What is Strategic Intent? Definition, Attributes, and Example

What is Strategic Intent?

Strategic intent is the high level of statement or plan which is developed to achieve a strategic vision. It is one of the revolutionary concepts in strategic management.

It is informal in nature – it is not compulsory like a mission and vision statement to be made. It is assumed to achieve a specific vision and differ from organization to organization.

Although the mission is also set to achieve the organizational vision, the mission is the formal statement and strategic intent is situational and has no limit on its length as the mission statement has only 250 words.

Unlike the vision and mission statement, it should be inspiring, motivating, competitive, directional and unique.

Strategic intent is first coined by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad in 1989. According to them,

Companies that have risen to global leadership over the past 20 years invariably began with ambitions that were out of all proportion to their resources and capabilities. But they created an obsession with winning at all levels of the organization and then sustained that obsession over the 10- to 20-year quest for global leadership… this obsession [is] strategic intent. Many firms have such ambitious strategies yet fall short of bringing them to fruition.

Strategic intent is a proactive management strategy. It entails focusing the organization’s attention on the essence of winning; motivating people by communicating the target’s value while leaving room for individual and team contributions; maintaining enthusiasm by providing new operational definitions as circumstances change, and consistently using the intent to guide resources allocations.

It visualizes the desired leadership role and defines the benchmarks by which businesses will measure their development. It’s a bold and captivating effort that will energize the emotional and intellectual energies of the future. Vision and goal are not the same as strategic intent. It is independent of the strategic plan and is not precise in its nature.

Organizations are striving hard nowadays to match their global competitors’ competitive advantage. To achieve the same results, most businesses simply copy what their competitors have already accomplished.

Competitors have previously mastered those approaches and exploited the first-mover advantage, thus imitation doesn’t actually create strategic intent. Organizations, individuals, and groups are driven by strategic intent to confront the challenge of change in today’s business world.

Attributes of Strategic Intent

Strategic intent has three main attributes, which are mentioned below:

Sense of Direction

A sense of direction can be defined as the future state of the organization where it wants to go. Strategic intent implies a particular view about the long-term market or competitive position that an organization hopes to build in the future. It should be a view of the future conveying a sense of direction.

Since it is assumed to achieve the vision it also gives overall direction to the organization but informally. As every organization wants to have a common end it should be also valuable to the organization.

Short-term strategies will work for achieving short periods objectives but they may fail to achieve the longer ones as the market is frequently changing. In such a situation, strategic intent has a crucial role to set an appropriate direction for the long term with the building potential to challenge an uncertain business environment.

Sense of Discovery

It is differential as each organization differs from others. It implies a completely unique point of view about the future. It holds out to employees exploring the new competitive territory.

It should be inspiring to employees to be more creative and competent to face challenges. They should be motivated to work more smartly and find new concepts and opportunities to explore. It develops the capability of the organization in terms of market share and helps to achieve more alongside the main vision.

Sense of Destiny

Strategic intent has an emotional edge to it. It is an end result that employees perceive as inherently worthwhile.

It should be inspiring and able to create a sense of emotional attachment to the desired objectives. They should feel the given strategic intent is worth their growth, effort, and contributions and for the organization’s whole.

Example of Strategic Intent

Dhirubhai Ambani, the promoter of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), started a business exporting rayon, cashew nuts, and spices and importing nylon in 1969 with a meager capital of Rs.15,000. This business grew and he established a synthetic fabric mill in 1966. It was upgraded continuously and by 1975, it was rated as one of the best mills in India by a team of World Bank. Afterward, it went backward integration at successive levels and today it has become a petrochemical company and has occupied the number one position in Indian Private Sector.

In the 1970s, Dhirubhai told one of his colleagues, “Do your know who these Tatas and Birlas are? We have to get past them one day. I have an inherent desire to become the number one industrialist in the country. This is the strategic intent of Dhirubhai Ambani for RIL. (Shesh Nayak, authorstream.com)

3 thoughts on “What is Strategic Intent? Definition, Attributes, and Example”

  1. I found this blog post very helpful. I have been trying to understand what strategic intent is and this post has helped me a lot. Thank you!


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