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How to shift from operational thinking to strategic thinking?

operational thinking

I just got promoted to a senior role and I am facing flak for excessive operational orientation. I am being asked to shift my thinking from operations towards strategy. I have some frameworks in mind but I really don't know if they would be enough. How do I change my thinking process in line with my role requirements?

					~ Senior Leader, Technology

Sometimes, a simple feedback can look unsurmountable, as the path to address it is unclear.

The conditioned mind does not like non-linearity. It does not appreciate the "unknown".

When confronted with both, it becomes restless and confused.

When we overcome the illusion covering 'strategic thinking', its a simple shift.

I talked about the dragons to tame on your way to strategic thinking here. It explains the difference between strategic planning & strategic thinking, an important difference to know to graduate from operational orientation to strategic orientation.

So how to shift from operational thinking to strategic thinking?

In their book titled, "Book of Why", Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie talk about the ladder of causation as

Sensing/Observing --> Doing --> Imagining
This will involve graduating as follows
Association -->Intervention -->Counterfactuals*

When one wants to shift from operational thinking to strategic thinking, the shift is on the same lines from Spectator --> Executor --> Imaginator.

What can one do to make this shift?

empty canvas
  1. Look for the empty canvas

When given a context where you need to think strategically, empty everything you know about it and define

  • Problem Statement (or)

  • Potential Statement

Its akin to start painting on an empty canvas instead of trying to alter an existing one.

Definition of the above could be a good starting point as it brings clarity to the direction that one needs to progress towards.

Questions to ask

  • What problem(s) are we solving here?

  • What possibility exists here?

  • What wants to happen here?

  • What is the gift/opportunity here?

what if

2. Elevate the 'what if' thinking

With Counterfactuals*, the what-if has to shift from tangible to the intangible. Eg:

  • What if I keep the quantity constant and increase the price? (Still working with current observable constraints)

  • What do I have to do to maintain my sales volume constant, if I increase the price? (Action orientation to potential outcome)

  • What kind of a product will the customer be willing to spend on to satisfy this need? (Defining the problem / potential statement)

  • What if we stopped what we are doing for next 3 months? (Potential)


3. Learn unrelated domains

To stimulate lateral thinking, engaging in activities not related to our core work is important.

That creates a Just noticeable difference for the brain to generate alternatives not possible by linear thinking in a certain domain. This will directly feed into creating a blank canvas as well as connecting the dots.

In order to improve strategic thinking pick a hobby/ reading/ activity in an area unrelated to your core work.

What will you do to shift from operational thinking to strategic thinking?

#executivecoaching #strategicthinking #coaching #leadershipcoaching

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