Strategic Intent
(Hamel Prahalad)

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Reconciling the purpose of a company with its means. Explanation of Strategic Intent of Hamel and Prahalad. ('89)



In 1989, Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad created an upheaval with their article entitled "Strategic Intent". It was published in the Harvard Business Review. Hamel and Prahalad argue that in order to achieve success, a company must reconcile its purpose (end) with its means through Strategic Intent.

What is Strategic Intent? Description

In their book, Hamel and Prahalad define Strategic Intent as: an ambitious and compelling dream that energizes; which 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 express a feeling of stretch (challenge) - that current resources and capabilities are not sufficient for the task.

Strategic Intent Attributes

Hamel and Prahalad provided the following three attributes of strategic intent: direction, discovery, and destiny.

  1. Sense of Direction. 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 and it should express a sense of direction which unifies and personalizes.
  2. Sense of Discovery. A strategic intent differentiates; 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 side; it is a goal that employees perceive as inherently valuable.

Typical three steps Strategic Intent Process

  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 achieve the Strategic Intent. For example: Suppose the Strategic Intent of Canon is: "Beat Xerox". A strategic challenge could be: Develop 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 achieving (getting into) the Strategic Intent is a matter that involves everybody. The task of Top Management here is to "capture the wisdom of the ants hill": change the traditional downward communication style to an upward communication stream of new ideas coming from the entire organization.

The background of this approach for corporate strategy, and strategic thinking in general, was the dramatic post-war ascent of Japanese companies. The Japanese economy increasingly dominated the world markets, by having initial ambitions that in the West would have been considered highly unrealistic. Unrealistic regarding their resources and capabilities. An obsession for winning was created and sustained at all levels of the organization. Thus the basis was created for a 10- to 20-year quest for global market leadership.

Book: Hamel & Prahalad - Competing for the future -

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Compare with Strategic Intent:  Ashridge Mission Model  |  Value Based Management  |  Core Competence  |  Bottom of the Pyramid  |  Moral Purpose  |  Clarkson Principles  |  Intrinsic Stakeholder Commitment  |  Strategic Stakeholder Management  |  Seven Surprises  |  Stakeholder Value Perspective  |  Shareholder Value Perspective  |  Spiral Dynamics  |  Co-Creation

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