Change Your Company Through Strategic Thinking

Strategic Leadership

As the decision maker of your company, perhaps even the very company you created or help create out of nothing more than a dream, it is your job to stay the course and keep that ship on an even keel – in other words, profitable and stable.

But now that the company has grown to the point where you are able to pass on the earlier duties and many hats that you wore, you should be able to step back and start dreaming again… where “could” the business be in a month, quarter or year, if you are able to start strategizing and implementing newer dreams and goals?

Many business owners rarely find the time for stepping back, taking in the broader picture and course that the company is on, much less even just a few moments start dreaming bigger, further, beyond the horizon. Some even suffer under the impression that taking the time to dream and plan is just not kosher when there is so much to do, or that it could be construed as slacking or laziness. Nothing however could be further from the truth.

Many businesses were started with just that – a dream. Dreaming that you could do things better, faster, at a lower cost, or simply because there was still room for competitors in that field or marketplace.

Most leadership today, however, is consumed with dealing with the issues at hand, the problem currently faced, or the need to solve some “pothole-in-the-road” problem that needs to be dealt with now and “it cannot wait”. Because of that, on a daily basis, they forget to take the time to dream again – to look beyond the horizon of today’s problems and over into the realm of possibilities.

Trying to see beyond the horizon, through critical and insightful thinking is something that could actually save your company or strengthen it in ways that just dealing with the day to day problems pales against. How can we say that?

Because it is a proven fact that the more we do something the same way, in the same fashion, we are pre-determining that we will see the same, if not extremely similar, results. However, if we realize that we could possibly change the future of the company by changing the direction NOW, not in the coming years, would we not be able to not only be in a better position to handle those current daily issues, but possibly even eliminate them altogether?

STRATEGIC, CONTEMPLATIVE LEADERSHIP

What does that mean? Or even more important, what should that mean?

While the business world tells us we need more strategic leadership, most institutions that churn out those very leaders often fail to pass no the need for leaders to think strategically.

And to think strategically, they will need to take the time to reflect, have the tools to know how to access and parse those reflective thoughts into actions, and the fortitude or inner strength to take the steps necessary to make the changes happen.
Another important factor that is often either overlooked, underestimated in its ability to affect change, or completely ignored by intent – ADAPTABILITY.

Strategy, in it’s fulfillment will almost always and certainly include the necessity for adaptability. To strategize means to look beyond the current to what ‘could’ be. To anticipate what ‘could be, one must be cognizant of new variables and their effect on the future, should they be implemented or included in the strategy of ones’ choosing.

That is, if, in my strategizing, it becomes clear that I could expand a certain part of my business to see growth, but that means new hires, possibly new floor space (a facility enlargement), I will then need to analyze all of the variables to discover the best possible way to accomplish that new growth.

But it all started with taking the time to dream and strategize. Yes, I may have increased my daily to-do list, but those duties are usually able to be passed on to others, allowing me to continue the move forward in a dynamic, growth-enabling fashion.

At this point, we need to look at a few of the traits that strategic leaders and thinkers have in common, and which allow them to again and again, maintain growth and maturity:

Anticipation

As stated earlier, strategic leaders have learned to look ‘beyond’ the horizon, thinning about what “could be” not what currently is. They enter each work day with an anticipation of being able to exceed beyond the immediate, knowing that attaining and maintaining this kind of attitude will allow growth.

Here are a few pointers in how to nurture a state of anticipation:

  • Constantly look for trends and information that point to possible shifts in your current business landscape
  • Constantly research beyond the perimeters of just your business niche or market
  • Begin to network with others of like-persuasion, who also support futurist, strategic thinking

Critical Thinking

Do not be influenced by conventionalists – or those who follow along with a herd-like mentality, a mentality that “fences your mind” in and frowns on living on the edge or questioning things. Every new concept, dream and eventually community or social change has come into being because of critical thinkers who would not accept the “norm”, nor allow their business minds and philosophies to be swayed or held in check by safe opinions. They took chances or risks to see change happen for the better – for growth.

  • Constantly challenge and mindsets or beliefs that do not seem to allow modification and/or improvement.
  • Refrain from accepting dogmatic principles or allowing them to determine the measure of your ability to change or adapt
  • Hypocritical, manipulative and/or biased organizational directives can be the bane of solid and healthy growth – avoid these at all costs.

Critial Interpretation

More often than not we are faced on a daily basis with the need to make choices. These choices are often not life threatening or world changing in their nature, but if studied at closer range could reveal themselves to be just as critical for our personal or businesses’ well being.

We have all heard of scope creep – a project is begun with a certain budget and timeline in mind. But over time, we find that the cost has incrementally increased and that the timeline has expanded well beyond what was planned. Quite often, this scope creep was already started before the contract was signed.

That is, the data that was initially gathered and “interpreted” was not correctly interpreted. Either the presenter of the data or the decision maker whose job it was to read, assess and approve the data, was not correctly interpreting what it was he was looking at.

  • Always look for multiple viewpoints and data that will facilitate a solid, well developed and verified interpretation.
  • Find others who can support your findings and/or bring in new objective interpretations of their own, helping to create a basis for solid reasoning and choices.
  • Much like in a chess game, it is always good to question prevailing wisdom (the underlying factor for most people’s decision making process) as well as, again using the chess game analogy, to create and test various hypotheses before acting upon any decision.

Critical Decisions

To protect yourself from inaction, due to…
1) overwhelm, or analysis paralysis, which usually rears its ugly head when we have fallen in love with the research phase and allowed ourselves to include too many variables, or
2) making the wrong decision, for exactly the opposite reason – not enough information upon which to base a solid, educated guess, we suggest the following:

  • Allow your decision to live on its own merit – neutrally and based on carefully defined parameters
  • Be concerned about the outcome of the decision and its ability to be deployed with a balance of speed, rigor, quality and agility.
  • Do not be concerned with a perfect outcome or result, as almost all decisions eventually take on a life of their own and morph or change shortly after inception and deployment.
  • Do not be afraid to make the decision – you’ve done your best to reach this point… trust in the moment.

Critical Alignment

It is a very rare thing when everything concerning your decision aligns itself perfectly, allowing your leadership to unfold with complete lack of resistance or impediment. Right… in your dreams!

To the contrary, normally you will find yourself in a position of defending your decisions and thoughts to people either adversarial to your cause, or simply not understanding what it is you wish to accomplish.

Much of your time will be spent trying to build consensus, constantly dispensing insight and critical information to underscore your viewpoint or trying to engage key leadership or stakeholders to even consider your position. To create a strong alignment of varying interests you must:

  • Understand people and what their agenda’s, wishes, dreams and goals are
  • Be able to bring all issues and elements affecting the possibility of alignment into the light of day
  • Look at and assess the risk, based on the data as well as intuition, to facilitate garnering the support needed for the project

Critical Learning

Since it’s founding, your company has been growing and morphing, into what it is today. In most case, along the way it has begun to shed transparency and honest feedback for the sake of necessary consensus and streamlining of work processes, which allowed faster growth (rather than quibbling about issues).

It is imperative that a way be found again to encourage and support that honest feedback and insight from the employees and leadership. Now that the company is growing, is more important than ever that it, the business, continue to learn from both success and failure. Learning from both will allow the business to both excel (repeating success exponentially), as well as safeguard itself from more failure, or at the very least unnecessary repetitive failure.

Do this:

  • Create a forum for honest, rigorous debriefs from your team in order to extract valuable insight
  • If you need to change course to avoid negative effects, do so quickly and decisively
  • Make sure that you acknowledge both your successes as well as our failures to gain insight

Critical Leadership Skills

The good news is that critical leadership skills can be learned and acquired and wherever there are holes of understanding those holes can be filled through training and study. I wish you the best on your journey as a leader and would hope that this short article has allowed you to see your role as a leader and the need to Dream Critically!

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