“I need to be more strategic”.
“I’ve been given feedback that I need to be more strategic”.
“We want our people to be more strategic”.
These are statements I hear regularly from clients about their employees, and directly from my 1-2-1 and group coaching clients about themselves.
Note, I am not a strategy specialist. I am coming at this topic ultimately from the perspective of my role as a psychologist and coach, helping people, teams and organisations to step back a bit and consider; ‘Is there another way I (we) can do life and work?’.
What do we mean by ‘be more strategic’?
We could say that being strategic is taking an outside: in view of how things are, and could be. Having looked up various descriptions, I think this summarises it well:
It’s making sure that an individual, team or organisation’s core competence or competencies are consistently focusing on directional choices that will best move the person, team or organisation toward its new future, with the least risk and in the most orderly fashion. It’s being proactive rather than reactive. It’s being committed to a vision and purpose.
For many of us, it’s more comfortable to take a “heads down” approach to how we work rather than to “lift up” and ‘be strategic’.
Being strategic comes naturally to some but not to all of us. For those of us that it does not come naturally to, it’s important to get our heads around it. We have not necessarily been taught how to be strategic. Did we explicitly learn about strategy in school? I know I didn’t! It all feels like guess work, and depends on our role models and experiences.
By stepping back and wrapping our heads around the different element of being strategic, I believe we can learn. Having spent some time on this for myself and the business during the recent months of Covid-19 life, I suggest you consider the following in relation to your role, your career – and/ or if you want to go big on it – your purpose.
After moving through the process of self-reflection, you might want to consider it all in relation to your team or organisation depending on where you sit in your role.
I believe for many of us, the first step is to recognise what many specialists in the area define as the two main elements of being strategic:
Strategic Thinking and Strategic Planning.
Strategic thinking Vs. strategic planning:
Most of us have a natural propensity towards one of these, more so than the other. Some of us sit more comfortably in ‘thinking’ but sit less comfortably in ‘planning’, whereas many go straight for the ‘planning’ and don’t do the ‘thinking’. Both ‘thinking’ and ‘planning’ are independent, while also being interdependent.
Strategic thinking is about looking at the big picture and considering new ways of doing things and requires ideating, being open-minded, imagining, seeing alternatives, blue sky thinking, root cause analyses and lots more.
Strategic planning is about translating vision into defined goals, objectives, and a sequence of steps describing how to achieve them and requires organising, prioritising, focusing, detailing, implementing, charts, timetables, task lists and lots more.
If we are naturally pre-disposed towards strategic thinking, we create lots of ideas that don’t always come fully to fruition. If we are naturally pre-disposed towards strategic planning we live in an endless cycle of goal setting and measuring objectives without coming up for air to consider if there might be other ways to do what we are doing.
It can be a challenge for many of us to get it right, possibly because it’s time consuming to first of all take time to do the ‘strategic thinking’ and then also to do the ‘strategic planning’.
Getting both strategic thinking and strategic planning working for us takes some serious commitment.
Your ‘be more strategic’ challenge: Part 1
Where is your comfort zone?: Strategic thinking or Strategic planning or neither?
If you were to do more of the one you are not pre-disposed towards, which one would it be?
What would you need to make this happen? Time, permission, support, or just getting out of your own way?
Let’s revisit ‘being strategic’ in the coming weeks.
First of all I recommend reflecting on the questions above and make a commitment to yourself to carve out some time for ‘strategic thinking’ or ‘strategic planning’, or both.Back to Teams