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Discover how strategic thinking can help you as a business leader – to succeed with digital transformation and face your other key challenges.
As a leader or manager in a modern organization, you are increasingly expected to think strategically. This is particularly true when it comes to issues of technological change and digital transformation.
Elsewhen, an agency specializing in digital transformation has helped many organizations and their leaders apply strategic thinking to reshape the way they work. During these engagements, a number of common factors have emerged that distinguish strategic thinkers from those with a more conventional business mindset.
But what actually is strategic thinking – and why is it so crucial for business leaders?
While the term ‘strategic’ can be a widely misused business buzzword, it specifically means ‘relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests – and the means of achieving them’.
This sets strategic thinking in contrast to everyday business thinking – which typically focuses on immediate or short-term goals.
Strategic thinking is a thought process applying a broader long-term perspective. It considers not simply how to get a task done – but how to achieve this while building a more successful team or business.
As a leader, strategic thinking requires you to anticipate possibilities, prepare now for these, and to position yourself to compete successfully in the future. You need to be able to rise above entrenched short-term priorities – and gain a wider overview.
However, routine activities will typically push a business leader into a tactical way of thinking. You can be forced to focus on managing to-do lists, achieving short-term objectives, and keeping up with this week’s production requirements.
If a problem arises, you may respond with a short-term quick fix. It’s natural to react to today’s issues and put off longer-term thinking.
In a technology context, this may mean that your team works harder and longer to resolve issues using conventional but inefficient manual processes. By thinking more strategically with a new perspective, you can apply digital transformation and new solutions that bring long-term benefits of efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction.
Strategic thinking is based on identifying and growing new opportunities to build value. You can do this by nurturing productive, challenging discussions – between all the key stakeholders who can influence your organization’s development.
Strategic thinking is a vital input for your strategic planning. With clear strategic thinking, you reveal opportunities to create business value – and challenge preconceptions about your company’s value proposition. When you make your strategic plan, you can then target these opportunities.
Strategic thinking helps you understand the essential drivers of your business – and challenge standard ways of working. It can also help you gain awareness and foresight of how to enable future success.
As a strategic thinker, you should constantly seek unusual and different perspectives. You will resist the urge to let a previous decision dictate future choices – so you escape the ‘sunk cost trap’.
Your strategic perspective can bring clarity and insight from complex and apparently unconnected information. You will be sensitive to forces of change, contentious issues, and hidden opportunities – and be able to communicate these clearly to your colleagues. You will see directly to the heart of each issue and how all its key aspects fit together.
As a busy leader, you will need additional willpower to set aside time for strategic thinking. You may need to block out regular time slots – to escape everyday demands and find the necessary thinking space.
The fuel for your strategic thinking will be information. As a leader, you need good sources of intelligence. These will include reports, data and colleague insights from across your organization’ You will consult research into your customers, market and competitors. You should also include broader news, blogs, social media, journals, podcasts, videos, events and industry discussions.
Collating and analyzing this information will help you understand what’s happening in your company and the wider business world it inhabits.
A strategic thinker understands that the way ahead will not be plain sailing. You must recognize the ‘opposing forces’ that stand between you and your goals. To counter these, you should find and use ‘enabling forces’ that can work to your advantage.
You must look ahead and anticipate the possible scenarios your team may face in the future. You can then plan your course of action with the confidence of a well-prepared leader.
As a leader who thinks strategically, you will motivate your team, accelerate action, and drive progress. As your plans move forward, you will keep your team members aligned and informed on progress.
Conventional business leaders can be poor at recognizing uncertain threats and opportunities facing their business. By contrast, as a strategic leader, you will be vigilant and anticipate these challenges by monitoring your market environment for drivers of change ahead.
As a strategic thinker, you should question the norms of your business. You will challenge preconceptions and encourage conflicting viewpoints. You will only make your decision and take action after carefully considering all the factors at play.
As you gather data to drive your strategic thinking, you must be able to analyze and interpret your findings. Rather than seeing only what you expected to find, you should assess and synthesize contrasting inputs to gain new insights and recognize emerging trends.
Being a leader demands fast and tough decision-making – often when information is scarce. However, as a strategic thinker, you will make sure you equip yourself with multiple options. By preparing intelligently, you avoid getting locked into binary choices.
You employ a systematic yet agile thought process, weighing up potential trade-offs, and considering both short- and long-term objectives. Armed with insight, you can make better decisions – fast.
As a strategic leader, you will face many stakeholders with differing viewpoints and conflicting agendas. You need to be skilled at building consensus among them and gaining buy-in for your strategic plans. Your success in this requires active communication and continuous engagement – to build long-term trust and collaboration.
You will be a central focus for learning in your organization, encouraging a culture of intelligent curiosity. As well as recognizing success factors, you will learn valuable lessons from unsuccessful outcomes – experienced by your team and from beyond your business.
In conclusion, by applying the above strategic thinking practices in your own leadership role, you can bring a wider perspective and new insights – to succeed with today’s pressing business issues, such as digital transformation.
This article has been published in accordance with Socialnomics’ disclosure policy.