Strategic thinking combines observation, creativity, and pragmatism to focuses on ‘where your organization should be headed and why.' It is the foundation of sustained growth and balances the ever-present challenges of meeting the needs of your customers today and positioning you for future success. The aim of a strategic planning process to enhance your view of how to create value while maximizing your resources. When done well, strategic thinking is the catalyst for defining how you will evolve over-time.
Sound great? It is, but strategic thinking does not thrive on its own.
As organizations evolve, unfortunately, they often become increasingly focused on operations and incremental metrics and less capable of thinking more strategically as they did in earlier high-growth stages. This is when they fall behind the market and struggle with competitive and margin pressures. Fear not! There are to engage in strategic thinking and regain the zest for growth.
A transactional mindset is a focus on the mechanics of running a business such as sales, quality, customer service, etc. If you don’t have a transactional mindset most of the time, you will not be around very long. But, often leaders and their teams are so focused on managing transactions, they can miss new data, insights and important to their long-term success.
The strategic mindset is the focus on the future and emerging issues that could impact the future. Making regular shifts from the transactional mindset to the strategic mindset is a critical condition to fostering strategic thinking in your organization.
We love to solve problems. It feels good. In many cases, companies exist to solve a specific problem. This passion for resolution can create a ‘get the job done’ culture and unintentionally close off the opportunity for strategic thinking. To foster deeper thinking and improve decisions, the problem-solving process should be suspended at times allowing for exploration of what could be. In other words, pausing allows you to expand your thinking to explore possible solutions to problems that may not have been on the table but could improve the position you want to hold in the future.
I do not mean constant ideation. Overly creative discussions can frustrate your team and reduce productivity, but to foster strategic thinking find ways to constructively open up the problem-solving process to ensure the best thinking is brought into it.
Sometimes the biggest obstacle to strategic thinking is YOU or the patterns you have developed over time. Changing old patterns and habits may involve big efforts, but I recommend a simpler approach. Rather than always reviewing and providing your expertise to the work product, stop and ask a question instead. Too often the transactional mindset and problem-solving process force a go-to person role on us. When engaged with your team, you feel that you have to be the answer person. Don’t; stop and ask a question to disrupt your thinking. This often results in that little gap needed for you to see something new AND important.
Exploring the broader context means simply acknowledging that you are not alone in the world – or more importantly – in your market. As you prepare your products and services to win in the marketplace, so do your competitors. So it’s important to not only be aware of what’s going on in your organization but also your competitors’. At least annually, take the time to explore fully the broader context in which you operate. This gives you the opportunity to innovate – to get ahead of the curve – instead of always playing catch-up.
Fostering or encouraging strategic thinking as a part of your company culture or your leadership practice is vital for long-term success fields. It helps you stay innovative and competitive to win in the marketplace not just today, but tomorrow as well.
Want to make strategic thinking a more integral part of your organization? We have classes, coaching and consulting to engage you and your team in strategic thinking to build forward focused companies designed to thrive in a changing world.