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)


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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 -

Strategic Intent Forum
  Start Every Activity with an Intent
We tend to forget that an intent paves the way to reach any objective.
If we don't formulate an intent, that means we don't have any objective. Of course, things can be done without an intent, but you will achieve more or less random things.
  Setting the Challenge of Strategic Intent
Should the challenge (always) be declared publicly?...
  4 Dimensions of Strategic Intent
Strategic Intent has four key dimensions and it is important to discern their inter-relatedness and distinctness at the same time. The Four Dimensions of Strategic Intent are:
1. The Desired Future State
2. The Strategic Position
  Measuring the Attributes of Strategic Intent
How to measure these three attributes: sense of direction, sense of discovery and sense of destiny?...
  Strategic Intent - 2 Quotes
I like 2 sentences about S.I. From Competing for the Future:
Page 148: ".. Strategic intent aims to create employee excitement, not just employee satisfaction", and
Page 142 &ff: "direction, discovery and destiny. These are the attributes o...
  Strategic Intent accommodates all sides
It is hard to translate individual strategies of people in a company into corporate strategies. That is why a company has to have strategic intent in order to synergize individual concepts and competencies in running a task. Intent will affect the st...
  Strategic Intent Demands
Strategic Intent demands equal commitment from mind, body, and soul. Its an obsession. It is to walk thro the journey with clear-cut agenda to reach the destination of ultimate supremacy, distinct leadership, sustainable competitive advantage, domina...
  Strategic Intent Creates a Shared Obsesssion
The strategic intent concept helps to increase the abilty of an organization to achieve its strategic purpose by creating a strong shared desire or even obsession across the organization to achieve it....
  Intent-Intent Made strategic
Strategic intent provides for the right frame of direction as well as geared towards the achievement of the company's common destiny as opposed to commonly observed motivations of success in most management cases that at some point, their direction i...
  You're Lost without Intent
Without strategic intent you are lost and as good as travelling in the dark without a torch. Strategic intent provides one with the weapon to overcome future hurdles....
  Intent vs Strategic Values
Strategic intent must be underpinned by strategic values. The corporate world must understand that an obsession to win or achieve strategic intents notwithstanding, clear and 'sacred' strategic values should not be compromised in achieving these stra...

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Weaknesses of Strategic Intent

In an article Campbell and Yeung distinguish between vision, mission and strategic intent. According to the authors:
- Vision means the mental im...
Usage (application): Strategic Intent Compared to Vision, and Mission

Three Functions of a Mission (Statement)

Defining the mission statement is a major part of the strategic planning process. A mission has three functions or goals:
1. Market def...
Usage (application): Reasons for Creating a Mission (Statement)

Content of Value Statements

Common Topics in organization’s value statements, include:
- Commitment to such outcomes as customer satisfaction and customer service, q...
Usage (application): Strategy, Leadership

3 Stages of Cultural Change

In his 1994 paper "Leadership and Strategic Intent" Charles E. Smith identified three main stages in the process of cultural change using the Strategi...
Usage (application): Creating Cultural Change with Strategic Intent

Success Story of Benetton

The impact of a consistent Strategic Intent on an organization can be better understood analyzing the success story of a well known multi natio...
Usage (application): Impact of Strategic Intent on Organanizational Success

A Corporate Theory: Long-term Handhold and Guidance in Turbulent Times?

According to Professor Todd Zenger, companies should focus less on competitive advantage (this isn't what really interests stock markets). Instead cor...
Usage (application): Inside-out Corporate Strategy, Corporate Visioning

4 Types of Mission Statements

Missions that have been formulated by company's can be very different from each other, depending on their goals / functions. Klemm did a search on 59 ...
Usage (application): Which Type of Mission Statement is Right for Your Firm?

Dealing with Barriers in Strategic Intent

Thinking about a future that is ‘unthinkable’, according to current standards, raises immediately the image of the practical difficulties that separat...
Usage (application): Overcoming Constraints in Executing Strategic Intent

Impact on Performance

In a comparison of the performance of companies with “high-content” mission statements versus those with “low-content” mission statements, Pearce and ...
Usage (application): Strategy, Formulation Mission

Strategic Intent in No-Profit (Peter Drucker)

Peter Drucker, famous management guru once said: “The best management practice and most innovative methods now come from the Girls Scouts and t...
Usage (application): Motivate by Strategic Intent

Strategic Intent and Organizational Culture

When companies start adopting the Strategic Intent concept initially that didn't change much. In a first stage what really changes will be the inte...
Usage (application): Effects of Implementation

Strategic Intent Examples

- Dr. Robert Barthelemy, Program Director of the National AeroSpace Plane Program, NASP was willing to create and manage an organization that will ...
Usage (application): Practical Cases

Resources - Strategic Intent Premium

Perspective: Biography Prahalad (1941-2010)

A short biography on C.K. Prahalad's career and ideas....
Usage (application): Developing a Broader Perspective towards the Ideas of Prahalad

Strategic Intent

Short article on Strategic Intent....
Usage (application): Short Summary


Strategic Intent Strategy


Strategic Intent Company


Strategic Intent Strategy


Strategic Intent Company


Strategic Intent Strategy


Strategic Intent Company


Strategic Intent Strategy


Strategic Intent Company

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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