As the end of the year approaches, many boards turn their minds to the strategic planning for the next twelve months. It is now considered essential for the board members to think strategically and oversee strategic planning.
Strategic thinking focuses on finding and developing unique opportunities to create value by enabling a proactive and creative dialogue among people who can affect an organization’s direction. Good strategic thinking encounters potential opportunities for creating value and challenges assumptions about an organization’s value proposition, so that when the strategic plan is created, it targets these opportunities. Strategic thinking is a way of understanding the fundamental drivers of a business and challenging conventional thinking about them. It is meant to have an awareness of what has not yet taken shape, yet having a foresight.
It can be difficult to be strategic. However, a strategic thinker is always looking for something distinctive that uplifts the business and sets assumptions aside. They intentionally look at things from different perspectives and can resist the urge to let one decision forecast future decisions. An individual who has strategic perspective creates clarity out of commonly complex details. They can feel winds of change, sense points of conflict and opportunity and articulate in concrete terms how these issues can be addressed. They have the ability to get to the core of a problem and analyse the relationship between key elements.
Here are four key abilities that can help you develop a strategic prowess.
Know: Observe and Seek Trends
It is essential to observe both internal and external trends to give an edge to one’s job and getting it done. These business trends highlight key information that can help the individual focus, prioritize and be proactive in addressing talent issues for his or her fast growing organization. In order to be strategic, one needs a solid understanding of the industry context, trends, and business drivers. It should be routine for individuals to explore and synthesize the internal trends in their everyday work. Individuals should also be proactive about connecting and networking with their peers and people in the industry to understand their observations within the business market. Networking also contributes in getting to know about new opportunities and how to implement them in the organization. Additionally, understanding the unique information and perspective that the job function provides helps the individual define its impact on the corporate strategy.
Think: Ask the Tough Questions
Questions are the language of strategy. With a fresh understanding of trends and issues, one can practice using strategic thinking by asking questions to themselves like – “How do I broaden my horizon and extend my perspective to excel in my job?” By ramping up one’s perspective-taking and inquiry skills, individuals can view varied possibilities, different approaches and a gamut of potential outcomes. By developing strategic inquiry skills, individuals can engage with their colleagues and supervisors better in the initial stages of a project which could in turn be beneficial for both the individual as well as the project delivery.
Speak: Sound Strategic
Strategic thinkers also know how to speak the language. Prioritizing and sequencing their thoughts can help individuals to structure their written and verbal communication such that their core message is delivered effectively. They challenge the state of things within the organization and question the underlying assumptions. Those that are really skilled, guide others through the process of identifying issues, shaping common understanding and framing strategic choices. Hence, to hone their strategic skills, individuals should focus on structuring written and verbal communication. This will help them to logically present their main points and keep things as concise as possible.
Act: Make Time for Thinking and Embrace Conflict
Individuals may find it difficult to contribute strategically without the time to reflect on the issues and to ponder upon options. Evaluating one’s tasks based on urgency and importance lets them block out thinking time on the calendar and honour it. Practicing other key skills also helps in the process. Indulging in debates and inviting challenges without getting personal helps in asking tough questions which in return will provide insight. To do this, individuals should focus on issues, and use neutral peers to challenge their thinking. To manage the inevitable ambiguity that arises when one asks more questions, individuals should also learn to clarify their decision-making criteria, allowing them to better act in the face of imperfect information.
The quest to build one’s strategic skills can be quite uncomfortable. Challenging one’s own assumption s can take a toll and leave them with unsettling feelings. Once the dust is settled however, individuals will gain comfort with conflict and curiosity and they will be able to contribute at a higher level.