We explore the impact of institutional design on the distribution of changes in outputs of governmental processes in the United States, Belgium, and Denmark. Using comprehensive indicators of governmental actions over several decades, we show that in each country the level of institutional friction increases as we look at processes further along the policy cycle. Assessing multiple policymaking institutions in each country allows us to control for the nature of the policy inputs, as all the institutions we consider cover the full range of social and political issues in the country. We find that all distributions exhibit high kurtosis values, significantly higher than the Normal distribution which would be expected if changes in government attention and activities were proportionate to changes in social inputs. Further, in each country, those institutions that impose higher decision-making costs show progressively higher kurtosis values. The results suggest general patterns that we hypothesize to be related to boundedly rational behavior in a complex social environment.