Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the extent to which the institutional context impacts on strategic decision implementation in an emerging market. Previous studies of strategic decision making in emerging markets have not examined decision implementation. Given the changes in the world economy during the past decade, and in particular the growing importance of emerging market multinationals, this is an increasingly salient issue. Design/methodology/approach – Questionnaires were delivered to general managers in all Jordanian publicly quoted industrial firms. A 53.7 per cent response rate was achieved. The structure of the questionnaire built on earlier studies in developed markets and, in particular, Alexander’s (1985) seminal study. Findings – The strategic decision implementation problems which are found in Jordan are similar to those found in developed economies. However, external shocks are a more important influence on strategic decision implementation that has been found to be the case in developed economies. The success of companies in the emerging market of Jordan is associated with the frequency and extent of their experience of strategic decision implementation problems. Formal strategic planning helps Jordanian firms to deal with these problems more effectively. Research limitations/implications – It was difficult to explore some of the “why” questions related to the implementation of strategic decisions in the sampled firms since most respondents agreed to complete the questionnaire but not to be interviewed. Single, rather than multiple, respondents participated in the research. A larger sample size would be desirable, although the results are statistically robust. Practical implications – The results will help managers to make and implement strategic decisions, both in the context of market entry and market maintenance, in the Middle East and in other emerging markets. Originality/value – Context (institutional) factors are found to be less influential in the case of decision implementation than strategic decision making itself. This is the first study of the problems associated with the implementation of strategic decisions in Jordanian firms and one of the first in any emerging market.