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What is Strategic Management?

We explain our definition of 'strategic management' and why being good at it is important to the health of the organisation.

Like ‘Strategy’, Strategic Management is a term often used, and open to interpretation. Here, StrategyStory’s Professor of Strategic Management, Donald MacLean explains what it is, as well as why he was drawn to the field. We also cover why being good at it is so important to the health of our organisations.

So, Donald what is ‘strategic management’?
Different things to different people.  The most basic definition would be something like formulating and implementing strategies. For me, it’s basically about bringing out the best in people for a greater good.  Weaving together individual efforts and creativity together into a coherent and rewarding whole – sometimes through very challenging circumstances. 

Why is it more important than ever?
It has always been important, but it’s gaining more attention because traditional ways are running out of steam. Our strategic management legacy has basically passed its sell-by date. The voice that’s been calling for innovation from others needs itself to innovate: big-style!

And now, throw the impact of Covid into the mix, and organisations are having to transform rapidly and radically. Good strategic management is essential to help bring the workforce through this change in a positive way, and to avoid reverting to type, and ultimately, failure.

To arrange a conversation, please contact us at hello@strategystory.co.uk

What’s the difference between ‘strategic management’ and ‘strategy’?Strategy is a sub-part of strategic management – an ingenious logical framework that acts as a kind of rudder. Strategic management is making it happen. 

How does it work?
Strategy is the ‘what’. Strategic management is the ‘how’. Strategy is a concept, an idea. Strategic management is a practice or process. One is the map, the other the territory – each makes the other meaningful. Most businesses are good at strategy and not so good at strategic management. This is because the logic is sound but the management practices haven’t changed enough to stay relevant in today’s world.

What drew you into the world of strategy and strategic management?
In industry, I found it difficult taking orders to do things without understanding ‘why’ – so you end up going through departments and layers until you can see how they’re all meant to join up – ideally into something bigger than any of the bits.

Donald hosting a StategyStory session

How has strategic management changed over the years?
The most obvious change is the growing disaffection with top-down planning and growing acceptance of emergent strategy. People are still trying to get to grips with the practical implications of emergence – particularly in relation to factors and phenomena like technology, innovation and so on. The real question is how to deal with a new balance between creativity and control.

Where do you see it going in the future? 
The key to getting to grips with emergent strategy is probably why attention is now shifting to strategic communications. It will continue to do so. Indeed this is why StrategyStory exists and why we are growing. Reframing communications away from a rational information-processing point of view towards a co-creative, meaning-making perspective is at the heart of the control issue mentioned above. It’s why we we’re such advocates of the role of storytelling. In a nutshell the key is dialogue – textual, oral, visual. I expect to see much more on that –  and hopefully we’ll continue to play a key role in developments.

Please arrange a conversation, by contacting us at hello@strategystory.co.uk

Liked this? You might enjoy our What is Strategy? definition (and it’s delivered in less than 60 seconds!)


StrategyStory supports businesses to develop strategies that work. We deliver through partnership programmes, online learning, workshops, seminars and public speaking.

Donald delivers lectures, talks and sessions on strategy and storytelling at private and public events.

If you’d like to arrange a conversation, please contact us at hello@strategystory.co.uk

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