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The Role of Strategy

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Strategy must be created across 3 major areas in every organization –   

  • The Corporate Level
  • The Business Unit Level
  • The Functional Level


This is the highest and most broad level of strategy in business. This deals with high level concerns such as defining the vision, clarifying objects, and setting goals. Creating and understanding C- level strategy is especially important for organizations that have multiple lines of business. For example, if one arm of your business manufactures a product and another arm sells that product, you’ll have a separate business unit strategy for each—but one single corporate-level strategy that describes why those two arms are important, and how those businesses interact for the good of the organization.

There are a handful of things to do as you work on your C – Level strategy. 

  1. Your Overall Vision and Mission
  • Your mission statement describes what your company does and how it is different from other organizations in your competitive space.
  • Your vision statement describes the desired future state of your organization at a certain point in time.
  1. Corporate Objectives – 

Your objectives describe the high-level goals that will help you achieve your mission and vision. 


Your business unit strategy is used for different areas of your business (like services and products, or multiple departments or divisions, for example). The complexity of this level will depend on how many businesses you are in, and how your company is structured. It’s important to create a strategy for each business unit so that you can see which units are excelling and which need improvement.

Having a strategy at the business unit level allows you to weigh the costs and benefits of each business unit and to decide where you should spend your resources. Depending on the progress towards your goals and your analysis of the market, you may even decide it’s time to divest or sell some of your business units so you can focus on the areas that are most important to achieving your company’s corporate strategy

  1. Differentiate yourself from your competitors. One of the best ways to tell if you’ve done this adequately is through a SWOT analysis, which allows you to review your competitive environment and define a strategy based on what sets your organization—and specifically, the business unit—apart from the competition.
  2. Create objectives and initiatives that support your business unit and the corporate level. Your goal while creating a business unit strategy is to create objectives and initiatives that support the unit while simultaneously contributing to the objectives and initiatives of the organization as a whole. For example, at the corporate level for the learning and growth perspective, one of the organizations main priorities is to “provide valuable skills training.” With this objective in mind, your business units will be able to determine what activities they’ll need to do to support this—like providing customer training services relevant to its specific function.


The functional level of your strategy involves each department—and what those at the department level are doing day-to-day to support corporate initiatives. Whereas your business unit strategy would be defined and evaluated by senior leadership, your functional strategy is typically produced by department heads (e.g., leaders in marketing, operations, finance, IT, etc.). These individuals can help ensure that the departments execute the defined strategic elements and that the components laid out at the functional level help support both the department level and corporate level strategies.

  1. Understand that this level has the most detailed measures and projects. 

Measures help you answer the question, “How are we doing toward meeting a particular objective?” Projects (or initiatives) help you answer, “What are the key actions we can take to support our objectives?” While you’ll have measures and projects at every level of your strategy, they should be extremely detailed at the functional level. 

  1. Make sure the goals in your functional strategy align with the goals at the corporate level. Corporate goals are set by the most senior members of your organization, and those goals drive decision-making. You’ll gain support from the top level of executives if your projects and goals align with their goals. You’ll also be able to see how the work you are doing contributes to the overall success of the company

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