Developing Your Strategic Thinking Skills

Many leaders today find themselves caught in the tactical here and now at the expense of time spent strategically thinking about the future and creating plans to ensure the organization thrives in the future environment.

Strategic thinking is the ability to visualize what might or could be, as well as take a day-to-day, strategic approach to issues and challenges. Strategic thinking skills include:

  • Anticipating future consequences and trends accurately
  • Having broad knowledge and perspective
  • Articulating credible pictures and visions of possibilities
  • Recognizing strategic opportunities
  • Creating competitive and breakthrough strategies and plans

Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad in their book, Competing for the Future, offer this “test” of strategic thinking skills. Check the box that best describes your point on view on each continuum.

How does our point of view about the future stack up against that of our competitors?

Conventional and Reactive Distinctive and Far-Sighted

 

Within the industry, do competitors view our company as more of a rule-maker or rule-taker?

Mostly a rule taker

Mostly a rule maker

What are we better at – improving operational efficiency or creating fundamentally new businesses?

Operational efficiency

Creating new businesses

To what extent has our transformation agenda been set up by competitors’ actions versus being set by our own unique vision of the future?

Largely driven by competitors

Largely driven by our vision

To what extent am I, as a senior manager, a maintenance engineer working on the present or an architect designing the future?

Mostly an engineer

Mostly an architect

Among employees, what is the balance between anxiety and hope?

Mostly anxiety

Mostly hope

If most of your checked boxes are in the middle or to the left, you may be stuck in analytical thinking about the past and/or present, and not devoting sufficient time to creating the future. If most of your checked boxes are on the right, chances are good that your strategic thinking skills are well developed and your company’s “headlights” are shining further out than those of your competitors.

What’s the difference between analytical and strategic thinking?

Analytical thinking

Strategic thinking

  • Breaks things into parts
  • Answers “how”
  • Assumes a mechanical view of the world
  • Is based in an appreciation for “control”
  • Connects parts to a whole
  • Answers “why”
  • Assumes a dynamic systems view of the world
  • Is based in an appreciation for “creation”

 

The Successful Manager’s Handbook offers these suggestions to further develop your strategic thinking skills:

  1. Stay abreast of the latest trends in your industry.
  2. Assess your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Get up to date on new developments and activities in other parts of your own organization.
  4. Brainstorm with your staff new ideas that could help your organization achieve competitive success.
  5. Spend time visualizing how your organization could increase its profit or market share.
  6. Periodically assess your group’s contribution to achieving corporate goals.
  7. Make it a habit to spend time with others you consider strategic thinkers.

 

 

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