Strategies are the center of any business. Without a clear strategy, it is really difficult for any company, big or small, to stay relevant and profitable as competition might get ahead. For this reason, it is extremely important to have a strategic vision. However, in order to develop this skill, it is necessary to properly analyze your business’ actions as well as the actions from the industry you are working in. This information will help you understand the situation in the industry and align your long-term business goals accordingly.
However, this is easier said than done. Strategic thinking is a difficult skill to master as it requires developing a curious and analytical mindset rather than traditional learning techniques such as memorization or repetition. Nevertheless, attaining a strategic vision is not impossible and with some work, anyone can develop it and start focusing on their personal or professional long-term goals rather than directing their efforts at problem-solving or tactical responses.
Having said this, why is it so important for you to develop this skill? As we mentioned before, it is crucial to think in a strategic way in order to be able to set successful long-term goals for your business and personal life. It is a quality found in the most effective leaders all over the world, which not only makes it a great asset for your professional career but also allows you to better understand your environment and the players in it. According to a 2013 study made by the Management Research Group where the leadership skills of over 60 thousand managers and executives were analyzed, it was concluded that a strategic approach was perceived 10 times more important than other behaviors such as effective communication or hands-on approach.
The importance of strategic thinking is undeniable, as well as the benefits it brings to businesses as it is crucial for their sustainable growth. Therefore, what do you need to do to develop it?
Clear your mind
Many of us want to see immediate and meaningful results from our actions. We focus on quantifiable results in the near future which, many times, do not allow us to see the bigger picture. In order to develop a strategic vision, it is necessary to take a break and stop worrying about current problems for a moment. Very often, people think they do not have strategic ideas however, this may be the result of them being too busy to stop and analyze the environment.
For this reason, it is necessary for organizations to regularly give its employees time aside to think about strategic ideas and actions in order for them to develop this habit. Allowing them to reflect on their decisions and discouraging actions based on reflex will facilitate a long-term vision and decrease the practice of crisis management.
Remember that a strategic approach takes time, so stop worrying about instant results and make time to reflect on your goals, past actions, and future plans. Make it a part of your routine to think about your long-term goals and avoid occupying all your time on problem-solving.
Questions, questions and more questions
Strategic plans do not come without a good analysis of your own actions as well as the ones from other players in your environment. This is why, it is essential for you to develop a curious mindset hence, the need for you to ask questions. It is crucial to cultivate a habit of constant questioning if you want to improve your strategic skills. Many people have called questions the language of strategy and this is definitely true.
Asking questions such as “why” or “when” will not only help you find important underlying causes of problems or strategies, but it will also allow you to develop the ability to analyze data from different perspectives, think about the impact of your own actions and their potential outcomes thus, providing you with better insights from your surroundings.
Questioning others’ actions is also a great way to find out new information such as trends or likes of the market you are in or better understand the direction your competitors are taking. Therefore, always remember to question your own actions as well as the ones from others on your environment.
Collect meaningful information
As we mention before, it is extremely important to question everything. However, it is also as important to be able to answer those questions in order for you to obtain the meaningful insights you are looking for. In order for you to do this, you will need data.
Unfortunately, information is sometimes expensive and difficult to find. This is why it is important to create good relationships with your key partners such as customers and suppliers. They will provide you with solid information on trends, business drivers, the market, the industry, etc.
Nonetheless, information can also be found within your business. Listen to what others say and analyze why those topics are being raised, create bonds with your coworkers and understand what each one of them brings to the table. Observe your surroundings to understand the dynamics of your workplace and how current activities are helping or damaging business results.
Meet the right kind of people
If you are still struggling to find good strategic plans for you or your business, consider looking for a mentor. They will guide you through your analytical process and help you link your ideas or goals with facts or trends in the industry. Effective mentors will maintain you focused on strategic objectives and make an impact on your actions.
Another option for improving your strategic skills is to surround yourself with different types of persons. Interact with new people, people who have different points of view and who see the world differently. You might get new ideas and reconsider some of your current notions. This will help improve your analytical process and allow you to see new opportunities around you.
Strategic thinking is a skill necessary for everyone. It does not only improve professional development but it is also very helpful for anyone’s personal growth and although it might be difficult to adjust to a new way of thinking, it is definitely something everyone should consider working on.