Be a strategist at all levels | Sunday Observer

Be a strategist at all levels

If you’ve ever received feedback that you “need to be more strategic,” you know how frustrating it can feel. To add insult to injury, the feedback rarely comes with any concrete substance or guidance on what to do about it.

What specific steps can you take to be more strategic in your current role? Start by changing your mindset. If you believed that strategic thinking is only for senior executives, think again.

It can, and must, happen at every level of the organisation; it’s one of those unwritten parts of all job descriptions. Ignore this fact and you risk getting passed over for a promotion. When you’ve accepted that it’s part of your job, focus on developing the abilities that demonstrate your strategic prowess.

Strategy

‘Being strategic’ requires a sense of confidence in one’s decision-making process which cannot be founded on 100% proof of concept. ‘Being strategic’ means being perceptive, future-oriented, open-minded, proactive, working off the front-foot, and making and taking decisions based on evidence and calculated hunches to achieve your goal.

To be strategic, you need a solid understanding of the macro environment you operate in, your industry, business, competition, market trends, and business drivers. An intellectual appreciation of the importance of bringing in current data and seeking trends isn’t enough.

Make it a routine exercise to explore and synthesize the internal trends in your day-to-day work. Be proactive about connecting with peers both in your organisation and in your industry to understand their observations of the marketplace. Then, share your findings across your network. Understand the unique information and perspective that your function provides and define its impact on the corporate level strategy.

With a fresh understanding of trends and issues, you can practice using strategic thinking by asking yourself, “How do I broaden what I consider?”

Questions are the language of strategy. Push yourself to ramp up your perspective by developing your assessment and analytical skills. By becoming more curious, and looking at information from different points of view, reduce your myopia and see different possibilities, different approaches, and different potential outcomes.

Strategic thinkers also know how to speak the language most effectively. They prioritise and sequence their thoughts. They structure their verbal and written communication in a way that helps their audience focus on their core message. They challenge the status quo and get people talking about underlying assumptions. Those that are really skilled walk people through the process of identifying issues, shaping common understanding, and framing strategic choices.

 

Curiosity

The quest to build your strategic skills can be uncomfortable. At first, you might feel like you’re kicking up sand in the ocean. Your vision will be blurred as you manage through the unsettling feelings that comes with challenging your own assumptions and gaining comfort with conflict and curiosity.

Strategic thinking and curiosity go hand in hand. After all, the more ideas and experiences we’re exposed to, the more material we have to make connections with. Thinking more strategically is also to discuss your ideas with different people.

And this becomes exponentially more valuable when you discuss your ideas with people who think differently to you. That’s because you won’t simply be increasing the pool of ideas and points of view on a topic, you’ll also be given the chance to look at problems in a different way. Strategy isn’t only about thinking; it’s also about executing.

After you’ve started generating ideas and making connections between them, you’ll have to start making decisions about what to do next.

And, because we’re all limited by time, money and resources, usually that means prioritising. It’s about building a framework that future-proofs your business, makes you a better manager and leader and gives you the best chance of achieving long-term success as an individual.

 

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