Last month, I ran a one-day workshop for senior leaders at a multinational organisation. One of the common themes that came up when we were establishing the ground rules for the session was the sense of “busyness” in the group. Many participants mentioned how “busy” they were and how it was not an ideal time for a full day workshop. Nevertheless, the workshop went very well and the level of input and engagement from the participants was high.
As a follow-up, I was debriefing the workshop with the participants yesterday. Their feedback about the session and its impact has been very insightful.
The Benefits of Strategic Thinking
One participant said she appreciated the time and space the session provided in order for her to slow down, think and reflect. She was able to move out of her “tactics” mindset and think more strategically. Another participant mentioned that he was able to step into a more strategic mindset and use the time to think about frameworks that will find alignment with everyone in his team. Others shared similar experiences. Participants realised that they were actually being busy for “busyness” sake, whereas what they were missing was the necessary time and space for valuable strategic thinking and consequently future planning. This is a key aspect of leadership.
As Henry David Thoreau wisely stated, “It is not enough to be busy… the question is: what are we busy about?” Strategic thinking examines and challenges the assumptions that exist around an organisation’s value proposition. It focuses on finding and developing unique opportunities to create value for an organisation. Being a strategic thinker can be difficult, but allocating time for the process is a crucial first step.
Strategic thinking is not only reserved for senior executives, it can, and should, happen at every level of an organisation. The important step is to accept that strategic thinking is part of your job and begin to focus on developing your abilities. Here are a few techniques to help you become a better strategic thinker:
Make a commitment to slow down and do some focused thinking. One easy way to do this is to schedule a time every day or week to simply spend time thinking. It doesn’t have to be at work; it could be driving to work or going for a walk at lunch.
Broaden your horizons
Strategic thinking and curiosity are intrinsically linked. The more ideas and experiences you have, the more insights and connections you can make. Try to read about new ideas or new opinions, or explore new places to help stimulate the mind.
Step into others’ shoes
Discuss your ideas with other people. This is valuable because most likely the people around you think differently from you and can provide alternative perspectives to your ideas. Clients and customers also serve as a good source of inspiration for new ways of thinking.
The more strategic minds generating ideas in an organisation, the better. One effective way to encourage staff to think strategically is to incorporate strategic thinking into their training and/or performance development plans.
Strategy is not just about thinking, it is also about executing. Generating ideas is valuable, but it can go to waste if a decision is not make about what to do with them. This is where budgeting, time, money, resources, and prioritising come into focus.
Strategic thinking will make you a better leader. However, the ultimate value of strategic thinking is that it is looking out for the future of your organisation and its long-term success.