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Dragons to tame on your way to strategic thinking

strategic thinking

One feedback I often hear from my leaders is that I lack strategic thinking. I am not sure what exactly that means. I have strategies to realise my organisational goals. I am very reliable in execution. Still time and again this feedback emerges. What do I need to do to demonstrate strategic thinking?
                                       ~Senior Leader, Energy

The word 'strategy' used in different labels is often confusing.

While strategy means a plan of action/ game plan, it is used differently in different contexts.

Strategic planning process typically is an analytical break down of a vision into goals and arriving at a plan for realising it. Most leaders are comfortable with this process as most of their experience right from the first leadership role is aligned to help them do this well.

However one reaches a certain seniority level, the expectation is to "think" strategically.

In this context it means, blue sky thinking, thinking without constraints, synthesising, creative thinking, systemic thinking,etc to first define a compelling vision.

While strategic planning focusses on the "how", strategic thinking focuses on the "what".

More on it here.

So what are the dragons to tame on your way to strategic thinking?


1. Execution focus

Most of the mid-management roles involve 'execution focus'. It's also recognised and rewarded.

So leaders at this level are more focussed on "how" more than "what" as someone else decides the "what". The roles also involve focus on risk mitigation and navigating constraints.

This is the exact opposite of what we need in strategic thinking - blue sky without constraints and boundaries.

So focussing on "how" before the "what" does not allow us to think creatively or out of box or synthesise. So temporarily parking 'execution focus' when you need to think strategically is important to achieve progress.


2. Discomfort with white spaces

As a leader, one is expected to be on top of things, in a driver's seat and "know" things.

Strategic thinking requires one to be open to ambiguity, uncertainty and "not knowing".

This can be an uncomfortable experience for leaders who have the need to be in control.

Relinquishing control at least during the strategic thinking process is instrumental to make progress.

An observer perspective can definitely help.


3. Resisting chaos

Chaos is essential for structure to emerge.

Resisting chaos will make it worse.

It will lead to repetitive thought patterns which do not allow disruption/ break throughs.

Giving oneself permission to experience chaos and not try to correct it is important for strategic thinking.

What dragons do you have to tame for strategic thinking?

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