Policy is a planned method or pattern, often decided after analysis, for the proper conduct of certain activities or events. Policy is not a legal document; however, it does have legal value because a company’s or government’s decision to adopt or not adopt a policy has legal effect. A policy is generally adopted as a formal procedure or rule and is normally implemented as part of an organizational plan or resolution. Policy can also be a general statement of purpose, which is adopted to provide direction for the company and its members. It may also be a guideline adopted to establish standards for the application of company policies and procedures, thereby ensuring consistency and uniformity in the application of those policies and procedures.
Although a policy can set the course for various future company activities, they are typically established during planning, rather than at the time of decision-making. There are two main theories on the development and implementation of a company policy: strategic management theory and political science. The former theory pertains to the organization’s ability to make informed decisions based on the information available to them at any given time; while the latter theory relates to the systems thinking, or the processes by which decisions are made, and how these decisions are made within a particular framework.
The analysis of these two theories yields two main views on the development and implementation of public policy. Strategic management theory assumes that firms adopt certain policies for the purpose of achieving economic success in the long run; whereas, political science assumes that public policies are enacted with the aim of securing popular support for a particular government or political party in the hopes of garnering enough votes to win an election. No matter what the theoretical foundations of a public policy may be, public policies are generally directed at protecting individual liberty, protecting the environment, and protecting the property and rights of others. In addition, these policies seek to ensure the economic and social well-being of future generations. Both theoretical perspectives also assume that public policies affect societies as a whole.
Unlike the policy analysis of business leadership, where the importance of public administration is judged from a profit-and-loss standpoint, public policy analysis is usually undertaken with an assumption of the public interest in mind. This means that most policy makers consider their actions to be motivated more by the need to serve the public than by the potential profits of a project. However, there are times when profit may be a driving force behind a specific public policy decision. When this happens, policy analysis becomes more difficult because not only does the public need to understand why the law exists but also what they can and cannot do to protect their rights under it.
Policy analysis and implementation differ drastically in the areas of criminal justice, international affairs, and public health. Policy professionals in criminal justice consider issues such as victimhood, race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class when designing crime prevention, anti-drugs, and anti-crime initiatives. International affairs and public health professionals to deal with issues regarding population health, reproductive health, environmental health, and food safety. These two special fields require a comprehensive understanding of the issues involved in each area and an ability to synthesize different types of research and evidence to solve complex problems.
Policy analysis and implementation differ notably in the degree of flexibility they afford policy makers and organizations. It is rare for any type of public policy development program to be implemented without some amount of flexible decision making capacity on the part of policy makers. The process of formulating a policy and its formulation differs slightly from organization to organization, too, but tends to be a common thread throughout all kinds of public policymaking. The key difference in practice is that policy analysis and implementation tend to occur over time as organizations or groups develop an expertise and a reputation for completing challenging policy decisions. In contrast, policy development occurs rapidly to address pressing issues that come before the organizations within a short period of time and at a high level of complexity.