March  2013     Edition 89
Strategic Thinking - Two must have conversations

“How do we get our people to think more strategically?"

is a HeadScratcher we often encounter.    When we're asked this question we setup two conversations.

The first conversation starts with "Why?"

   Why do you want people to think more strategically?   We ask this question because many times it is assumed that thinking strategically is the answer to some problem ... and it may be, but first understand the problem you are trying to solve before assuming that Strategic Thinking will solve it.   We ask, "What is it that you want people to accomplish, that they are not accomplishing, that strategic thinking will solve?".

Pause ... at this time, we introduce the second conversation;

The second conversation starts with "What is Strategic Thinking?"

  We ask this question because there are many definitions for strategic thinking , and it's usually defined by the result that people are looking for (i.e. back to conversation #1).

For the sake of keeping this Thinking Tip short, we'll concentrate on the second conversation, "What is Strategic Thinking?"   This comes in a few forms;  there's the everyday strategic thinking and then there's strategic goals and strategic planning. 

Let's focus on "Everyday Strategic Thinking"

.   We define this as follows: 
Strategic Thinking is Critically Thinking about how the work you are performing, about to perform, or planning to perform is consistent with the goals that have been defined and the work of others related to those goals.   

For example;

If you're in customer care, are you treating the customer consistent with the goals of how customers should be treated?   Are you thinking about the possibility that the words you use with that customer will end up on facebook and twitter?   Is the strategy of customer retention, keep customers at all costs, or keep customers with "reasonable" responses?   How does what you do impact sales or finance?

In sales, strategic thinking might mean how you might view a particular customer, perhaps as a tactical sale, or perhaps as a long term opportunity.  You might bring in marketing and finance and together, as a team, present the value of your company to that customer, bringing the conversations well beyond just a price dialog. 

If you're on an assembly line, and there's an issue, it might mean understanding how that issue will affect customer satisfaction, not just about how it might affect the production count.

If you're a stock clerk, it might mean thinking beyond just keeping the shelves stocked with product, but how your experience might help those in the back office who are trying to forecast inventory.

The Takeaway:
  Strategic Thinking isn't a goal, but a tool to get to a goal.  As a tool, when thinking about issues or performing tasks, you're thinking beyond just the specific result you are looking for, but how your actions impact others, including the impact on the goals of the department and company.

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