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Engage Strategic Thinking

12th May 2016

Every business, small or large, should engage in strategic thinking.  

Strategic thinking is:

  • Futuristic
  • Open (for input from a variety of thinkers/people)
  • Boundless (in its coverage and possibilities)
  • Ongoing and consistent (not just a planning session nor conference)
  • Challenging (to think up and about)
  • Challenged (by others)
  • Directional and strategic, not operational

Strategic thinking is not:

  • Lengthy, wordy documents

Strategic thinking must, eventually, impact the direction and strategies of the business.  Successful businesses have sound directions and strategies, and are equally as capable of changing them when they need to do so.  McDonalds, K Mart, Apple, Cotton On, etc. have all demonstrated their ability to do that … but it’s not just big business that needs this capability .. it’s all businesses.

Here are some important points to help engage effective strategic thinking:

  1. The business has to be clear on the desired end game … what the business will be and look like eventually.
  2. Strategic thinking is a continuum, not a conference nor a plan created once every three or five years.  It must be occurring non stop.
  3. Understand what direction and strategy is … the pathways to get to the end game.  It may involve changing markets, adding markets or even changing industries.  
  4. Don’t bring mission, vision, values, kpi’s and measurements into strategic thinking.  It’s about direction and strategy.
  5. Don’t sweat the words used to describe the end game, directions or strategies.  Just make sure that people understand and connect to them, without debating the literary value of them.  And remember that ‘people support what they help create’ so their involvement in framing the directions and strategies can be important.
  6. Summarize your directions and strategies on one page so that everyone can be clear on them.
  7. Test regularly whether every person in the business is actually clear on the current directions and strategies, including people who have recently come into the business.  If they aren’t clear then your business is not likely to be living them effectively.
  8. Directions and strategies should be regularly challenged, from within and from outside.
  9. Never let strategic thinking just be the domain of the owners, CEO or senior management group.  Everyone in the business has a role to play in the process.  They may not have the authority of the top group but they should have a voice because they can think, they are out and about and they are the people enacting the directions and strategies.
  10. Test what directional and strategic changes your business has made in the last one, two and three years … as evidence of the level of strategic thinking being engaged.

Examples of successful strategic thinking:

  • McDonalds now targets more adult customers via McCafes, greater breadth of food on their menus and more flexibility in what the customer can order.
  • KMart reduced its number of sku’s (stock keeping units), resituated its customer service and altered its staffing levels as ways to improve its market position.
  • Apple relies heavily on a strategy of telling customers what they need rather than asking them.

It would also be useful to read “Effective Business Planning

If you are a member of YCO please contact us for help in maximizing the impact of strategic thinking in your business.