There an interesting new paper in the Journal of Public Policy by Jordan Tama on why government agencies conduct major strategic reviews. Tama uses the case of the US Quadrennial Defence Review as his starting point. Given the high degree of scepticism about the value of this document in shaping the development of US defence strategy why has the practice spread across other government departments (including, of course State with its two Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Reviews)? The answer is that the reviews are politically useful – either to Congress or the White House in influencing an agency – or to the leadership of the agency in staving off external threats. Tama also argues that the you can trace the diffusion of these reviews via networks of people who were originally associated with the Department of Defense.
The moral of the story: next time you print out a pdf of an organizations strategic review keep in mind the strategic threat that it is supposed to address may not be ‘out there’ but actually closer at hand in the legislature or treasury.
Tama J (2015) The politics of strategy: why government agencies conduct major strategic reviews, Journal of Public Policy, FirstView: 1–28.