In 1989, an article called "Strategic
Intent" by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad created
somewhat of an upheaval when it was published in the Harvard Business
Hamel and Prahalad argue that in order to achieve success, a company
must reconcile its end to its means through Strategic Intent.
In their book, "Competing for
the future" ()
Hamel and Prahalad define "strategic
intent" as "an ambitious and compelling ... dream that energizes ...
that provides the emotional and intellectual energy for the journey ...
to the future." If strategic architecture (a high-level blueprint
for the deployment of new functionalities, the acquisition of new
competencies or the migration of existing competencies, and the
reconfiguring of the interface with customers) is the brain, strategic intent
is the heart. It should convey a sense of stretch – current resources
and capabilities are not sufficient for the task.
Hamel and Prahalad provided the following three attributes
of strategic intent: direction, discovery, and destiny.
- Sense of Direction. "Strategic intent (...) implies a
particular point of view about the long-term market or
competitive position that a firm hopes to build over the coming
decade or so". It should be a
view of the future – conveying a unifying and personalizing
sense of direction.
- Sense of Discovery. A strategic intent is
differentiated; it implies a competitively unique point of view
about the future. It holds out to employees the promise of
exploring new competitive territory.
- Sense of Destiny. Strategic intent has an emotional
edge to it; it is a goal that employees perceive as inherently
A typical Strategic Intent
Process consists of three important steps:
- Set the Strategic
Intent (having all three characteristics stated above).
- Set the Challenges:
find appropriate challenges and communicate them to the entire
workforce. These challenges are the means to get into the
Strategic Intent. (For example: Suppose the Strategic Intent of
Canon is: "Beat Xerox". A strategic challenge could be: Come up
with a home copier at a target price of $1000)
- Empowerment of the
Strategic Intent: key in any Strategic Intent process is to
realize that getting into the Strategic Intent is a matter that
involves everybody. The task of Top Management here is to
"capture the wisdom of the anthill": to challenge the
traditional downward communication style to an upward
communication stream of new ideas coming from all the
The background of this approach to corporate strategy and strategic thinking in
general was the dramatic post-war ascent of Japanese companies, in which
the Japanese economy rose to dominate world markets by having initial
ambitions that in the West would have been considered highly unrealistic
with regards to their resources and capabilities, and in which an obsession to win
was created and sustained at all levels of the organization, thus laying
the groundwork for a 10- to 20-year quest for global leadership.
Compare with Strategic Intent:
What is Value Based
What is Value? |
Clarkson Principles |
Stakeholder Commitment |
Stakeholder Management |
Seven Surprises |
Stakeholder Perspective |
More management models