Art and Science of Strategic Thinking

This is the first in a three part series relating to strategic thinking and its optimal process.

It’s a great thing, now and then, to question the things you have long taken for granted.” (Bertrand Russell).

The word “strategy” is derived from the Greek term “Strategos”, which means General. A Combat General’s basic responsibility is to position troops effectively before a battle begins. Strategy, in our definition, means arranging and aligning things to your best advantage, so you derive the most out of each tactical encounter as you compete in your selected market place.

The first step in utilizing strategic thinking is getting the proper mind set, that is, questioning your organization’s paradigms in business and in life.  What are paradigms? They are models, patterns, standards and examples.  They are beliefs and assumptions as to how the world works. Paradigms are often deeply engrained, reflecting pre-conceived notions. They greatly influence how we think about things, providing a narrowed view of reality.  At their best, paradigms give us a way of making sense of and finding order in our complex world – they help inform our thinking.  At their worst, paradigms preclude us from seeing things from a different perspective – they therefore block efficient strategic thinking.

What are the paradigms that exist within your organization? Look at what appears to be familiar within your company (“been there done that”) and think long and carefully to discover insights that differ from your familiar paradigms.  A large part of your firms’ success is  dependent upon your ability to devote ongoing attention to wide ranging and flexible thinking. Can you recall a situation in which flexible thinking enabled you and your work team to solve a complex organizational problem by looking at it in new ways?

 “We can out-act and out-compete only by out-thinking the competition”.

As business professionals who “live in the real world”, we feel pressure to be practical with not a lot of time dedicated to the theoretical, the conceptual, the abstract. It’s impossible, however, to be truly practical without entering the world of ideas, concepts and theories. On the other hand, business managers must always place a practical standard on theories, ideas, abstractions and thinking. We need to find/gain increased insight into the world, industry, and markets surrounding the business. We must better position ourselves to choose a future path that gives the business the best hope for a significant, competitive advantage.

Consider the following delusions which can derail progress in the evolution of your well thought out strategic thinking process:

  • Unsupported assumptions become false beliefs
  • Unspoken goals undermine stated goals
  • The concept that plans lead smoothly to execution
  • The expectation that plans will succeed as intended.

Further consider these specific delusions that undermine effective strategic thinking:

  • We have a Great Plan
  • We are Number One
  • We Own the Market
  • We have Already Changed
  • We know the Right Way
  • We need Just One Big Win
  • We have Consensus
  • We have to Make the Numbers
  • We have the Ducks Lined Up
  • We have The Necessary Processes
  • We Just Have to Execute
  • We Found Change Easy
  • We succeeded Just As We Planned

To preclude these delusions from entering in to your thinking process, ask yourself if your team:

  • Challenges commonly held assumptions
  • Establishes goals that really make a difference
  • Makes certain plans lead to actions
  • Expects the unexpected

Of the delusions cited, ask yourself which three ring true most often within your own organizational environment?

Next month’s follow-on segment focuses on the differences between Strategic Thinking vs Operational Thinking.

PACES, LLC has broad experience in helping organizations and teams run through this initial screening process – asking and answering the questions cited above in concert with our clients’ senior executives. PACES, LLC is the developer of highly successful mentoring and coaching programs as well as leadership and management development methodologies.  As many of you are planning and budgeting for your upcoming fiscal 2015 initiatives, we would be pleased to discuss with you how such impactful executive development sessions may be facilitated and customized to meet the unique needs of your company’s corporate culture and learning philosophy. Please contact us at info@pacesllc.com

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