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You Need To Think More Strategically

Leaders and managers at all levels need to think strategically from time to time, but how is it done. Is it the realm of the gifted big picture thinkers, the creative, the wise? There are things we can all do to improve our strategic thinking.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

In a coaching session earlier this week I was talking with a client about thinking strategically. Their challenge was that whilst they knew the various tools and frameworks and were prepared to gather information, they weren’t sure what todo next.   So what does it take to be a strategic thinker?  Well you don’t have to be a gifted bigpicture thinker, highly intuitive or the keeper of all information.  There are some simple techniques you can useso here are my key tips:

Gather information You can’t think strategically if you live in a cocoon so read broadly.  This means reading industry and professional magazines as well as reading outside your industry.   Network with people who can help give you ideas.  Get to know people inside and outside of your organisation.  Join a professional association and attend information seminars. Your network could also include people from your university alumni,school friends, sporting clubs or your children’s school Parents Association.  You’ll be surprised who can help you with a work problem (but remember networking is reciprocal). 

Look for precedents that have been set in the past.  Though used previously, they may be relevant to your current situation.

Tools and Frameworks As they say, there’s nothing so practical as a good theory.  To analyse the data you have gathered learn about and use some of the analytical tools such as SWOT, PESTEL,Porter’s Five Forces, Force-field Analysis, McKinsey’s 7-S, Brain storming, Mindmap and Benchmarking.

Most importantly – know the questions to ask One thing I admire in people who seem to be gifted thinkers is they know what questions to ask.  Two people can be provided with the same data but those who ask the right questions will put the data to better use.   Who, what, when, where, how, why, tell me more, so what, how does this impact this or that, what will this mean for our future goals, how will my team contribute?   Ask lots of questions and consider their context over the next 3 to 5 years.   Keep a log of the questions you ask and refer back to the insightful ones.

Find a role model We learn so much from others, so if you know someone whom you admire for their strategic thinking talk with them about how they do it –get inside their head and find out what process they follow, what they thought when they were presented with specific information and what questions they ask.

If you would like more information on strategic thinking or related topics, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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