Strategic Intent: Can It Help Your Business?

In The Strangest Secret, Earl Nightingale discusses just how important goals are to the success of an individual. He uses the analogy of a ship going out to sea with a complete voyage mapped out. He says that 99% of the time that ship will get where it is going because it has a plan.

The same holds true for businesses. Successful, thriving businesses use strategic intent to move their business forward and beat their competition. In this article, we will discuss exactly what strategic intent is and how it can help your business.

strategic intent

What Is Strategic Intent?

In 1989, Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad wrote an in-depth article called Strategic Intent. This article brought about a major paradigm shift in management, especially to western businesses. Essentially, Hamel and Prahalad looked into the differences between many western businesses and some of the major Japanese companies, like Canon and Honda, to see what made the Japanese corporations grow and succeed by leaps and bounds. Hamel and Prahalad stated that Western Companies focused on matching their goals to their current resources. Meanwhile, Japanese companies were accelerating due to an intense focus on seemingly impossible goals.

While having high levels of ambition is important, the companies that actually succeeded also created a corporate culture that was obsessed with winning. Then, they found ways to sustain that obsession for a long period of time until their goals were met. This obsession and fixation on achieving organizational objectives that are extremely challenging is what Hamel and Prahalad call strategic intent.

Who Uses Strategic Intent?

Nearly any upper level manager can use strategic intent for their company and employees. The idea is essentially creating a high-level statement of how your organization will achieve its overall goal. Since this statement sets precedence for achieving a strategic goal of the company, it is primarily used and created by upper level management.

Managers in businesses can use the strategic intent methodology to their benefit in a number of ways.

  • First, it helps think outside the box. It is common for American businesses to plan according to their current level of resources and focus on only what they believe they can achieve. Strategic intent helps managers think beyond these constraints and helps realize bigger things can be accomplished.
  • Second, it helps motivate employees. Having a clear, concise statement helps the entire organization embrace the overall goal of the company. It gives everyone a sense of purpose and can really help unify different departments.
  • Finally, strategic intent can help companies hit goals and targets they never dreamed of since the whole organization is functioning towards that common goal.

Ways in Which Strategic Intent Can Help Your Business

Strategic intent can help your business in three main ways.

  • First, it helps shift the focus of the organization. Many managers today focus on total revenue. If you were to ask a CEO how he adds the most value to an organization, he would probably say that he helps increase earnings for shareholders. While that is important, it is hard for lower level employees to think in these terms. By shifting your focus solely from total earnings to total market share, it will change how you set goals and compete. It also helps managers stop focusing and planning with today’s issues in mind, but instead enables managers to keep their eyes open for future opportunities.
  • Also, it helps stretch the organization by increasing the level of creativity and innovation among the employees. Strategic intent forces companies to be future oriented and plan for things that are not inline with their current resources and capabilities. This causes the employees to come up with more creative ways of using current resources to create additional competitive advantages.
  • Finally, strategic intent helps boost employee moral. Employees will need to be more innovative and creative than before. Therefore, it will give them more challenging projects and increase their knowledge. Strategic intent makes the work for employees more meaningful and cultivates an environment where teamwork is not only necessary, but also accepted.

businessmen using laptop

5 Ways to Use Strategic Intent with Results

1. Create or Redefine Your Company’s Vision Statement

If you plan to implement the strategic intent methodology into your business in some way, you have to start by looking at your vision statement. Think big!

The best companies in the world have some outrageous vision statements. Unfortunately, many managers will limit themselves here and try to be realistic. If your vision statement does not scare you, it isn’t big enough.

2. Continuously Reevaluate and Ask What You Must Do Differently

Many managers think too narrowly when forecasting and planning for the future. They will ask, what will next year look like? instead of what must we do differently?

The difference in focus of the second question forces managers to assess their organization internally. Then, they will see what they can do better and what areas they should improve in order to move forward.

3. Don’t Limit Your Competitive Analysis by Your Competitor’s Resources

One reason many companies lose market share is they did not properly identify their competitor’s advantages. Managers often use techniques and mapping processes that fall short since they only evaluate competitors’ current resources and not their resourcefulness.

Be sure to think outside the box in terms of:

  • How a competitor might change;
  • Acquire new competitive advantages.

4.Have an Open Mind in Regards to Mature Products and Markets

Yamaha is a very good example of a company that uses strategic intent. They do this by entering what many would call mature markets. Just because a product’s sales have become stagnant does not mean that new and better markets do not exist.

5. Invest in Your Employees or in Yourself

If you are a manager, invest in your employees. Give them external opportunities to improve or add to their skill set. This will help your company exponentially in the long run and can lead to some incredible ideas.

If you are not a manager, invest in yourself. Read books, take online courses, and educate yourself. It is imperative to stay ahead and look for opportunities as they arise.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, strategic intent is not just a method. It is an ongoing process that requires hard work. However, if you are willing to employ this tactic, it will transform your business in the long run.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen companies switching to strategic intent planning methods? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.