This paper explores the development of public sector capabilities for Productive Development Policies in Costa Rica through four case studies of successful experiences, with less successful cases presented as counterfactuals. To some extent the paper tests the Technical, Organizational and Political Capabilities (TOP) conceptual framework of Cornick (2013), suggesting adjustments and extensions of that framework. Strong commonalities are found among the cases, notably high technical and political capabilities. All cases likewise involve well-managed organizations, but identifying organizational capabilities proved difficult. While the TOP Capabilities framework may be useful for understanding institutional performance, it has three major weaknesses: i) organizational capabilities are not clearly defined; ii) it does not provide tools for identifying and measuring capabilities ties independently of institutional performance; and iii) it needs to be integrated into a more general framework that takes into account the interactions among the political economy, the Policy Making Process, the institutional setup and TOP capabilities.