Redifining “Strategic Thinking”
First we must ask, “What is Strategic Thinking?”
It’s making a plan in pursuit of the broader business objectives at play:
- Asking why you’re being asked to do what you’re doing and identifying the broader business objective.
- Then designing a plan of attack.
- Lastly, determining how to monitor progress against the overarching so you get early data on what’s going well and where you need to pivot.
It’s making tradeoffs along the way in pursuit of that broader objective:
- Seeing the world as it is and confronting brutal realities.
- Being willing to sacrifice where necessary
- Balancing the needs of the short-term and long-term in pursuit of the business objective.
It’s reevaluating the plan and pivoting in the moment (when necessary):
- Always thinking two steps ahead of the next issue.
- Maintaining the flexibility to respond in the moment, even if it means a new plan.
“Strategic Thinking” is one of those terms that is easily understood, but is not consistent if you were to ask people to describe it. An employee’s ability to “think strategically” is weighed heavily during the first few months of being hired and is used in performance management systems everywhere.
When it’s you whose running a company or one of your managers, it’s important to be strategic during the planning phase of any operation or project. However, strategic thinking is least likely to be used during this phase. When “assessing” a plan of action you must ask, “Did someone just dive in and start executing or did they have a plan of attack?”
“Strategic thinking is formulating a plan to allocate scarce resources in pursuit of your goal.”
Take a look at the actual goal that is being pursued to assess the level of strategic thinking. It’s difficult to use tactical steps which is why strategic thinking should be focused on the overarching business objective. A good strategic thinker isn’t blindly pursuing the tactical objective assigned, but is getting to the broader business objective in sight. Depending on the circumstances, the strategic thinker may advise a different plan of attack depending on what the company sees as both financially and physically possible.
Second, the Execution Phase is where we might see another lack of strategic thinking. Questions you may want to consider are; “Is someone thinking critically about tradeoffs in favor of that business objective or are they automatically choosing the quick and easy option? Something to remember is that strategic thinking is seeing the world as it is and not how you would like it to be. This means that you may have to confront brutal realities and being able to sacrifice what’s necessary for the good of the company and the overall business objective.
Finally, the last phase we see a lack of strategic thinking is when new developments change up the outcome we had originally planned. In this phase, the strategic move will be to reformulate a plan and not stay committed to the original plan.
Bottom line, strategic thinking requires a balance between short-term and long-term perspectives and being open to the number of possibilities to reach the desired outcome.
Where do you see a distinct lack of Strategic Thinking?