Strategic intent is a statement of the course that the management of an organization plans to take the enterprise in the future. As many people as possible should understand these intentions. Then everyone can work consistently to achieve the corporate purpose.
Statements of intent aim to be more explicit than the usual directional statements. Most mission and vision statements point the way forward only in general terms. Sharp statements of intent can provide more clarity about what to do in the near future to achieve the vision and/or mission. Such statements convey the flavor of the strategic decisions taken through the planning process.
Vision is a declaration of a general direction for a journey; strategies let you know that you need to take specific things with you to complete the journey, and indicates key points along the way.
Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad in their book Competing for the Future argue that such statements of intent enable a strong sense of direction. It provides a clearer focus for finding opportunities. It improves commitment to achieve the destiny implied vaguely in typical vision statements.
Consider the typical ‘vision thing’ of becoming ‘world-class’. What could ‘world-class’ possibly mean in any specific enterprise? How can this be translated into terms that help those carrying out the actual day-to-day work of the organization?
The organization needs information on how its performance compares with peers on the world stage. For a business, achieving ‘world-class’ might mean being in the top 10% on competitive metrics. Initially the corporate intent may mean lifting the firm from its present position as a middle ranking outfit into the top 20%. When achieved the intent would be reset to get into the top 10% level. The vague aspiration to be 'world-class' becomes more focused as beating the competition, which may energize staff in the organization.
Corporate intent is the foreground of a longer-term vision of the future that an organization aspires to. When stated clearly with readily understood metrics and target levels for performance, it may generate a kind of ‘theme song’ in prose form that creates an emotional drive to achieve.
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