If you avoid thinking strategically because it sounds like gazing into a crystal ball or holding a seance, you’re not alone. Most leaders like to deal with what’s immediate. However, you put your company’s future at risk if that is all you do. While you concentrate on the day-to-day, you may miss opportunities not to mention signals that the road you are on goes off a cliff.
Good leaders think and plan both short term and strategically. To think and plan longer term:
- Look down the road. Don’t just focus on what’s directly ahead but instead:
– Look for game-changing trends in your industry.
– Search beyond the current boundaries of your business.
– Develop external networks and information sources.
- Think critically. “Conventional wisdom” opens you to less criticism and second guessing. But if all you do is what other people say, your company will not achieve competitive advantage. Critical thinkers:
– Analyze problems for their root causes to get to the bottom of things.
– Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including their own.
– Encourage new views and ideas which differ from past practice.
- Take your time. Uncertainty and ambiguity are unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrong) solution. Try this:
– Make the time to seek and study the facts.
– Ask others for their views.
– Test multiple interpretations before moving on.
- Reach out. A strategic leader engages others and creates open dialogue. Here’s how:
– Explain what you are doing then invite ideas and views from differing perspectives.
– Bring thorny issues to the surface, even when this is uncomfortable.
– Build support to carry out new directions.
- Set the bar and jump. There is no such thing as the perfect strategy. A “good enough” strategy is good enough as long as key others accept it. Try this:
– Identify the vision or your desired outcome.
– Balance speed, quality and cost. Leave perfection to others.
– Take a stand even with incomplete information and diverse views.
- Follow up. For longer term results, accountability is harder to establish. To instill it:
– Make sure people know what is expected and associated measurements.
– Monitor and conduct regular reports and updates on strategic initiatives.
– Recognize success and failure.
Remember, the best leaders plan for both the short and longer time frames. That is the best strategy.
Dr. Mark Frohman is the owner of Frohman Consulting Corp. and a counselor with SCORE, a nonprofit business-consulting group.