Strategy has never been more challenging, or more important, than in today’s environment of global competition, in which, corporate strategies must transcend the borders of nations and markets. Too many organizations try to be everything to everyone, wasting resources in markets that may never provide a worthwhile return on investment.
What is Strategic Thinking?
Strategic Thinking is a planning process that applies innovation, strategic planning and operational planning to develop business strategies that have a greater chance for success.
More and more organizations are learning that past experience is not always the best basis for developing future strategies. Executives need to thoughtfully consider how to create value for customers. The exercise of strategic planning, while important, tends to answer the “how” and “when” of business planning and rarely captures the essence of what it means to think strategically. That’s where strategic thinking comes in. Strategic thinking is the “what:” and “why” of the planning process. It answers the question, “What should we be doing, and why?”
Strategic Thinking requires innovation and creativity and includes a research phase to examine the voice of the customer, the employee and industry best practices. It is a process of examining everything we do in our various roles, understanding the needs of our customers and ensuring that all of this is linked to clearly defined strategic imperatives.
If we compare strategic thinking with strategic planning and operational planning we see that:
- Strategic Thinking – is the “What” and the “Why”…that is what should we be doing and why.
- Strategic Planning – is the “How” and “When” …at a very high level.
- Operational Planning – is the specific details of the how and when.
Why is Strategic Thinking Important?
The purpose of Strategic Thinking is to create a strategy that is a coherent, unifying, integrative framework for decisions especially about direction of the business and resource utilization. To do it, Strategic Thinking uses internal and external data, qualitative synthesis of opinions and perceptions. It is conscious, explicit, and proactive and defines competitive domain for corporate strategic advantage.
Strategy is a key outcome of a relevant strategic thinking process. Tregoe and Zimmerman outlined the relationship between strategy and operations in their work on strategy, “Top Management Strategy: What It Is and How To Make It Work”.
Strategic Thinking is the combination of Innovation, Strategy Planning, and Operational Planning.
The process begins with Innovation. We try to create the ideal future and consider the plans needed to achieve them and to see them through. Innovation helps us to move outside our comfort zone into the possibilities of exceeding customer and organizational requirements and expectations.
Innovations are then articulated into a series of strategies. This is a part of the entire Strategic Planning process. However, in Strategic Thinking, we incorporate the needs of our customers, the organization and our staff in the process. We incorporate Benchmarking to ensure that industry best practices are included in our vision of the future.
Can Behavioural Change And Insights Make An Impact To The Entire Strategic Thinking Process?
Employee Involvement at each stage of the Strategic Thinking process is key to ensuring that they stay involved in the execution of the Operational plans. This is where Operational Planning comes to play. It is the process of taking the strategies (the outcomes of the Strategic Planning process) and developing them into action plans that are achievable and involve staff throughout the organization in ensuring that the needs of the customer and the organization are met.
I’ve repeatedly seen executive’s present painful strategic episodes as modestly successful because many of the tactical components happened on schedule. They were thinking like uber-project managers. But many times they missed the point entirely about the larger strategic impact – which was often painful for the organization in the big picture and in the long run.
By Dr. Timothy K.K.Law