As a training professional for more than 25 years, I’ve observed that strategic thinking may not come naturally to a group. You must create an environment that enables a group to discuss complex problems and devise appropriate solutions. This starts with defining your values. Then, you can set boundaries for proper behavior and identify what exemplary employees do to demonstrate this. It becomes clear what behaviors are unacceptable.
Developing strategic thinking habits involves being curious, flexible, visionary, positive, open and dedicated. Create an online quiz to see how many people in your organization fit this description and can think strategically. Engage them to coach and mentor others in the group.
The strategic thinking process involves understanding the big picture and determining what you hope to achieve. It means resisting the urge to jump in and solve a short-term problem without thinking about the long-term consequences. Once you are able to identify relationships, patterns, and trends, you’ll be able to categorize related information. This helps you reduce the number of problems you’re dealing with in order to think creatively and visualize possibilities, challenge past assumptions, handle conflict, prioritize activities and make tradeoffs to create a viable strategic plan.
To create a realistic time frame for any strategic initiative, you need to forecast the amount time each task will take to complete. You can create a spreadsheet to list the time needed and calculate the time it will take to complete the entire effort. Compare your results to other plans and add contingency plans to handle potential delays. Next, establish the dependencies between phases. Some aspects, such as competitive analysis, might need to be done before others, such as decision making.
Use techniques such as the Six Thinking Hats to ensure that your organization doesn’t limit itself to one thinking style. This technique, by Edward de Bono, describes white hat thinking as focusing on data, red hat thinking as focused on emotion, black hat thinking as focusing on negative aspects, yellow hat thinking as focused on the positive, green hat thinking as focused on creativity and blue hat thinking as organizational controls. By consciously wearing all six hats, or calling on individuals who predominantly use one style or another, you can ensure to examine all aspects of decision carefully and make a sound strategic decision.