Government agencies increasingly adopt strategic management ideas from the private sector. One such idea is the organisation of professional and advisory services into centres of excellence. The strategic management literature includes normative guidelines on how to deploy such centres. However, previous research has shown that organisations usually not just adopt management ideas in their entireties but translate them in line with individual contexts. Applying a case-study approach, this paper explores how the Swedish public-sector context influences the deployment of centres of excellence. It finds that none of the adopting agencies follow the guidelines outlined in the literature, fully utilise the idea nor benefit from it as initially proposed. The main reason for this divergence is the discrepancy between the government agencies' context and the original idea, including barriers such as job security, decentralisation and regulations. Contextual modifications are suggested to allow agencies benefit more fully from deploying centres of excellence.