Has anyone told you to “think strategically”? If so, do you know what that means? It sounds fantastic, even sophisticated. But, do you know how to think strategically?
Generally speaking, you probably know that strategic thinking involves looking at the big picture. It probably also involves strategy, right? Other than that, you might feel stuck when the time comes to be more strategic. The following tips might help.
How to think strategically
First, I want you to know that strategic thinking is important at every level. Even if you don’t own a business, strategic thinking should be an essential part of your job. As a matter of fact, strategic thinking has value. It can help regardless of what you do.
From housekeeping to hobbies, to making international deals, you can enhance your performance by making strategic thinking one of your habits. Here’s how.
Pay attention to trends
You have a lot of work to do. Consequently, you often get focused on the day-to-day operation of your business. Although you can’t ignore what’s happening now, you also need to notice what’s happening around you.
What trends are happening inside your business? Is your quality going up? How about your productivity? If so, you need to know that. But, what if your business is headed in a disturbing direction? You need to know that also.
For example, if you stay focused at a transactional level, you might think that you need to hire additional staff. In reality, you may actually need to streamline your internal processes to optimize the use of your existing human resources.
Similarly, monitor the external trends that are impacting your business. These could involve everything from a changing economy to an evolving labor pool.
Don’t forget that consumer behavior is always changing, so you need to know how to adapt and stay relevant.
As time passes, new competitors emerge, your customers face new challenges, and technology becomes obsolete. So, tactics that worked yesterday might fail today.
As you pay attention to trends, develop some new habits:
- Stay alert for issues that repeatedly affect your business.
- Put yourself in your employees’ and customers’ shoes to identify potential problems.
- Stay connected with peers in your industry and occupation. They might notice things that you don’t.
- Be a team player. Share what you know with others to encourage reciprocity.
- Always review your overarching business strategy to ensure it can withstand emerging trends.
Ask hard questions
Part of thinking strategically involves asking better questions, especially those that might seem difficult or feel uncomfortable.
For the most part, questions should comprise your strategic language.
Force yourself to become more curious. Stay alert for the preconceptions, biases, and wishful thinking that often torpedo small businesses. Think outside the box.
Even when alternatives perspectives, possibilities, approaches, and outcomes seem radical, they can expand the capabilities of your mind and lead you into fantastic opportunities.
Don’t let me fool you. Many of the tough questions you need to ask aren’t nearly as thrilling:
What does success look like? After one year? After two years? Three? Do you even want to have the same business after three years?
Likewise, how do you define failure? What are the early warning signs of failure that should trigger remedial action?
What do you have to do to get your employees, investors, suppliers, and other stakeholders to understand their role in your success?
Always ask tough questions before starting a new project or venture to improve your focus and the engagement of others.
If you want to be strategic, talk strategically.
- Give yourself and others confidence and inspiration by speaking the language of strategy:
- Intentionally prioritize your thoughts.
- Focus your spoken and written words on your core message.
- Challenge the status quo.
- Discuss underlying assumptions.
Guide people through the processes of articulating issues, building consensus, and brainstorming solutions.
I know. This sounds easier than it is. Still, you can start now.
Stipulate your main points in as few words as possible.
Prepare your audience by letting them know that you’re going to talk on a higher level than just mundane details.
Consider your language as a way to create a reputation as a strategic thinker.
Do I really need to mention that a big part of thinking strategic thinking is thinking? Maybe.
You probably have a lot going on. Many days consist of one meeting after another. Other days require you to fight fires just to keep your business open until the next day.
Make time to think.
Stop going to so many meetings. save blocks of time on your calendar for thinking. And, follow through.
You might not feel as though you’re working as you sit at your desk thinking but you are.
Don’t feel threatened every time somebody disagrees with you. Don’t shut people down when they have ideas that contradict yours. Instead, embrace conflict. Invite debate. Stop taking things personally.
As you converse with your team, clients, investors, and audiences focus on the issues. Stay neutral about personal differences. Let ideas, not people, challenge your thinking.
Most importantly, set practical criteria for making decisions.
As you learn how to think strategically, you may feel some discomfort. Also, you might feel as though you’re not achieving anything important. Don’t worry.
Sure, by elevating your thinking to a higher level, you’re taking some risks. However, if you stay committed, you will reap substantial long-term rewards.
The above tips should help you understand how to think strategically. As you make strategic thinking a part of your daily routine, career, and life, stay alert for other nuggets that can help you become a business owner and person.
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