The problem we face in becoming more strategic in our thinking and planning is that society in general is addicted to “short term” thinking. In fact, many of us are addicted to the routine activity trap. Routine activities seduce us into a very tactical state of mind, caught in a short-cycle, stimulus-response mode of living. We worry about managing our “to do list,” what will happen today, whether or not we’ll make our numbers, how to get a product launched on time, or how to get equipment fixed to meet today’s production schedule. We see sales numbers drop, and we react quickly with a short-term “patch up” perspective. We put out the urgent fires and fail to think about the longer-term impact of our decisions.
As a consequence, we continue to do what we’ve always done, though changing conditions may make old solutions irrelevant to today’s problems. We simply overlook opportunities to see our situation from a strategic perspective. Too often, we focus on survival and making it through the next crisis — we simply manage today at the expense of the future.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to pay attention to the daily “operational issues.” We are frequently rewarded for it, and job security often depends upon it because too many managers are short-term thinkers. But we must learn to look to the horizon and identify the signals that indicate coming changes in our world that will impact tomorrow’s success. No one will magically invent time for us to ponder on important future issues – you have to make a conscious choice to carve out opportunities to explore and investigate the future. You have to shift gears, slow down, and focus your mind with discipline and skill. So, thinking strategically is nothing more than preparing for important future moments. When you develop the discipline to set aside the urgencies of the day and concentrate on the horizon, you create enormous advantages for yourself and your team.
Remember, it is never too late to begin acting strategically. Now is the time to reflect on your current situation and prepare for the future. Finally, don’t try to do everything at once, learn from your successes and failures as you develop your “strategic thinking skills.”
We will appreciate it if you could reflect and respond to the following questions:
- In what ways do we think strategically every day in a very pragmatic fashion?
- How much time and energy should a person devote to strategic thinking?
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