With over 20 years of experience in strategic planning and business leadership, I have read a ton of material on strategic planning. In general, this material falls into two categories: 1) process manuals, or 2) concept definitions. The process manuals can be helpful if you have a great strategy and need to engage others in it. The concept definition materials are typically very academic; informative, but not useful for applying these concepts to your planning.
Even those few books that engage the reader in what I call “strategic thinking” fall short of really preparing you to lead your team confidently through a strategic planning process. It is this gap, the need to adequately prepare for the strategic planning process, that I wish to close with Strategic Focus: The Art of Strategic Thinking.
An essential skill for any current or up-and-coming leader, executive or manager.
My book, Strategic Focus was written for anyone who leads, participates in or thinks about the future of their organization. This includes entrepreneurs, CEOs and their executive teams, board chairs and their fellow board members, general managers, executive directors of non-profits, and line managers wanting to engage in powerful strategic thinking. Even if you don’t have a seat at the strategic planning table in your organization yet, this book will help you be more insightful and productive in your work efforts — and who knows, maybe your insights will be recognized and used to develop the next winning plan.
Know how to start.
In my experience, leaders don’t know how to start a strategy development process. In fact, the thought of opening up a discussion without a clear sense of where it might lead feels too unwieldy and potentially unproductive. Yuck! I can understand the reluctance but, if you don’t wade into the mucky waters of expanded thinking during a strategic planning effort, when will you?
In Strategic Focus, I have laid out the initial steps you need to take to increase your confidence in starting these discussions and infusing new thinking into your next planning meeting.
Evolve your thinking.
Teams that don’t engage in new thinking are doomed to retool old thinking then settle into familiar territory heavily weighted toward internal and operational problem-solving. These discussions produce incremental objectives and uninspiring plans. They miss the mark in stimulating the truly important conversations that would result in a significant evolution and marketplace momentum.
The approach I present to you in Strategic Focus: The Art of Strategic Thinking is rooted in the success stories of our clients prove this approach establishes the necessary, viewpoint that drives truly great strategy.
Without the outside-in approach, you are just conducting incremental planning — much like your annual budgeting, just with a few more years of projections.
Build a strong foundation.
It has taken me years to craft the four simple tools in Strategic Focus: The Art of Strategic Thinking. They were so natural to my way of thinking; it took quite a lot of work just to identify and codify them. Once codified, I tested them repeatedly and then, when writing this book, I reviewed our project archives and saw a version of them in every project. They are the basis of our strategy development for over 20 years.
To some, they may seem too simple, but I prefer to think of them as elegant. Elegant in the mathematical sense: of a scientific theory or solution to a problem; pleasingly ingenious and simple. The four simple exercises presented in Strategic Focus: The Art of Strategic Thinking are the basis on which strong, long-lasting strategic direction is built. Learn and use them to build a strong foundation of thinking for your next phase of growth.