Strategic management and the performance of public organizations: Testing venerable Ideas against recent theories

Kenneth J. Meier, Laurence J. O'Toole, George A. Boyne, Richard M. Walker

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154 Citations (Scopus)
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Miles and Snow, among others, argue that strategy content is an important influence on organizational performance. Their typology, applied recently to public organizations in the United Kingdom, divides strategic actors into four general types: prospectors, defenders, analyzers, and reactors. This article begins by integrating work on strategy content or strategic management into the O'Toole-Meier formal theory of public management. This study shows that strategy content is a subset of generally accepted management functions in public organizations. The article then proceeds to test the strategic management concepts in a large, multiyear sample of public organizations. The results show that strategy can be separated out from other elements of management for a distinguishable assessment of its impact on organizational performance. Unlike the predictions of Miles and Snow and the empirical findings of Boyne and Walker, however, we find that the defender strategy is the most effective for the primary mission of the organization and that the prospector and reactor strategies work best in regard to the goals of the more politically powerful elements of the organization's environment.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)357-377
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of public administration research and theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • METIS-246150
  • IR-102755

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