The Role of Strategists in Strategic Management: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding the Key Players and Their Impact on Organizational Strategy

5 mins read

Key Takeaways:

  • Strategists play a vital role in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of organizational strategy.
  • There are various types of strategists, including consultants, entrepreneurs, board of directors, chief executive officers, senior management, corporate planning staff, strategic business unit (SBU) level executives, middle-level managers, and executive assistants.
  • Each category of strategists approaches the strategic management process differently and brings unique perspectives and expertise to the table.
  • Consultants provide valuable external insights and expertise, particularly for organizations without dedicated corporate planning departments.
  • Entrepreneurs play a crucial role in shaping the strategic direction of new business ventures and capitalizing on opportunities.
  • The board of directors guides top management in framing business strategies and evaluates organizational performance.
  • Chief executive officers hold ultimate responsibility for all aspects of strategic management and play a major role in decision-making.
  • Senior management, including functional or profit-center heads, participates in strategic decision-making, implementation, and performance evaluation.
  • Strategic business unit (SBU) level executives act as strategists within their respective units, formulating strategies that optimize departmental benefits.
  • Corporate planning staff supports strategic management by assisting in strategy formulation, implementation, and evaluation.
  • Middle-level managers primarily focus on operational planning and implementation, acting as implementers and followers of higher-level strategic decisions.
  • Executive assistants provide critical support to chief executives, assisting in data analysis, decision-making, coordination, and corporate planning functions.


In the ever-evolving business landscape, strategic management plays a crucial role in the success and sustainability of organizations. At the heart of effective strategic management are strategists, individuals or groups who are responsible for formulating, implementing, and evaluating strategies. These strategists bring their expertise, insights, and experience to shape the direction and competitive advantage of organizations. This comprehensive guide explores the diverse roles and contributions of various strategists in the strategic management process.

Consultants: Harnessing External Expertise

In organizations without dedicated corporate planning departments, consultants play a vital role in strategic management. Consultants provide external perspectives, specialized knowledge, and strategic insights. They assist organizations in formulating strategies, managing fundamental change, envisioning strategic goals, business restructuring, and feasibility studies for strategy implementation. Prominent consultancy firms like McKinsey and Company, Andreson Consulting, Boston Consulting, and KPMG Peat Marwick offer a wide range of services catering to strategic management needs.

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Entrepreneurs: Driving Innovation and Opportunism

Entrepreneurs, as promoters of new business ventures, are essential strategists right from the inception of their ventures. They identify and exploit opportunities to maximize returns on investment. Entrepreneurs possess foresight, a sense of responsibility, a strong work ethic, and the ability to adapt to future contingencies. Their strategic role is evident in their active involvement in policy formulation, implementation, and overall business success. The inspiring journey of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder of a successful biotechnology company, exemplifies the strategic acumen of entrepreneurs.

Board of Directors: Guiding Strategy and Evaluating Performance

The board of directors, elected by shareholders, holds the responsibility for the general administration of organizations. Board members provide guidance to top management in framing business strategies and evaluating organizational performance. The relative strength between the board and the chief executive officer (CEO) significantly influences the success of strategies. The board is empowered to make senior executive appointments, ensuring alignment with strategic objectives. An effective board of directors enhances strategic decision-making and governance.

Chief Executive Officer: Orchestrating Strategic Management

The chief executive officer (CEO) holds a pivotal role in strategic management, being accountable for all aspects of strategic management. As the top executive in an organization, the CEO bears the ultimate responsibility for strategy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. In some companies, the CEO may be referred to as the managing director, executive director, or general manager. Regardless of the title, the CEO is considered the most important strategist and plays a major role in strategic decision-making.

The CEO’s responsibilities include setting the strategic direction, aligning organizational resources, monitoring industry trends, assessing risks, and making critical decisions that shape the future of the organization. Effective CEOs possess strong leadership qualities, strategic vision, and the ability to navigate complex business environments. They collaborate with other strategists, such as the board of directors and senior management, to ensure strategic goals are achieved.

Senior Management: A Collective Strategic Force

Senior management comprises executives ranging from the chief executive to functional or profit-center heads. They are involved in various aspects of strategic management and play a crucial role in translating strategies into actionable plans. Some senior management members also serve as directors on the board, participating in top-level committees dedicated to strategic matters and policy issues. Executive committees, consisting of senior managers, are responsible for implementing strategies, monitoring performance, and conducting periodic evaluations.

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Organizations often leverage the expertise of senior management by dividing them into groups that focus on different strategic areas, such as products and markets, environment, technology, resources, and manpower. This division of responsibilities allows for in-depth analysis and effective strategy formulation. Senior management’s involvement ensures strategic decisions are aligned with organizational goals and that implementation is carried out efficiently.

Strategic Business Unit (SBU) Level Executives: Empowering Departmental Strategists

The concept of strategic business units (SBUs) involves dividing the main business unit into independent units, each responsible for its own strategies. Departmental heads within SBUs act as strategists, focusing on optimizing benefits within their respective departments. This decentralized approach allows for more tailored strategies that align with specific business objectives. At organizations like Shriram Fibres, strategic planning encompasses various businesses, and each SBU has its own strategic planning cell. This structure ensures strategic alignment at both the corporate and SBU levels.

Corporate Planning Staff: Enabling Strategic Management

The corporate planning staff plays a supporting role in strategic management. They assist the management team in all aspects of strategy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. This dedicated team is responsible for preparing and communicating strategic plans, conducting special studies and research, and providing administrative support for the strategic management system.

While the corporate planning staff does not initiate the strategic management process independently, their contributions are crucial in facilitating effective decision-making and maintaining the strategic management system. They assist in data analysis, scenario planning, market research, and other activities that inform strategic choices.

Middle-Level Managers: Bridging Strategy and Operations

Middle-level managers primarily focus on operational planning and implementation. They act as implementers of strategies and followers of policy guidelines established by higher-level strategists. Middle managers often serve as sounding boards for departmental plans and receive communication about functional strategic plans.

Although their involvement in strategic management may be limited, middle-level managers play a vital role in executing strategies and ensuring operational efficiency. Their understanding of departmental operations and expertise in translating strategic goals into practical actions is instrumental in driving organizational success.

Executive Assistants: Supportive Partners in Strategic Management

Executive assistants provide invaluable support to the chief executive in performing their duties. They assist in various aspects of strategic management, including data collection and analysis, suggesting alternatives for decision-making, preparing briefs and reports, managing public relations and liaison functions, coordinating activities, and acting as filters for information.

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Executive assistants often assume a corporate planning role, helping the chief executive in formulating and implementing strategies. Their contributions enable the efficient functioning of the top management team and ensure that strategic decisions are well-informed and effectively communicated throughout the organization.


Strategists are key players in the strategic management process, responsible for formulating, implementing, and evaluating strategies that drive organizational success. Consultants bring external expertise, entrepreneurs drive innovation, the board of directors guides strategy, CEOs orchestrate strategic management, senior management ensures execution, SBUs empower departmental strategists, corporate planning staff provide support, middle-level managers bridge strategy and operations, and executive assistants facilitate the chief executive’s duties.

Understanding the distinct roles and perspectives of each strategist is vital for organizations seeking to develop effective strategic management practices. By harnessing the collective expertise and insights of strategists, organizations can navigate complexities, seize opportunities, and achieve long-term success. Strategic management is a collaborative effort that requires alignment, coordination, and effective communication among the strategists involved.

As the business landscape continues to evolve, organizations must adapt their strategic management practices to stay competitive. By recognizing the strategic contributions of various stakeholders and leveraging their expertise, organizations can navigate uncertainty, drive growth, and achieve strategic objectives in an ever-changing environment. Strategists in strategic management are the driving force behind organizational success, and their roles and contributions are essential for sustainable growth and prosperity.

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