To read this content please select one of the options below:

Strategic management: a tool for public management? An overview of the Belgian federal experience

Anne Drumaux (Solvay Business School, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium)
Christophe Goethals (Solvay Business School, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 9 October 2007




The aim of this contribution is to propose a first overview of the strategic plans in the Belgian Federal Administration and to analyse the process of strategic planning itself.


In the first part, the strategic plans are analysed in order to understand the intentions regarding various public policies. A content analysis will be provided in order to propose a typology or at least a comprehensive framework of the intentions. In the second part, the strategic process itself is investigated more into details on the basis of interviews of the presidents of the Federal Public Services. The contribution tries to formalise several behavioural hypotheses in accordance with a model of strategic action in a public context. Finally, the article concludes on the relation between intention and action.


Three models characterize the management plans in Belgian federal administration: external polarization, internal polarization and balanced polarisation. Furthermore, the survey carried out confirms the existence of some effective behaviours of public top managers related to the nature of the public sector and to specific constraints. This result is fully coherent with behavioural assumptions formulated by a contextual model of strategic management. All these elements assess the possible divergence between the intentional strategy and the emergent strategies that would result from a more flexible behaviour.

Research limitations/implications

This result is based on the strategic intentions and should be confronted with the later versions of the plans and even better with their achievements in order to distinguish intention and opportunity. Only this longitudinal study will allow final conclusions about the nature of the strategy really implemented in the federal administration to br drawn.

Practical implications

The result of this research implies that “ideal” competences of public managers might differ from those requested for a private manager, especially regarding decision making (more incremental) and authority (more influential).


This contribution allows an evaluation of strategic process in the public sector as it is formulated by real actors, rather than by a mythical decision maker.



Drumaux, A. and Goethals, C. (2007), "Strategic management: a tool for public management? An overview of the Belgian federal experience", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 20 No. 7, pp. 638-654.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles