Many people are confused by the term “strategic thinking” often believing that it means thinking big thoughts or reading about others’, or having your own big ideas. To put it simply, strategic thinking is about creating a line of sight from your job to the most important things your organization is working on. Employees at any level can take the initiative to make the connections between their company’s strategy and their own work.
Strategic thinking skills are any skills that enable you to use critical thinking to solve complex problems and plan for the future. These skills are essential to accomplish business objectives, overcome obstacles, and address challenges. Especially, if they’re projected to take weeks, months, or even years to achieve.
With the right mind-set and practice, you can improve your strategic thinking skills.
Strategic thinking skills include:
- Analytical skills: To develop a strategy that helps your organization reach its objectives, you must be capable of analyzing a variety of inputs—from financial statements and KPIs, to market conditions, emerging business trends, and internal resource allocation.
- Communication skills: Putting a strategy into place for your company, regardless of its size, requires solid communication skills. The ability to communicate complex ideas, collaborate with internal and external stakeholders, build consensus, and ensure everyone is aligned and working toward shared goals are all central to strategic thinking.
- Problem-solving skills: Strategic planning is often used to solve problems or address challenges, such as missed financial targets, inefficient workflows, or an emerging competitor.
- Project Management skills: Strategy isn’t just about thinking of a solution—it involves implementation, too. Once data has been analyzed, the problem is understood, and a solution has been identified, you need strong project management skills to bring everything together.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR STRATEGIC THINKING SKILLS
1. Ask Strategic Questions
If you want to improve your strategic thinking skills, one of the simplest things you can do is ask more strategic questions. Doing so allows you to exercise your planning skills, become adept at spotting opportunities, and develop a more strategic mindset you can leverage throughout your career.
It’s also important that your questions apply to your role and responsibilities so you can act on them.
2. Observe and Reflect
In addition to asking strategic questions, you need to answer and address them skillfully. One of the most effective ways of accomplishing this is to observe and reflect on your current situation, ensuring any strategy you conceive is grounded in facts.
Instead of blindly following an assumption, gather as much information as possible to use when crafting your strategy. For example, this might include conducting focus groups with new customers to identify the different jobs they hire your product to perform.
Understanding why new customers are attracted to your product can enable you to tailor your marketing strategy and product development to better embrace their needs.
3. Consider Opposing Ideas
Once you’ve landed on a strategy that can help your organization reach its goals, question your assumptions, and put your hypothesis through rigorous testing. By doing so, you can ensure you’re not overlooking another possibility.
Playing devil’s advocate with your ideas can allow you to pre-emptively identify weaknesses in your argument, and equip you to defend your strategy when others ask questions. It can also help you sharpen the logic skills you need to communicate and execute your strategy.
To develop this skill, get in the habit of questioning yourself any time you’re about to make an assertion. Should you consider a different perspective? Is there another possibility you may have overlooked?
4. Embrace Formal Training
By practicing the methods described above, you can improve your strategic thinking skills at your own pace. However, there are other learning options you can pursue.
Formal training might be your best option; to address a pressing need your organization is facing, position yourself for a new role, or finally launch your own business.
Please remember that strategic thinking has the power to help the organization as a whole, but it also helps the employees who engage in it. Understanding your company’s strategy allows you to more effectively prioritize your work tasks. You will then be able to focus on the things that have the potential to make the greatest impact, which will lead to you feeling more fulfilled about the work you do. It’s a win-win for everybody!