What is strategic thinking? (Apakah itu Pemikiran Strategik)
Your boss just told you to "think strategically"—but what does that mean? In its most basic sense, strategic thinking is about analyzing opportunities and problems from a broad perspective and understanding the potential impact your actions might have on others. Strategic thinkers visualize what might or could be, and take a holistic approach to day-to-day issues and challenges
Like all other managers, you routinely encounter complex situations, difficult problems, and challenging decisions. Your job is to deal with these situations as best you can by using the information you have. In an ideal world, you would have access to all the information you need to navigate through these challenges. Unavoidably, however, you have only a limited amount of information to work with. And because you sit in a particular part of your organization, you have a limited view of the forces that lie outside your sphere of influence
Strategic thinking helps you overcome these limitations. When you think strategically, you lift your head above your day-to-day work and consider the larger environment in which you're operating. You ask questions and challenge assumptions about how things work in your company and industry. You gather complex, sometimes ambiguous data and interpret it. And you use the insights gained to make smart choices and select appropriate courses of actioN. Moreover, you do all of these things with an eye toward generating the best possible business results tomorrow, using the opportunities presented to you today.
What does it mean to "think strategically"? How do you assess the environment in which you're operating and make smart decisions that will generate the best results?
Why is strategic thinking important?
When you and others in your organization think strategically, you generate important benefits for your organization:
- You chart a course for your group that aligns with the overall corporate strategy.
- You make smart long-term decisions that complement and align with decisions that others in your organization are making.
- You gain your employees' commitment to supporting your decisions.
- You boost your group's performance and maximize business results.
- You foster a culture that supports fresh thinking and embraces strategic initiative.
Strategic thinking also nets you valuable professional and personal benefits—including the respect and appreciation of your supervisor, peers, and direct reports
Defining Characteristics of Strategic Thinkers
Managers who think strategically demonstrate specific personal traits, behaviors, attitudes, and thinking skills.
You're on your way to becoming a strategic thinker if you exhibit the following personal traits:
- Curiosity: You're genuinely interested in what's going on in your unit, company, industry, and wider business environment.
- Flexibility: You're able to adapt approaches and shift ideas when new information suggests the need to do so.
- Future focus: You constantly consider how the conditions in which your group and company operate may change in the coming months and years. And you keep an eye out for opportunities that may prove valuable in the future—as well as threats that may be looming.
- Positive outlook: You view challenges as opportunities, and you believe that success is possible.
- Openness: You welcome new ideas from supervisors, peers, employees, and outside stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, and business partners. You also take criticism well by not reacting in a defensive manner.
- Breadth: You continually work to broaden your knowledge and experience, so you can see connections and patterns across seemingly unrelated fields of knowledge.
Defining Characteristics of Strategic Thinkers
Behaviors and attitudes
You have the makings of a strategic thinker if you continually anticipate your actions' impact on a wide range of individuals—including, but not limited to, your boss, direct reports, peers, and customers.
To do this, you need to:
- Seek other people's opinions
- Ask questions and challenge assumptions about how the world works.
- Focus on the future
- Identify the forces driving your unit and company's performance and think about how to improve that performance
- Watch the competition
- Reassess who your customers are and what they value
- Stay up to date on developments occurring in your unit, in other groups in the company, and in your industry overall
- Open yourself to ongoing learning by reading books, magazines, and industry reports; attending seminars; and talking with experts
By practicing these behaviors, you more readily spot valuable new opportunities to capitalize on. And you identify and repel potential threats before they can do any real damage.
In addition to specific personal traits, behaviors, and attitudes, strategic thinkers demonstrate characteristic cognitive capacities. They:
- Objectively analyze a situation and evaluate the pros, cons, and implications of any course of action
- Grasp abstract ideas and put the "pieces" together to form a coherent picture
- Generate a wide range of options, visualize new possibilities, and formulate fresh approaches to their work
- Factor hunches into their decision-making without allowing their hunches to dominate the final outcome
- Understand the cause-and-effect linkages among the many elements that make up a system—whether the system is their team, unit, or organization, or a project or process
Strategic thinking is a process. Successful strategic thinkers constantly reevaluate their environment and plan for the future.
Phase 1: Setting the stage
In this phase, you look at the broad implications of issues and clarify your objectives for thinking strategically. This phase includes:
- Seeing the big picture—understanding the broader business environment in which you operate
- Clarifying strategic objectives—determining what you hope to achieve by thinking strategically
Phase 2: Applying your skills
Once you've set the stage, you put your strategic thinking skills to use in order to generate results. This phase includes:
- Identifying relationships, patterns, and trends—spotting patterns across seemingly unrelated events, and categorizing related information to reduce the number of issues you must grapple with at one time
- Thinking creatively—generating alternatives, visualizing new possibilities, challenging your assumptions, and opening yourself to new information
- Analyzing information—sorting out and prioritizing the most important information while making a decision, managing a project, handling a conflict, and so forth
- Prioritizing your actions—staying focused on your objectives while handling multiple demands and competing priorities
- Making trade-offs—recognizing the potential advantages and disadvantages of an idea or course of action, making choices regarding what you will and won't do, and balancing short- and long-term concerns
How do successful strategic thinkers keep an eye on the big picture?
Strategic thinkers continually improve their view of the larger "business ecosystem" in which they operate. They understand their company's and unit's strategies. They stay up to date on the issues and concerns of their customers, competitors, and industry as they relate to their job function. And they consider the potential impact of their decisions and actions on the company overall and on their boss, managers of other units and teams, and employees. They do all of this with a long-term perspective rather than focusing only on the short-term implications of their actions.
They then use their awareness of the big picture to inform their on-the-job choices.
Understand your company's and unit's strategies
Awareness of your company's and unit's strategies is vital to your ability to think strategically. Do whatever it takes to understand the corporate strategy and how it affects your unit's strategy. Talk with your boss and peer managers, examine annual reports and other company publications, and listen to your CEO's speeches.
Sometimes the way in which executives allocate resources in your company can suggest something about the high-level strategy. If you observe the company is investing in acquisitions of competing firms, you might deduce that its strategy involves eradicating rivals and growing its market share.
Then use your understanding of this strategy to ensure that your group supports it.
For example, suppose your company has a clearly stated strategy of expanding into new markets overseas. You can use awareness of this high-level strategy to define your group's direction.
- If you lead a product development group, you might evaluate the appeal that your existing products have in the targeted overseas market.
- If you lead a market research group, you may want to design surveys and other tools for testing potential interest in your company's offerings in the intended new market.
- If you lead a customer service group, perhaps you'll explore how your group's services can be scaled to meet the demand of the overseas customer segment you'll be serving.
Think about your customers, competitors, and industry
When thinking strategically, you need to consider what's going on outside your company as well as what's going on inside. That means staying current with external customers' needs, competitors' moves, and industry trends. Your job function will determine how much you'll need to make this a priority.
For example, if you work in sales, you'll need to know your customers, competition, and industry intimately. If you work in manufacturing, however, you may not need to study your company's competition quite as closely.
To assess developments outside your company, ask these questions:Customers. "Who are our customers, and what do they value? How might their needs evolve in the future?" Customer surveys, focus groups, and other methods can help you gain answers to these questions.
For example, after surveying customers about their latest challenges, one manager at an industrial-gas supplier proposed that the company start providing environmental consulting services to customers. He won approval for his idea, and the new service proved a hit—enabling the gas supplier to capture more of its customers' spending.
Good ideas like these can come from every level in an organization—but especially from managers who deepen their knowledge of customers.
- Competitors. "Who are our current competitors, and what tactics are they using? How are we different from them? What strengths do they have that might prove a threat to us? What weaknesses might they have that we could exploit?" You can gain information about competing companies by becoming their customer yourself, reading analysts' reports (of publicly traded companies), and networking with other professionals who are familiar with these firms.
For instance, one manager at a local retail store visited a major rival discount store in town and listened in on shoppers' conversations. He concluded that shoppers cared far more about the discounter's low prices than brand-name styles. The manager suggested to his store's executives that, to compete against the big discounter, they could strive to attract style-conscious customers. By going after a different customer segment than that sought by their rival, the store maintained a solid position in the business.
- Industry. "What trends—in technology, governmental policy, natural resources, and other key forces shaping our industry—might have important implications for our business?" You can stay on top of this information through reading a wide range of business publications, talking with other informed professionals, and participating in trade and professional associations.
For example, while reading a food-industry trade journal, one manager learned that the government was considering requiring food companies to list additional ingredients in their product labeling. The manager knew if this legislation passed, the label size would increase and could potentially overlap with some of the marketing copy on the products. Thus, the manager met with people in the marketing department and together developed a solution that met everyone's needs. By having ideas ready, he was able to prepare his company for immediate compliance with the new legislation—should it pass—with minimal delay and disruption to the business.