What is Policy Analysis?

“The process through which we identify and evaluate alternative policies or programs that are intended to lessen or resolve social, economic, or physical problems.”

– Carl V. Patton

Policy Analysis in Six easy steps.

Based on the ideas and approach followed by Carl V. Patton there exists a very simple pattern of ideas and points to be considered in doing an actual policy analysis. The six steps are as follows:

  1. Verify, define, and detail the problem. The most relevant and important of them all because many times the objectives are not clear or even contradictory from each other. A successful policy analysis will have allocated and identified clearly the problem to be resolved in the following steps. This is the foundation for an efficient and effective outcome of the whole process. The analyst must question both the interested parties involved as well as their agendas of the outcome. Locating the problem in such a way that eliminates any ambiguity for future references.
  2. Establish evaluation criteria. In order to compare, measure and select among alternatives, relevant evaluation criteria must be established. In this step it must be considered cost, net benefit, effectiveness, efficiency, equity, administrative ease, legality, and political acceptability. Economic benefits must be considered in evaluating the policy. How the policy will harm or benefit a particular group or groups will depend on the number of option viable Options more difficult than others must be considered but ultimately decided through analyzing the parties involved with policy. Political and other variables go hand in hand with the evaluation criteria to be followed. Most of the time the client, or person or group, interested in the policy analysis will dictate the direction or evaluation criteria to follow.
  3. Identify alternative policies. In order to reach this third step the other two must have been successfully reached and completed. As it can be seen, the policy analysis involves an incrementalist approach; reaching one step in order to go on to the next. In this third step understanding what is sought is very important. In order to generate alternatives, it becomes important to have a clear understanding of the problem and how to go about it. Possible alternatives include the “do nothing approach” (status quo), and any other that can benefit the outcome. Combining alternatives generates better solutions not thought of before. Relying on past experiences from other groups or policy analysis helps to create a more thorough analysis and understanding. It is important to avoid settling prematurely on a certain number of options in this step; many options must be considered before settling into a reduced number of alternatives. Brainstorming, research, experiments, writing scenarios, or concept mapping greatly help in finding new alternatives that will help reach an “optimal” solution.
  4. Evaluate alternative policies. Packaging of alternatives into strategies is the next step in accomplishing a thorough policy analysis. It becomes necessary to evaluate how each possible alternative benefits the criteria previously established. Additional data needs to be collected in analyzing the different levels of influence: the economical, political and social dimensions of the problem. These dimensions are analyzed through quantitative and qualitative analysis, that is the benefits and costs per alternative. Political questions in attaining the goals are analyzed as to see whether they satisfy the interested parties of the policy analysis. In doing this more concise analysis the problem may not exist as originally identified; the actual problem statement from the first step may suffer a transformation, which is explained after evaluating the alternatives in greater detail. New aspects of the problem may be found to be transient and even different from the original problem statement. This modification process allows this method of policy analysis to allow for a “recycling” of information in all the steps. Several fast interactions through the policy analysis may well be more efficient and effective than a single detailed one. What this means is that the efficiency is greatly increased when several projects are analyzed and evaluated rather than just one in great detail, allowing for a wider scope of possible solutions. Patton further suggests to avoid the tool box approach: attacking options with a favorite analysis method; its important to have a heterogeneous approach in analyzing the different possible alternatives. It becomes inefficient to view each alternative under a single perspective; its clearly relevant the need to evaluate each alternative following diverse evaluating approaches singled out according to the uniqueness of each of them.
  5. Display and distinguish among alternative policies. The results of the evaluation of possible alternatives list the degree to which criteria are met in each of them. Numerical results don’t speak for themselves but are of great help in reaching a satisfying solution in the decision. Comparison schemes used to summarize virtues are of great help in distinguishing among several options; scenarios with quantitative methods, qualitative analysis, and complex political considerations can be melded into general alternatives containing many more from the original ones. In making the comparison and distinction of each alternative it is necessary to play out the economic, political, legal, and administrative ramification of each option. Political analysis is a major factor of decision of distinction among the choices; display the positive effects and negative effects interested in implementing the policy. This political approach will ultimately analyze how the number of participants will improve or diminish the implementation. It will also criticize on how the internal cooperation of the interested units or parties will play an important role in the outcome of the policy analysis. Mixing two or more alternatives is a very common and practiced approach in attaining a very reasonably justified policy analysis.
  6. Monitoring the implemented policy. Assure continuity, determine whether they are having impact. “Even after a policy has been implemented, there may be some doubt whether the problem was resolved appropriately and even whether the selected policy is being implemented properly. This concerns require that policies and programs be maintained and monitored during implementation to assure that they do not change for unintentionally, to measure the impact that they are having, to determine whether they are having the impact intended, and to decide whether they should be continued, modified or terminated.”

Mainly, we are talking about internal validity; whether our programs makes a difference, if there is no other alternate explanations. This step is very important because of the special characteristic that program evaluation and research design presents in this particular step. William Trochim presents a very complete explanation of this concept. His Home Page will be of great help in this matter.


Steps in Policy Development

Here is a suggested process for policy development. Research and consultation are key step in the process. A sound policy is built upon good consultation with those who will be affected by the policy.

Identify and define the problem or issue that necessitates the development of a policy

The organisation also needs to know and understand the purpose of policies and to recognise that the issue or problem can be effectively dealt with by the creation or modification of a policy.

Appoint a person or person(s) to co-ordinate the policy development process

The policy development process may take place over several months. There needs to be someone or perhaps a committee who is “driving” the process.

Establish the policy development process

The process requires research, consultation and policy writing tasks. The co-ordinator should develop a plan of what tasks need to be done, by whom and when

Conduct research

  • Read policy documents created by other organisations on the same topic
  • Research legislation on the Internet
  • Conduct a meeting with staff and other people with experience
  • Survey participants or a particular group of participants such as coaches
  • Read minutes of management committee meetings (if allowed)
  • Read other documents such as annual reports or event reports
  • Read industry magazines and journals
  • Seek legal advice

Prepare a discussion paper

The purpose of the discussion paper is to explain the nature of the problem or issue, to summarise information yielded by research and to suggest a number of policy options. The discussion paper will be an important tool in the process of consultation.

Consultation – Stage 1

Circulating the discussion paper to all stakeholders (interested parties) is a first step in the consultation process. It may also be necessary to telephone stakeholders and send notices to remind stakeholders to read the discussion paper. It is then important to gain as much feedback from stakeholders as possible. This may be effected through workshops, open meetings, your web site and by meetings with individuals. Several months may be required to ensure that this stage of consultation is thorough.

Prepare a draft policy

When there has been sufficient time for consultation processes to be completed the next step is to prepare a draft policy.

Consultation – Stage 2

When the draft policy is completed it should be circulated to key stakeholders, published in the organisation’s newsletter and web site, discussed in further meetings and forums. At this stage it is necessary to seek help from stakeholders to fine tune the wording, clarify meaning and make adjustments to the policy before it is finalised.


When the co-ordinator of the policy development process is reasonably satisfied that all issues and concerns about the policy have been aired and dealt with, it is time to finalise the policy. The final policy document needs to be formally adopted by the management of the organisation (management committee) with an appropriate record entered in to the minutes.


Following formal adoption of the policy it should be communicated far and wide throughout the organisation and stakeholders. Training sessions may need to be conducted to ensure that organisation personnel are fully informed and able to implement the policy. If the policy is not well communicated it may fail.

Review and evaluate

The implementation of the policy should be monitored. The policy may still require further adjustments and furthermore the reasons for the policies existence may change. A general practise is to set a date for the policy to be reviewed, this might be one a year or once in every three years. It just depends on the nature of the policy.


Formulation is the second stage of the policy process and involves the proposal of solutions to agenda issues.

Learning Objective

  • Identify the considerations that shape the formulation of first-best policy

Key Points

  • Formulation often provides policymakers with several choices for resolving agenda items.
  • Effective policy formulation is comprised of analysis that identifies the most effective policies and political authorizations.


  • formulation

the second stage of the policy process in which policymakers propose courses of action for addressing agenda issues.

  • policymaker

one involved in the formulation of policies, especially politicians, lobbyists, and activists.

Full Text

Formulation of policy consists of policymakers discussing and suggesting approaches to correcting problems that have been raised as part of the agenda. Sometimes it is necessary to choose from among multiple potential paths forward. The issue of traffic safety has been solved by various policies throughout time. Here are a few examples of solutions: more highways were built in the 1950s , safer cars were required in the 1960s, and jailing drunk drivers was the solution in the 1980s and 1990s.


7 Steps That You Must Follow While Formulating The Human Resource Policy of Your Organisation

Steps that should be followed in the formulation of human resource policy are mentioned below:

The development of HR policies depends upon the day-to-day problems arising in an organisation and their solutions.


The main purpose of formulating the HR policy is to assist the top executives in reaching the decision in a given situation. The process of policy formulation involves the following steps:


1. Identifying the Need:

If an organisation does not already have an appropriate personnel policy, the personnel manager should feel its needs.

He should also convince the chief executive of the need of a personnel policy. Policies are required in various areas of personnel management such as hiring, training, compensation, industrial relations etc.

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A staff expert, a first-line supervisor, a UN ion leader or a rank-and-file employee may voice the need for revision of an existing policy.

2. Gathering Information:

Once the need for a policy has been accepted, the next step is to collect necessary facts for its formulation. A committee or a specialist may be assigned the task of collecting the required information from inside and outside the organisation.

Facts may be gathered from any of the following sources:


  • Past practice in the organisation.
  • Prevailing practice among the companies in the community and throughout the nation in the same industry.
  • The attitudes and philosophy of the top management.


  • The attitudes and philosophy of middle and lower management.
  • The knowledge and experience gained from handling countless problems on a day-to-day basis.

The HR department should study existing documents, survey industry and commu­nity practices and interview people within the organisation to collect appropriate infor­mation.

Special attention should be paid to attitudes and philosophy of top manage­ment, social customs and values, aspirations of employees, labour legislation etc.

Wide­spread consultations and discussions at this stage prove helpful later on when it comes to applying the policies.

3. Examining Policy Alternatives:

On the basis of data collected, alternatives are appraised in terms of their contributions to organisational objectives. It is necessary to secure active participation of those who are to use and live with the policies.

4. Putting the Policy in Writing:

After the necessary information has been gathered and the alternatives examined, the HR department can begin the actual work of formulating the written expressions of the company’s HR policy. While writing the policy, emotional phrases should be avoided.

5. Getting Approval:

The HR department should send the policy draft to the top management for its approval. It is the top management which has the final authority to decide whether a policy adequately represents the organisation’s objectives or not.

6. Communicating the Policy:

After getting the approval of the top management, the policy should be communicated throughout the organisation. A real education programme should be set up to teach people how to handle various personnel problems in the light of this newly formulated policy.

7. Evaluating the Policy:

From time to time the policy should be evaluated in terms of experience of those who use it and of those who are affected by it. There may be situations when an organisation is not getting the expected results.

This requires modifications in the policies. Any serious difficulty with a policy along with suggestions should be reported to the top manage­ment.

Such knowledge will enable the management to decide whether there is a need to restate or reformulate the policy.


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