Policy Sciences

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 197–209 | Cite as

The policy implementation process

  • Thomas B. Smith


There is an implicit assumption in most policy studies that once a policy has been formulated the policy will be implemented. This assumption is invalid for policies formulated in many Third World nations and for types of policies in Western societies. Third World governments tend to formulate broad, sweeping policies, and governmental bureaucracies often lack the capacity for implementation. Interest groups, opposition parties, and affected individuals and groups often attempt to influence the implementation of policy rather than the formulation of policy.

A model of the policy implementation process is presented. Policy implementation is seen as a tension generating force in society. Tensions are generated between and within four components of the implementing process: idealized policy, implementing organization, target group, and environmental factors. The tensions result in transaction patterns which may or may not match the expectations of outcome of the policy formulators. The transaction patterns may become crystallized into institutions. Both the transaction patterns and the institutions may generate tensions which, by feedback to the policymakers and implementors, may support or reject further implementation of the policy.

By application of the model, policymakers can attempt to minimize disruptive tensions which can result in the failure of policy outcomes to match policy expectations.


Environmental Factor Economic Policy Interest Group Target Group Affected Individual 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas B. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Political Science and Public AdministrationVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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