyond explaining why people skills matter, this book provides practical, easy-to-follow advice on how policy analysts can develop and use their people skills. Each chapter provides a Skill Building Checklist, discussion ideas, and suggestions for further reading. People Skills is essential reading for anyone engaged in public policymaking and public affairs as well as all policy analysts. Completely changing how we think about what it means to be an effective policy analyst, People Skills for Policy Analysts provides straightforward advice for students of policy analysis and public management as well as practitioners just starting their professional lives.

Table of Contents


1. Policy Analysts and People Skills

2. Manging Your Resources

3. Building Expert Knowledge

4. Interviewing Informants

5. Giving Presentations

6. Working in Teams

7. Facilitating Meetings

8. Writing for Multiple Audiences

9. Conflict Management

10. Professional Networking

11. Pursuing Excellence



"Old hands have learned these skills informally, but this clearly-written text will surely accelerate necessary learning about professional life in all policy-related fields."—Future Survey

"Mintrom's seemingly simple proposition that, despite decades of attention to analytic technique and systematic thinking in the field of policy analysis, success in the policy process depends at least equally as much as 'people skills' is at once obvious and profound. Obvious in the sense that anyone who has ever experienced the policy process knows this to be true. Profound because it goes virtually unrecognized in the scholarly literature and conventional training in policy analysis. What those skills are and how best to cultivate them are the heart of this book, which makes it valuable reading for academics and practitioners alike. It's extremely instructive."—Daniel Mazmanian, C. Erwin and Ione Piper Dean and Professor, School of Policy, Planning, and Development, University of Southern California

"The policy/management dichotomy is dead. In fact, it has been dying for years out in the real world, everywhere except classes in public policy analysis. Mintrom's book is a crucial final corrective for the tendency to dismiss 'people skills' as something you can learn on the job, or don't need at all so long as you get your sums right. I would resist the idea that this book is a supplement to a 'real' policy analysis book. It stands on its own as a full partner in a policy education. Trying to train students in analysis without an equal emphasis on people skills is like sending them out on one leg to run a footrace."—Michael C. Munger, chair, Department of Political Science, Duke University

"Conveys a lot of useful advice about how to be a better and more successful analyst, both in terms of daily practice and careers. It was a pleasure to read."—David Weimer, professor of public affairs and political science, La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"People Skills for Policy Analysts is a book that needed to be written and now, needs to be read—not just by students and entry-level policy analysts, but by professors and veteran policy researchers as well. Students and new policy professionals will benefit from the clear suggestions for enhancing such activities as interviewing, giving presentations, and working in teams. And Michael Mintrom's point bears repeating for experienced policy analysts and others in the field: technical skills alone will not bring policy analysis beyond the discussion stage. With this book, Mintrom reminds us that it is important, even necessary, to cultivate analysts with the social skills to gather the myriad information and advice which lead to feasible policy solutions. The author's clarity of purpose and optimism for the future are truly refreshing."—Rachel Mosher-Williams, research associate, The Urban Institute

"This book is a delight to read. The text is straightforward, clean, and jargon-free. The organization is thoughtful throughout, though the book can be read as a set of valuable individual chapters. The discussion sections and exercises are interesting and helpful. Public policy programs do a fine job of teaching technical skills but we could do a better job of developing people skills. This book shows us how to do this."—Mark Carl Rom, associate professor of government and public policy, Georgetown Public Policy Institute


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Michael Mintrom is the Monash Chair Professor of Public Sector Management and academic director of the Executive Master of Public Administrations at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.

280 pp., 6 x 9

Feb 2003

280 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-0-87840-900-6
Feb 2003

280 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-385-8
Feb 2003

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