In recent years, the theory of strategic thinking has been gaining steam in the business world. While it follows the same outline as strategic planning, it differs in that it allows more flexibility, greater creativity, and more collaboration among multiple levels of management.
Essentially, strategic thinking is a method outlining the following:
- Understanding the implications of strategic actions
- Holding the past, present and future in mind in order to make effective decisions
- Focusing on the goal of the action with the intent of achieving it
- Combining critical and creative thinking to all decisions
- “Intelligent optimism,” the ability to respond to good opportunities
Each of these steps is categorized into the following 7 areas:
- Vision of the future
- Strategic formulation and implementation
- Managerial role in strategy making
- Managerial role in implementation
- Strategy Making
- Process and Outcome
Vision of the future: Only the shape of the future can be predicted. The past and present have already been set and cannot be changed.
Strategic formulation and implementation: Formulation and implementation are interactive rather than sequential and discrete. This is a more interactive way to strategize and involves multiple levels of managerial roles, providing creative input and potentially improving the results.
Managerial role in strategy making: Lower-level managers have a voice in strategy-making, as well as greater latitude to respond opportunistically to developing conditions. In the past, strategic thinking was generally reserved to closed-door meetings with upper management. This method employs feedback with lower-level management, who has direct contact with employees and clients.
Control: Relies on self-reference – a sense of strategic intent and purpose embedded in the minds of managers and employees throughout the organization that guides their choices on a daily basis in a process that is often difficult to measure and monitor from above. This empowers managers and employees to think strategically about their actions and resulting outcomes.
Managerial role in implementation: All managers understand the larger system, the connection between their roles and the functioning of that system, as well as the interdependence between the various roles that comprise the system. With an understanding, they will be able to recognize actions that support the system, and lead others to do the same.
Strategy making: Sees strategy and change as inescapably linked and assumes that finding new strategic options and implementing them successfully is harder and more important than evaluating them. This rule puts ideas into action and places the importance of the application rather than extensive and time-consuming evaluation before action. Change is happening all the time, so the time to implement the strategy is now – not later. So you can capitalize on the benefits.
Process and outcome: Sees the planning process itself as a critical value-adding element. As a business owner, you know the importance of planning, but getting there can sometimes seem tedious. The process is seen as a valuable piece, since it brings greater creativity and potential with its broader managerial scope.Whether you run a small business or a large corporation, strategic thinking can help your business run more efficiently and effectively. Here are five steps to implementing Strategic Thinking in your business.
Step #1This is the basis for all strategic thinking. If you don’t know where your business is going, how do you know what to do to get there? Write out a mission statement for your business – remember to think big! Businesses that achieve great success always have great visionaries behind them.
Step #2Once you’ve written your mission statement, you have the big picture. From there, create smaller milestones or goals that are very focused and specific. Be sure they include target dates. Your entire team should be on the same page in order to be in the highest probability position to achieve all the goals.
Step #3This takes a combination of building the right team, creating the right systems and documenting them, and delegating for optimal results. When your business runs at its optimal level, it’s easier to see the positive results of leverage.
Step #4This does not mean you should micro-manage, but you, as a leader, should always have an understanding of how the actions of your team affects the future of your business. Look for ways to keep the team focused on the goals. Come up with creative ideas for supporting them, which will help them to remain enthused and go the extra mile.
Step #5When you are prepared, you can take advantage of opportunities that your competition may not be ready to take. Support creative input from your team and teach them how to spot an opportunity that will create more opportunity and growth.Strategic Thinking is not a new way of thinking; many successful large organizations have used these practices to establish a clear and precise path on which to carry out their vision. It is essentially a critical thinking process in which all business details are written down in black and white, so that all team members work cooperatively to drive success in the most direct path with the least resistance. Applying Strategic Thinking practices to your small business will accelerate your success by allowing a crystal clear focus to drive daily tasks – for you and your team.
To download a complimentary sample of The Strategic Thinking Model that can help you apply being an even better strategic thinker, go to /strategic-thinking-model/.