Strategy in the Public and Private Sectors: Similarities, Differences and Changes

John Alford, Carsten Greve

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Strategic concepts and practices first evolved in the private sector, so they evoked much controversy when they migrated to the public sector from the late 1970s onwards. Partly this was about their (in)applicability to the distinctive features of government organizations, in particular their focus on public as well as private value, their situation in a political rather than a market environment, their almost exclusive capacity to use legal authority to achieve purposes, and the extent to which they often need to share power over personnel and resources with other public sector agencies. These and other factors complicated efforts to apply New Public Management and similar frameworks in strategy concepts in a governmental context. Partly also the traditional private-sector focus on single organizations did not resonate with the growth of network governance from the 1990s. The authors argue for an alternative model based primarily on the public value framework as a means of incorporating and going beyond traditional strategy thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Article number35
JournalAdministrative Sciences
Issue number4
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Strategy
  • Public sector strategy
  • Public value
  • Authorizing environment
  • Network governance
  • Comparing public and private sectors

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