Friday, November 8, 2013

Strategic Mindset

The capability to "think strategically" is more a talent than a skill.

Strategic Thinking is defined as a mental or thinking process applied by an individual in the context of achieving success in a game or other endeavors. When applied in a Strategic Management process, Strategic Thinking involves the generation and application of unique business insights and opportunities intended to create customer bonding and competitive advantage for an organization. Statistically, only five percent of the human population is nature strategic thinkers. Strategic Thinking is the combination of five thinking process & Know-How:

1. Predictive Thinking 

It is a combination of Imagination, Numerical Thinking, and Memory:

Start with the end in mind: The biggest mind-shift in moving from operational to strategic thinking is switching from focusing on activities and solutions to thinking about outcomes. Outcomes are positive changes to a business. If you start all of your conversations with the outcome (is our revenue growing, are our customers happy, is our market share increasing, etc.) you will start thinking more strategically.

Look through Customers’ Lenses: Getting in the habit of constantly looking at the business through the lens of a target customer might help with this. Managers get so focused on internal components and forget about the reason a business exists in the first place. That is to create value for customers, so it is very easy for an organization to become inwardly focused and fall into an operational mindset. The day to day struggles of running an organization can become all consuming.

Strategic thinking means change: It is not easy but, you need to explicitly carve out quality time from everyone's busy schedule to take a hard look at external forces, have meaningful dialog about how these forces are going to impact your business if they are not addressed and build consensus about what you are going to do about it. Strategic thinking means change and people don't like change. Only when the present circumstances are clearly seen as unsustainable, will you be able to overcome people's resistance to change and sustain action over an extended period of time.

2. Critical Thinking 

It is reflective reasoning about beliefs and actions: Establishing the strategic discipline based on critical reasoning will get people to move their thinking from operation to strategy and will get the whole organization to understand the importance of strategy over the operation or, at least, become aware of what is one, what is the other and what is a stake when compromising: 
1) Identify your most critical assumptions. For each one do a worst case, best guess and best case situation - see how that might influence your strategy.
(2) Understand the critical success factors
(3) understand the barriers to execution;
(4) Identify measures of success which are sensitive enough to quickly tell you if things are running.

3. Creative Thinking 

It is simply openness to finding connections between experiences, people, things, ideas, etc., and making literally or figuratively something new from those insights. Creative thinking is the way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions. Thus, creativity is the key ingredient in strategic thinking.

Creative thinking starts with a big "WHY": Start focusing on why the tasks are necessary. When you begin looking at WHYs, benchmarks can be set for the improvement activities of the future. You will also drive greater innovation and change since you will find that you have more options available to solve your problems

4.  Reflective Thinking  

It's consciousness or sub-consciousness about who you are and what you are doing; from business perspective, it is also a part of the critical thinking process referring specifically to the processes of analyzing and making judgments about what has happened

Apply two schools of the thinking at sync: Reflective thinking & predictive thinking; on one side: How does this action help compete to win today? On the other side: How will this action help compete and win going forward? If both sides can be filled this is a GO!, if only one of the two sides can be filled, this action requires a broader discussion because either the action is not aligned with the strategy of the company but worth doing because it is a tactical activity to drive short-term results or just not to be done because it dilutes the equity of the brand the company wants to build and therefore potentially toxic. 

5. Systems Thinking 

It has been defined as an integral approach to problem-solving, by viewing "problems" as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific part, look at the business from an integral perspective rather attempting to understand it from a sum of the parts, understand how the parts fit as in sub-systems. However, the over-arching goal is to design an effective system rather than economical parts. A good strategy is always to set up choices and ensure business as a whole is more optimal than the sum of pieces.

The capability to "think strategically" is more a talent than a skill. One can be taught tips and techniques - ensure the right questions are being asked, correct methodologies used, but, in the end, the best "strategic thinkers" have a knack that others just don't seem to have. 

Strategic Thinkers are the rare ones. They are the evangelists for change and opportunity. Strategic thinkers also, have one more characteristic - "wisdom" - they have reflected on the past, seen/identified patterns and effects and underlying causes of those effects, understand linkages and are able to get to the bottom line - what's most important in terms of where to focus.


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