5 Ways to Help your Team Learn Strategic Business Thinking

Situational awareness, Critical thinking, Decision-making, Dynamic action are some of the essential qualities for Kunal to be effective in his workplace. He works for the ATC (Air Traffic Control) Tower in one of the busy Airports.

Ironically neither in School nor in College did he got to learn these cognitive skills. Did you ever have a class from your middle school to high school or even in your college on how to think? how to decide? how to listen? how to communicate? I am sure you didn’t. Me neither.

Now coming to our business and work environment, I am seeing managers in large organisations whose primary job is to take appropriate decisions all the time. What strikes me is, most of them are not fully equipped with required thinking and analysing skills which are important for effective decision making.

Strategic Business Thinking can really help. Learning to think the business with long-term planning based on the aspirations and tangible goals to achieve could give strategic advantage to any organisation.

The high priority senior leaders place on strategic thinking reinforces the importance of building this mindset into professional development programs.

Here are five practical ways I’ve helped executives inculcate strategic business thinking in their team.

1. Give them enough information:

One of the key prerequisites of strategic leadership is having relevant and broad business information that helps employees elevate their thinking beyond the day-to-day, and then sharing the results of their thinking and efforts throughout the organisation. Encourage your team members to set aside specific time to gather information on your market, industry, customers, competitors, and emerging technologies.

2. Develop a mentor program:

One of the most effective ways to develop strategic skills is to be mentored by someone who is highly strategic. The ideal mentor is someone who is widely known for their ability to keep people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of their actions. Help your team members find a suitable mentor who can enable them to think business from a long-term strategic perspective.

3. Create a culture of strategic thinking:

Create a well-structured culture of strategic thinking. Employees need to understand the broader organisational strategy in order to stay focused and incorporate the strategy into their own plans and objectives. Allow them to come up with their own ideas and methods towards reaching the organisational goals.

4. Build rewards for better thinking:

Build appropriate reward systems in place for evidence of strategic business thinking. Wherever possible, organisational culture should encourage anticipating opportunities and avoid problems, and discourage crisis management. Reward your employees for being able to quickly generate several solutions to a given problem and identifying the solution with the greatest long-term benefit to the organisation.

5. Ask strategic questions:

Ask better questions that promote a future perspective for employees by incorporating it into training and development programs; teach people what strategic thinking is and encourage them to ask “why” and “when” questions. When they suggest a course of action, ask them to consider what underlying strategic goal this action serves, and what the impact will be on internal and external stakeholders. Consistently asking these two questions whenever action is considered will go a long way towards developing strategic thinkers.

While strategic business thinking isn’t something that can be honed overnight, there are ways to broaden the aperture to see the whole bright sky rather than few stars. Developing strategic thinking skills in your employees and managers often makes the difference between a mediocre and excellent organisation.

– Sivakumar Palaniappan

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