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Direction, Discovery and Destiny

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Strategic Intent

Summary of Strategic Intent. Abstract

Hamel Prahalad (1989, 1994)

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 Review. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Sense of Destiny. Strategic intent has an emotional edge to it; it is a goal that employees perceive as inherently worthwhile.

A typical Strategic Intent Process consists of three important steps:

  1. Set the Strategic Intent (having all three characteristics stated above).
  2. 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)
  3. 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 organization.

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.

👀TIP: On this website you can find much more about Strategic Intent!

Compare with Strategic Intent:  What is Value Based Management?  |  What is Value?  |  Core Competence  |  Clarkson Principles  |  Intrinsic Stakeholder Commitment  |  Strategic Stakeholder Management  |  Seven Surprises  |  Shareholder and Stakeholder Perspective  |  Spiral Dynamics

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