“It’s really frustrating when I’ve to spend all my time in managing trivial things and solving simple problems. I don’t have time to think big and strategic”, said a Senior HR Manager of a leading organisation. We were discussing on various Organisational Development interventions they were planning to initiate with long-term strategic organisational goals.
Rich Horwath, CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute, found in his research that 44% of managers spent most of their time firefighting in cultures that rewarded reactivity and discouraged thoughtfulness.
Almost all the Senior Executives I’ve worked with, claim that they lacked time for strategic thinking because they are always busy with trifling problems at hand all the time.
Here are five practical ways I’ve helped executives to learn to improve their strategic thinking.
1. Focus on the big picture:
Leaders and managers shouldn’t be spending most of their time in micromanaging. They should be always spending their time in thinking and solving big issues rather than smaller ones. Time, energy and effort in handling larger issues that could have a higher potential impact on the organisation enable them to be strategic.
More you are clear, decisive and focused at the macro level, more strategic you become.
2. Ask the right questions:
“How does this impact in the long run from a larger perspective?”, should be the question you should be asking all the time. Unfortunately, the most common question is “how do I get out of this immediately?” which are short term and quick fix.
Big thinking questions are the language of strategic thinking. For example, while Career Crafting one should be thinking what is that he or she would like to be doing 5 years from now or 10 years from now, not just tomorrow or day after.
3. Speak strategic:
Strategic thinkers also speak the language of strategy. They know how to prioritise and order their thinking process towards the big picture. All their communication, written or verbal will convey strategic intentions to their audiences. They never discuss trivial things as they know that it really doesn’t matter much.
If you could add more consistency, structure and results orientation in all your communication, you’ll surely sound strategic. The way you speak has all the power to create a perception about you inside and outside of you in reference to strategic thinking.
4. Make time for thinking:
Seldom I’ve seen senior managers who take time off for thinking because they are always running from meeting to meeting throughout the day. What happens in those meetings mostly are arguments, fights and confrontations on trivial issues. Where is the time to think and contribute strategically if one is always occupied without time to reflect?
Neuroscience researcher Loran Nordgren explained unconscious thought is the more intuitive, right-brained kind of thinking that leads to flashes of insight about how to solve problems. Giving yourself time for unconscious thought is a key component of making effective decisions when there is a large amount of data or a complex problem to solve strategically.
5. Take better strategic decisions:
Today’s world is complex and getting more so each day. Huge multinational corporations, international crisis and fast breaking events require most people to make decisions on a daily basis without the tools to understand the long-term impact that today’s decision might create.
As a leader and manager who ends up taking decisions all the time, it’s important that you develop the art and science of strategic decision making. Especially with increasing number of parameters and factors to be considered in any decisions making process, strategic thinking becomes an essential ability.
The process of building strategic thinking skill will not be easy. You might feel that you are filled with lots of problems that needs your immediate attention, which is not true actually. Your vision will not be very clear as you are looking at the longer horizon. You may have to fight out your own assumptions and beliefs. However, once things settle down, you will able to think at a much higher level.
– Sivakumar Palaniappan