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Strategic management, strategic thinking

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Published: 2 May 2022

A University of Sunderland in London student in a lecture

How do great managers approach a new project? How do you make sure you reach your goals every step of the way? 

In his latest article, Afzal Munna, Lecturer in Undergraduate Business, takes us through the process of strategic management and why it’s relevant to you. 

“The word strategy dates to 508 BCE and is used throughout the classic of tactical thinking Sun Tzu’s Art of War.  

The 5th-century guide is used today more as a metaphor for achieving success in life and business rather than practical military application - the use of strategy being key to all three. 

The English word strategy originates in Greek from strategos or ‘the art of the army general’.  

Such fighting-based beginnings of a word, these days more associated with boardrooms and planning documents, are in themselves interesting. 

In the 21st-century, it is a widely used management concept most often referring to the processes involved in achieving the goals of an organisation. 

While such aims can be reached in a wide variety of ways, it’s the strategic management processes that both have the potential to see measurable success and also adheres to the spirit of Sun Tzu the most. 

It allows a business to structure its processes in line with the aims of its stakeholders, using detailed plans and monitoring progress throughout. 

Business researchers Brews and Hunt compared strategic management with the ‘formulation process’ which is focused on results.  

But contrast, their idea was to develop a system that involved questioning both the ends and the means to get a more well-rounded view of projects as a whole. 

On the other hand, Jarzabkowski and Whittington described strategy practices as the joint and aggregated actions of social, symbolic and material tools aimed at completing a goal.  

They believed that strategic practices combined a whole host of social, symbolic and material tools, brought together as strategy practice. 

Seen as ‘dirty hands’ approach by Hirsch et al., the idea here was to supply as deep an insight into business practice as possible. 

Anyone, whether a management student or someone thinking about taking on a leadership role after graduation, should seek out and understand the ideas of these ground-breaking theorists. 

Whatever your definition, strategic thinking is intentional and deeply rational. It’s a thought process that is meant to focus the conclusion you draw of the project you’re working on.  

In particular, it will help you create a careful and deliberate situational analysis, which is something now considered a key factor in any long-term work.  

It really is the starting point. From proper strategic thinking, the successful manager comes away with a set of clear aims which adhere to the SMART principle. 

It spawns new and creative ideas that have a chance to survive and thrive in the competitive and ever-changing world of global business. 

To be a strategic thinker, you need to develop your research and problem-solving skills, be an effective communicator and a decisive leader.  

It’s no coincidence these are all things that you learn as a student at the University of Sunderland in London.  

Our courses are designed to help you mould yourself into the kind of manager that can compete in the modern world.” 

Afzal Munna teaches the BA (Hons) Business and Management course at the University of Sunderland in London.   

You can find out more about our Business, Management and Finance degrees by registering your interest, booking a personal consultation, attending an Open Day or downloading your prospectus.

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