How To Practice Advanced Strategic Thinking Daily
There are three disciplines of advanced strategic thinking that provide leaders with new concepts to change mindsets and practical tools to enhance behaviors so that they are maximizing their strategic leadership potential. The fact that the framework elements are referred to as “disciplines” means that it takes time, effort and commitment to master them.
The adrenaline rush that comes from scrambling to another urgent but unimportant issue is addicting and much more exciting than spending 30 quiet minutes thinking about the business. But it’s these types of decisions that create your patterns of thinking and behavior. It’s the discipline, or lack of discipline, that can make or break your career and determine the success or failure of your business.
Discipline #1: Coalesce
Strategic thinking is the ability to generate insights that lead to competitive advantage. Using the lens of new value on the ideas, projects, initiatives and tactics proposed each day provides a powerful filter for eliminating meaningless activities. It forces you to more closely examine why things are being proposed and pursued instead of just what is to be done.
Advanced strategic thinking requires not only the insights generated but the ability to coalesce these insights into meaningful differentiated value. Coalesce means to bring together, and we see this skill evident in great strategies and the strategists who have devised them.
Discipline #2: Compete
To compete means to strive toward a goal. In attempting to reach the goal, we strive with others seeking that same goal, which supplies the motivational catalyst for us to try harder. Research shows that in the arts, athletics and academics, the act of competing helps most people perform at a higher level. This motivational aspect of competition is even stronger when people know that they are just slightly behind those they are competing with. Winning in any endeavor is often a result of competing to one’s maximum potential.
A leader is a company, product or service that has market leadership and is in the position of protecting the business they have while looking for new, profitable growth. A challenger actively seeks ways to increase brand awareness and expand business. A spectator is a “me-too” type that operates in either a constantly reactive or mind-numbingly passive way. The goals and strategies you set can be conditional, depending on which of these positions you find yourself in.
Discipline #3: Champion
To effectively champion a group’s strategic direction could very well mean the difference between success or bankruptcy and employment or unemployment for thousands of people. Developing a strong strategy means that you’ve made trade-off s, and trade-offs mean that some of your potential customers aren’t going to be happy.
While we know good strategy is not going to please all potential external customers, what’s often overlooked is that good strategy is also going to upset some of your internal customers as well. Moving resources (time, people and budget) from one area to another is sure to stir up emotions as some people will see the changes as hurting their ability to run their part of the business. Therefore, any good strategy will come under attack internally because of the changes it causes.
And when the strategy comes under attack, you’ll need to defend or champion it. In championing the strategy, a disciplined approach to managing time, influencing others, and continually developing new skills will be critical to success.
Practicing Advanced Strategic Thinking
Once you’ve identified the behaviors that will have the most impact on the success of your business, it’s important to give your people an opportunity to practice them on a regular basis. In order to effectively develop a new behavior, it’s helpful to break the behavior down into its component pieces, practice those pieces individually, and then practice those pieces together. When practicing the individual pieces, it’s more effective to do so slowly, allowing for mistakes and then correcting those mistakes as you go.
A skill deteriorates if the primary circuits comprising the activities in a particular behavior are not used for 30 days. If you’re not dedicating time at least monthly to questions and frameworks to think strategically about the business, then you will not be strategic.
Leaders have the opportunity to practice key behaviors and hone and develop their people’s skills during their daily interactions. Opportunities for shaping how your managers practice include one-to-one conversations, customer visits and staff meetings. Monthly strategy dialogues and workshops can be highly formative experiences that raise everyone’s performance. As these situations arise, there are three practice principles that can guide your instruction.
Practice Principle #1: Begin with the Goal. Each practice needs to have at least one goal to work toward. Once the goals have been identified prior to the practice, the activities that build toward the goals can be chosen.
Practice Principle #2: Break the Whole into Pieces. Once a manager has a goal to practice, the next step is to break that behavior into its individual pieces. Mastery is then demonstrated when the manager can seamlessly weave together the individual elements of the behavior into its whole.
Practice Principle #3: Correct with a Solution. The correction provides specific, concrete direction on how to improve and then gives the person a chance to enact the feedback immediately.