What Is the Meaning of Strategic Intent?

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A strategic intent statement combines the vision and objectives of a company into a succinct elevator pitch. It helps employees, upper management, shareholders and the public to understand what the company stands for and strives for in both the long-term and short-term.

Statements of strategic intent often come across as lofty and decadent, with a "shoot for the moon" quality. But this language has a purpose in motivating and uplifting individuals to work toward embodying the mission, vision and goals of the company.

It's an exercise that helps make sure you do not box yourself in based on your current resources, or even your current perception of your abilities. Strategic intent involves letting yourself imagine what seems impossible, and then striving for it anyway to ensure that you remain competitive in your field. Along the way, you'll likely come further than you ever thought possible.

The 5 Main Characteristics of Strategic Intent

Forming a strategic intent statement does not happen in a single meeting. In fact, there are several characteristic elements that must be created and agreed upon before the strategic intent statement comes to life. They include:

  1. Vision Statement: The vision statement allows the company to describe itself in ideal terms. In the perfect future, what will your company be known for? What will you have achieved? What will your customers think of you? What services and products will you provide?

    Although vision statements eventually get honed into just a sentence or two, there is no reason why you can't extensively map out your vision as a helpful tool in the planning process. A useful exercise to get your creativity flowing is to imagine that you are 80 years old and a child asks you what you're proud to have accomplished with your company. Write that child a letter from your 80-year-old self listing all of the accomplishments you could ever hope to imagine. 

  2. Mission Statement: Your company's mission statement explains your reason for existing. Why in the world does anyone need your particular product or service? What kind of a gap are you filling in people's lives? 

    Your mission statement encompasses your ultimate goal and does not have to be tangible or measurable. That happens in the next steps.

  3. Goals: These represent your long-term aspirations, but are more specific and concrete than your vision statement. For example, do you want to make X amount of sales in X amount of time? Do you want to reach 10,000 unique customers? Do you want to have an international presence? If so, in which countries do you want to open stores or offices?

  4. Objectives: Your objectives fall under each of your individual goals and represent smaller goals to help you get there. Think of them as stepping stones. Your objectives will also help you measure your progress and success. If you're struggling to reach your objectives over time, then re-evaluate what you think you can accomplish in the short-term. It's okay to have several hierarchies of goals and objectives in order to break them down into manageable steps. 

  5. Planning: You know what you want. How are you going to get there? This is the point where you get to be incredibly specific. How will you reach your objectives? Plan it out step by step. Make a full road map for each of your objectives that you can put into action right away. Each of the planning steps that you successfully complete is a mini-victory toward accomplishing your objectives and ultimately your goals.

    You might not have all of the answers right away. That's okay. As long as you research a plan that will move you forward in a positive direction, stopping every now and then to ask, "What next?" is a normal part of developing a strategy. You might even have to drastically change course if what you originally thought would work turns out to be a time-waster.

Crafting a Strategic Intent Statement

Once you have gone through the five steps above to fully understand your dream (vision), your purpose (mission), tangible milestones for the long-term (goals) and short-term (objectives) and a road map to get started (plan), you truly know more about your company than ever before. It's time to put it all together and create a strategic intent statement.

In this statement, you should remain positive and inspirational. Once you're finished crafting this statement, it should be so compelling that you could put it on a banner in the office as the ultimate motivator for all your employees. It should tell them why their work is meaningful and where the company intends to go.

Use precise language in your statement of strategic intent to keep it snappy and powerful. It's okay if the statement goes through many rounds of editing to tweak words, or if you have several strategic intent examples to choose from. A few changes could mean the difference between whether or not your statement of intent works as a motivator and guide, so sleep on it instead of automatically choosing your first draft.

Strategy vs. Strategic Management

Strategic management refers to the process of keeping a company competitive and viable. Determining strategic intent is an important precursor to strategic management. The goals, objectives and planning that form part of the strategic intent become the main focus of strategic management.

Different analyses can be performed by the management team in order to form an action plan. Both internal and external strategic analyses exist.

Internal Strategic Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a common internal strategic method, in which Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are identified. Then the creativity begins: how can strengths combat weaknesses? How can weaknesses turn into strengths in their own right? What opportunities could the company take advantage of? What threats need to be headed off at the pass?

The strategic management process continues by prioritizing these findings and delegating tasks to different people or departments. Everything should be tracked or measured in order to ensure that the course of action is worth continuing.

External Strategic Analysis

The PESTLE analysis takes a look at the role external factors play on a company. These include Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental, as well as two new categories that don't quite fit into the anagram: Ethics and Demographics.

This essentially represents a threat analysis. What could happen economically to impact the company? How would the company handle it? Once the possible external threats are identified, the strategic management team determines their likelihood of actually occurring.

The nature of external threats means that the company can't do much to influence them, but the management team can have a strategy already in place to mitigate the effects. This represents a competitive advantage. While your competitors scramble to make decisions, you can roll out your "emergency plan."

In short, strategic intent and strategic management play an important role in guiding a company's future. But don't forget to take action as well. If you focus too much on planning, nothing will get done.