Strategic thinking is nothing more than a rational and intentional thought process which focuses on the study of various factors and components that will impact the future success of an organization, a group, or even an individual. Strategic thinking consists of deliberate and careful anticipation of vulnerabilities and threats to shield against and opportunities to take advantage of. For example, if the organization discovers that a new product that solves a problem in their market has substantial market share, the company can adopt a “new strategy” to overcome this weakness by creating a different product, or by improving upon the existing product, or by finding a way to make the old product work better. The same strategy could be applied to finding new customers.
By contrast, if the current “strategy” is producing only mediocre results and sales are stagnant or falling, then the company should change course, but not necessarily the approach they have adopted. They may still find the best opportunity to solve their customer’s problems by developing a new product, technology, or feature, but they should not give up their current strategies which are producing mediocre or worse results. In fact, the best opportunity for the company may lie in completely pivoting their strategic thinking away from the problem-solving goal of sales and marketing and towards a new concept of value creation through innovation and strategic thinking.
How then does one move from strategic thinking to strategic management? The best strategy is the one that is grounded in core values and is designed to improve an organization through creativity and change. It should take into consideration what key personnel and operational areas will be affected by any strategic management decisions made, and how these decisions will affect the long term strategic objectives of the organization. A successful strategy will also use contingency planning as part of its execution to ensure that the objectives of the strategic planning is not sacrificed in the process. To achieve success in strategic management, the right strategy must first be defined.
Strategic thinking requires not only the ability to make smart strategic decisions, but it requires a discipline in its execution. It is the planning of a strategic plan that lays out the details of what should be done and how it will be done. Without the discipline, the execution becomes haphazard and even destructive. A common mistake made by those who are implementing a new strategy is to expect the desired results from the very first decision they make in implementing a strategy. This expectation can lead to poor decisions and implementation disaster.
In order to get the best chance at developing and implementing a better strategic thinking plan, managers need to begin the process of defining the desired results before they begin. The best possible strategy will only be implemented if the company defines what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. If these questions are not answered before making a strategic decision, the best chance for having the best results is to implement the strategy and hope for the best. If a plan is defined and communicated clearly to all employees, this process will also help to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of the company’s goals and practices.
Effective decision making is dependent upon accurate information and accurate analysis. This is why many companies have put effort into hiring the best strategic planning and strategic thinking experts. However, because of the increased competition for these highly skilled professionals, some companies are falling victim to the competition by paying too much money for their strategic thinking “experts”. When you pay good money for a strategic thinking expert, make sure you get one that is truly knowledgeable and not just someone who claims to know more than he actually does. You want an experienced professional who will understand the strategic planning framework as well as the processes involved so that he can provide you with accurate analysis and give advice based on his experience.
The best strategic planning always starts with an effective and clearly defined strategic plan. Once a detailed strategic plan is developed and implemented, employees know exactly what direction the company is going and on what path they need to go to achieve that goal. The most successful companies in the world have a very clear and concise strategic planning process. The key to developing an effective and comprehensive strategic planning process is communication.
Communication is critical to the success of any company, organization or business. When you are communicating with your strategic planning team, make sure you clearly define your needs and clarify expectations. The more transparency you can show, the more accurate and honest your discussions will be. Effective strategic management requires that the decision-making process involves all employees in the organization and not just a few select individuals.