Today, many of us face incredible pressures to deliver immediate results in our work places, to do more with less, and to manage an ever-increasing workload. The pace and urgency of daily demands can make it difficult to look even one step ahead. But in this rapidly changing world, leaders must learn to look ahead, not just think about today, but also tomorrow. Strategic thinking is nothing more than the capacity to anticipate, the discipline to prepare now, and the ability to position yourself for the future. It is the ability to mobilize and focus your resources and energy on things that will matter in the future.
That future is coming at you fast. You can prosper or be a victim asleep at the wheel. As humans, we have the capacity to think broadly, if we choose. We can choose to think consciously and deliberately about the future and about the big picture or not. Being strategic means having the courage to think deeply about what you want to do and achieve. Applied strategic thinking is about creativity, intuition, and planning to help you reach your destiny. In essence, strategic people think and act before they have to, before they are forced to take up a reactive position. Unless we change and develop our thinking patterns, our success will stagnate.
We must realize that everyone is the leader over his or her own job, project, and assignments. Effective leadership means being responsible for what happens in the future, as well as for today. A primary goal of leaders at any level should be to gain a better understanding of their own job and responsibilities as well as business conditions, the environment (the market, customers, and competitors), and the indicators that identify changes and new trends. Leaders must be in tune with the signals that provide insight into the needs and wants of team members, senior management, and suppliers. Leaders must know who their customers are, why they come to you, and what they will be looking for in the future. Leaders must anticipate how their field will change in the future. Leaders must be tapped into the competitors that most affect their world (what products they offer and how customers see them).
We will appreciate it if you could reflect and respond to the following questions:
- How well do you see the changes coming at you and are you prepared to handle them?
- Why is it important in your area of responsibility to think strategically?
Dr. Steven J. Stowell, the Founder and President of CMOE, Inc., has devoted his career to the development of managers and leaders around the world. CMOE offers workshops on Applied Strategic Thinking process.