5 Steps to Improve Strategic Thinking skills

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Everybody, at some point in their career, must have come across feedback saying, ‘Improve your strategic thinking’. To add on, this feedback does not come with concrete guidance on what or how to implement it. Today’s business scenario that you dwell with is fast-paced which puts you under the grinder as a leader to think more holistically on how to streamline process and leverage opportunities to be the very best in your sector and contribute to the success of your organization. 

That said, at the core of every successful venture is a strong vision. It is the ultimate goal that benchmarks success while defining the purpose and value of the company to all its stakeholders. While this vision continues to stay constant, the means of achieving it varies. Entrepreneurs and leaders work towards turning this vision into reality through well-crafted plans, tactical initiatives, and a determined workforce. It is crucial to be aware of the frequently changing external factors, to have the foresight to change the game plan as per need and to think beyond the near future.

To do this successfully, it is essential to inculcate the ways and habits that promote strategic thinking in our daily lives. The ability to devise strategies to address the current work climate while keeping an eye on the future is an invaluable asset for a leader. Over a period of the time, this critical cognitive ability can become second nature by using these tips and turning them into habits.

Question your Questioning Skills!

An essential part of strategic thinking can question the status quo. Challenging existing information and current trends in the industry will help you develop a critical outlook. While industry trends are many, they may not always be relevant to your own company and its vision. Questioning opens venues for innovation and improvement. Proactively investing effort in asking tough questions leads to better communication amongst your peers and employees. Reevaluating the logic may not always lead you to change your strategy or point of view, but it will continually reaffirm your belief in your decisions.

To hone your questioning skills, objectively see ideas and think critically about it. Take time to question something where you look at a scope for improvement. An effective method is the periscope technique. Understand the ongoing trends and ask tough questions until you are through with your knowledge. Be more proactive towards your peers to understand their observation and perspective of the marketplace. If you want to learn more, try open-ended questions while seeking information. This not only widens your gaze but also teaches one think about a topic from multiple perspectives.  

 All Perspectives Matter

Unlike tactical thinking, strategic thinking demands that you evaluate and analyze the problems without jumping to solutions. Enough thought and effort must be devoted to addressing the core issue. For example, startups are promoted and demoted all the time. One day, you are the emerging star and the next day you become a has-been. While it is easy to conclude that half-baked plans, lack of long-term thinking, inexperience and other such factors contribute to their failure, one must also look at other influential aspects. Lack of proper mentors and guidance, economic instability and fierce competition, could also be the reason for their failure. A strategic thinker will consider all these before concluding, while a tactical thinker will determine the cause only at face value.

 Each of us looks at things from our unique perspectives. A person who thinks strategically will take into consideration all point of views, different perspectives, and all possible angles. Strategic thinkers always keep in mind that there could be another way to approach a situation. As a strategic thinking business leader, you must consider various aspects and their effects before taking any decision. Reflect on business growth, customer needs, stakeholder expectations, implementation and execution challenges and other external factors. Leaving out even one aspect can have enormous long-term consequences.

Leaving Biases Behind

Developing awareness of your thoughts and circumstances can help in achieving an objective state of mind which is critical in taking business decisions. Take a moment to ask yourself if your point of view is indeed objective. Does it reflect the facts at hand? What does your perspective imply? Is your response in sync with your current circumstances? These are some of the few questions that you can ask yourself to ensure that no past bias or prejudice affects your decision making and strategic skills.

 Park your emotions aside as personal biases can influence your objectivity. This holds even greater importance as you deal with personnel. In situations that directly involve other individuals, it is possible that your decisions will be impacted by those affected, their role, their importance and relationships with you as a leader. It is crucial to be conscious of your personal biases and point of views in these situations to take impartial decisions.

Plan Progress

 The world we live in is expeditiously growing. This growth has led to packed schedules, continues weeks of travel and never-ending meetings. As much as attention is given to your present, it is just as necessary to take time out and proactively plan the future. As future needs to be thoroughly formulated in the present, it requires time and attention. Prioritize your tasks, determine what can be put a hold for a while and make time to introspect. Delve into the past for learnings and define the path for future progress. Use this time to reflect on ongoing development and set new goals which will help you stay true to your vision.  

While you plan for the long term, consider immediate challenges. Execute your short-term strategies quickly. A combination of strategic thinking for the future and agility in the present will help you achieve your predetermined goals much more efficiently. A plan is no longer spending weeks in a boardroom, it is thinking action, evolving quickly while staying true to your long-term agenda.

 Knowledge is Power!

 Lastly, there is no substitute for knowledge and guidance. In your quest to develop strategic thinking skills, it is essential to stay updated with new information and patterns. These external factors affect your game plan directly. Gather as much information as you can and continuously communicate with those around you. Moreover, while doing so, ensure that you have a sounding board, a mentor to share ideas with and get constructive feedback always.

 Invest time in documenting your plans. When we write something, we soak in more of it and can verbally execute better with others. Writing down thoughts and documenting progress helps in structuring your thought process. This process will assist you to keep track of your goals and evaluate the progression that you have made towards them. This habit, over a period, adds structure to your written and verbal communication.

 At the very core, strategic thinking is built on the foundation of human connections and actively listening to others. When you take the time to listen to your peers, managers, leaders, and customers, they feel validated. This sense of validation strengths the foundation on which you build your relationship. Strategic thinking, once acquired can help guide each other towards success. In its true essence, developing this skill and helping our peers is what motivates us to do what we do as leaders.