Various definitions of the concept have been forwarded, and while they are generally presented in different words, they seem to be revolving around the same principles. Some of the most relevant definitions of strategic management are presented below:
Strategic management is fundamentally about setting the underpinning aims of an organization, choosing the most appropriate goals towards those aims and fulfilling both over time" (Thompson, quoted by Karami, 2007)
Strategic management can be defined as the art and science of formulating, implementing and evaluating cross-functional decisions that enable an organization to achieve its objectives" (David, quoted by Karami, 2007)
Strategic management is the process of articulating a future vision of accomplishment for an organization and planning, directing and controlling the organization's entire range of activities to work toward the desired state or position" (Tyndall and Cameron, 1990).
The field of strategic management deals with:
a) the major intended and emergent changes b) taken by general managers on behalf to owners involving the utilization of resources d) to enhance the performance e) of firms f) in their external environments" (Fritz, 2008).
To summarize the definitions above and integrate them in a simple formulation, strategic management seems to represent the totality of tools and mechanisms employed in reaching organizational goals. These tools and mechanisms may refer to decision making processes, problem identification processes, market research, human resource motivation and evaluation, seizing external opportunities and so on. What must be remembered is that strategic management is not a solitary action, but a way of conduction operations and its success is directly linked to its proper implementation at all levels of the organizational system. This then means that the strategic system is similar to the strategic management.
Having defined the strategic management and linked it to the strategic system, as well as the importance of understanding the strategic system for a full success of the managerial act, the question remains as to how exactly strategic management works. The answer to this question is a paradox in the meaning that is as simple, as it is complex. It is complex in the meaning that it is present at all levels and considers multifaceted features; it is simple as its objective is clear. To better understand, take the case of an organization looking to increase its revenues. The managerial team develops and implements a wide variety to strategic approaches in achieving this desiderate. They for instance approach the matter through the lens of organizational expenditure and conclude that the costs must be cut. In following this course of action, they could decide to downsize part of their staff members, switch to more cost-effective suppliers or reduce the training programs to the employees. Costs will as such be reduced, increasing the organizational profits.
The ultimate role of the strategic management process is to integrate all organizational features and all components of the strategic system. This element gives the complexity of the process. Continuing the example from above, the company which wants to increase sales and has chosen to reduce costs, could consider the various implications of their actions. In this order of ideas, they could conclude that downsizing will reduce employee morale and performances and would also generate the mistrust of various categories of stakeholders. Keeping these side effects in mind, the goal of increasing sales could also lead to the implementation of strategic decisions at other system levels. For instance, the management could decide to further invest in the human resource - satisfied employees perform better, increasing operational efficiency and ergo organizational revenues.
In a nutshell, the strategic system and the strategic management are highly similar in the meaning that they are both based on groups of individuals, tools or mechanisms, joined together to reach a common objective. Given the close relationship between the concepts, the success of one is not possible without the triumph of the other.