If you Google the term “Strategic Thinking” you get 455 million results in about .64 seconds! There is certainly no shortage of information about “Strategic Thinking. However, leaders often get stuck where to start so I will focus on what you can do to get a “Strategic Thinking” dialogue going inside your organization.
First, let’s talk about why you would even want to get a “Strategic Thinking” dialogue going. Many times, when we ask organizations if they have a strategy, they sheepishly raise their hands indicating they do. When we dive a bit deeper, we discover that their “strategy” revolves around a set of budgetary numbers that the team is trying to achieve. To be blunt – that is not a strategy! The question that hangs over a lot of organizations is “Where are we going?”
One of the major reasons organizations plateau is that after achieving a certain amount of success, they get complacent, then they get distracted by the chaos and then they fall into the “Valley of Death”. The symptoms of the “Valley of Death” are things like lack of cash, drama around process consistency and repeatability, stagnant revenue, and lack of alignment amongst team members. When Jack Welch speaks about strategy he says, “Strategy is not a lengthy action plan. It is the evolution of a central idea through continually changing circumstances.” After the Cold War the students at the U.S. Army War College originated the acronym VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. We certainly live in a VUCA world today, this is particularly true in the business community. Can you begin to see how a “Strategic Thinking” mindset is an absolute imperative in today’s business world?
When we say organizations need a “Strategic Thinking” mindset what should they be thinking about? In Good to Great by Jim Collins, In these pages Collins talks about “the Council” and defines it as, “The Council consists of a group of the right people who participate in dialogue and debate guided by the three circles, iteratively and over time, about vital issues and decisions facing the organization.” These 3 circles and the iterative process get to the heart of “Strategic Thinking”.
The 3 circles Collins is referring to are:
- What are you deeply passionate about?
- What can you be the best in the world at?
- What drives your economic engine?
At the intersection of these 3 circles lies the BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Let’s be clear, this is hard work and will require practice to arrive at the place of understanding. In order to get good at anything we need to practice, and we need a routine to practice our “Strategic Thinking”. This is where The Council comes into play. The council needs to meet on a regular basis and work through a cycle of:
- Think – guided by the 3 questions
- Plan – debate and discuss
- Act – based on discussion
- Learn – evolve it
A “Strategic Thinking” mindset is a necessary level of thinking that will help Scale Up your business and align your organization, so it never enters the “Valley of Death.”
Form your version of The Council, start and practice your strategic thinking process and watch what happens to your business!