Strategic Thinking is the hard stuff of business.
If you are looking for a few ideas to strengthen your strategic thinking, sharpen your ability to see new solutions, think more critically, and be more analytical to help impact your business’s growth and competitiveness, then keep reading.
Strategic thinking is critical for all organizations since it charts the path between the present and the future and helps leaders shift their focus from short-term execution to the longer-term needs of the organization. For this reason, strategic thinking skills are highly desirable and worthy of improvement through learning, study, and practice.
“Knowing the name of something doesn’t mean you understand it.”
The Skills of Strategic Thinking
Strategic thinking integrates analytical skills, problem-solving skills, creative skills, communication skills, along with management skills. These skills can tremendously impact a business’s trajectory, growth, and competitiveness in the marketplace. These skills are essential, allowing a business to achieve its objectives, overcome obstacles, and address challenges it faces in the markets.
- Analytical skills: A strategy starts by understanding objective data from your business, markets, and stakeholders. These inputs include financial statements, KPIs, industry trends, market conditions, and vendor and stakeholder perspectives. This step helps define the current reality facing your business.
- Problem-solving skills: Strategic planning is often used to solve problems or address challenges, such as missed financial targets, inefficient workflows, or an emerging competitor. Implementing a strategy addressing your central challenge requires understanding the problem and its potential solutions. From there, you can craft a strategy that solves it.
“A real strategy is a coherent mix of policy and action designed to overcome a significant challenge”
Richard P. Rumelt
- Creative Skills: An excellent strategist can integrate data analysis with problems and challenges to generate new approaches and ideas. Developing your competitive advantage requires understanding your firm’s unique resources and capabilities and leveraging them in new ways not previously available in the market. These new approaches require one to see “between, around, and through” the obvious to find a new path forward.
- Communication skills: Implementing a strategy for your company requires exceptional communication skills. Strategy can appear complex making it essential that all stakeholders understand and are aligned, so everyone works toward the same goals and objectives. Building teamwork, consensus, and collaboration make communication critical to strategic success.
- Management skills: Strategy isn’t just about thinking of solutions; it requires action to achieve results. Once data has been analyzed, the problem is understood, and a solution has been created and communicated, you need strong management skills to bring everything together.
With the core Strategic Skills outlined, let’s work on improving them. The good news, like any skill, your strategic thinking skills can improve with focus and practice.
TO IMPROVE YOUR STRATEGIC THINKING SKILLS…try the following.
- Ask the hard questions. To improve your strategic thinking skills, ask more challenging questions. These questions can relate to products, markets, management, or any question that points to adding value for the customer. Doing so allows you to become adept at spotting opportunities, and exploiting opportunities is what strategy does.
- Observe and analyze. Use Reality Testing to see things as they are rather than how you would like them to be. One of the most effective ways of accomplishing this is to observe and reflect on your current situation, ensuring any strategy you conceive is objective and grounded by facts.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
- Play the Devil’s Advocate. Before implementation, your strategy requires thorough analysis, evaluation, and testing to ensure other possibilities are noticed. Play the Devil’s Advocate with your ideas, assertions, and analysis will make any weaknesses or shortcomings evident. You need to be able to defend your strategy when questioned by others. Defending your strategy against other Team members further hones your thinking and logic, helping you better communicate and execute the strategy. Considering opposing ideas, perspectives and opinions further enhances your strategic thinking skills by forcing you to step back and look at the short and long-term views.
- Always keep learning. The body of knowledge related to strategy is massive. Learn from your work and the experiences of others, as well as books, references, journals, society memberships, presentations, and conferences. Be committed to constant learning and self-improvement.
Strategic thinking is essential for business today, regardless of your role or industry. Remember, you can practice these skills in your daily life as well. Try exercising these skills as you plan and face challenges in your own life. Finding an effective solution or alternative will be easier.