In the words of Sun Tzu, a Chinese general, writer-philosopher, and a military strategist – “A leader must know what will happen in the near future. What others can’t see; he must-see, it’s called brilliance. What others can’t know, a leader must know, it’s called a genius. And geniuses always win, as they defend in a way that is incontestable, and attack in a manner that’s irresistible”.
Strategic planning, traditionally, has neglected innovative thinking which is critical to business future growth and success. Strategic thinking is, in its true meaning, a comprehensive business planning model that aggressively covers the three major strategy foundations – operational planning, strategic planning, and innovation.
Significance of Strategy in Today’s Business World
In the highly competitive global market, the role of the strategy framework has grown more crucial than ever. With the world going digital, and businesses constantly crossing national boundaries given the widespread and fast web connectivity, it’s the strategy that will decide the fate and the geographical expansion of companies in the future.
What Exactly Is Meant by Strategic Thinking?
In a nutshell, it is a planning exercise to develop a futuristic and profitable business strategy that takes into consideration vital aspects of business development, i.e. operational planning, innovation, and strategic planning.
Building Strategies Around Customers Is Vital
Organizations are getting to know that past mantras for success do not work in the current times and that they need to consider the future and the disrupting technologies that can change the industry altogether. Thinking about creating value for customers is essential to survive in the highly competitive customer-centric marketplace.
Contrary to the popular way of approaching strategic planning that focuses on “how” and “when” aspects of business planning, the modern strategic thinking focuses much on the “what” and “why” related to the process.
Leaders should be able to answer the question – “What is needed to be done strategically, and why it’s needed in the first place”.
Two Key Phases Involved with an Effective Strategy Building
Research Phase: It involves identifying customer voice, degree of engagement of employees in the strategic planning at an operational level, and benchmarking.
Strategy Phase: Introducing innovation, operational and strategic planning, and measuring the success of the business plan, are the three vital components in the strategy phase.
Comparing Strategic Thinking with Strategic & Operational Planning
- Strategic Thinking involves “What” and “Why” of the strategy building.
- Strategic Planning refers to the “When” and “How” aspects.
- Operational Planning deals with the specifics of “How” and “When”.
What Different Resources Does Strategic Thinking Utilize?
External and internal data, market trend analysis, and competitive research, and expert opinions are a few major tools to extract business insights.
Step-by-Step Process to Realizing Strategic Thinking
The entire process focuses on achieving a perfect combination of innovation, strategic planning, and operational implementation.
Step 1 – Innovation
Thinking future of the business, and what is needed to be done to make the business future-proof acts as the foundation to this step. Varied strategies are discussed and built that revolve around exceeding customer expectations. Benchmarking is considered to establish the industry’s best practices.
Step 2 – Staff Engagement
Employee engagement is essential in making any strategy succeed. Effectively executing operational plans is only possible when the staff is clear on the action plan to execute upon.
Step 3 – Measurement
A measuring plan that gauges the effectiveness of the strategy is a must. It should go hand-in-hand with the operational execution of the pre-set plan at all levels of the business.
3 Ways to Strategic Thinking to Achieve Business Goals
Finding Balance: A 90/10 balance would be perfect to thinking strategically. It means you spend 90 percent of your time focussing in the business, and 10% on the business.
Being Driven & Prepared: The time needed to be spent on strategic thinking cannot be carved out of the 24-hour day. You will need to be proactive in your actions to find time for strategic thinking. If you are working 40 hours a week, you must find 4 hours to devote to building strategic framework. Do your math, and take out the time required.
Daily Challenges Must be Met: Limit your distractions by not allowing others to disturb you in your strategy-making time. The possible reasons of distraction could be texts, emails, request for your support by a team member, or the customers themselves. Indulge in a habit to say “no”. Schedule a part of the day for specifically performing the said job.
Leaders and senior managers need to be on their toes when it comes to strategic thinking. Without a comprehensive business plan, executives can ruin their organization’s success probabilities to a large extent.
Strategic thinking can be executed on a department basis, or it can be practised across the organization. The ultimate goal has to be out-plan or out-think competitors.