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Understanding Strategic Thinking

This topic defines the term 'strategy' and further explains the realm of strategy.
Let’s begin with an obvious question. What exactly is strategic thinking? Well, strategic thinking is a process you can use to view, weigh up and create the future for yourself and others. It’s an extremely effective and valuable skill. When used correctly, it can help you make good decisions related to work or to your personal life. In order to understand strategic thinking, you first need to understand strategy. Now, there are many ways to define strategy, so let’s settle for just one. Consider how you could bridge the gap between policy and tactics. What tactics can you use to implement the policy? This is your strategy. You can also think of strategy in terms of means and ends.
You have an end in mind, what means can you use to reach that end? This again is the realm of strategy. We have resources available to us to get us to our end then how we deploy or arrange those resources is our strategy and how we actually execute the actions are our tactics.
There is a classic 1987 Harvard Business Review article “Crafting Strategy” by Henry Mintzberg and it presents the idea of emergent strategy. An emergent strategy is one that was not initially planned. Instead, it was formed through consistent actions that formed a pattern over time or through solving unexpected issues that emerged, rather than being planned, it emerged naturally. Consider this example from my own experience. An in-house printing department printed a monthly sales list for the company’s freight shipping agency. This was printed on the company’s standard letter headed paper. The company was successful and its list of containers for hire was growing.
This made it necessary to print on both sides of the paper and the headed paper was tearing in the printer machines when it was turned over. The print department supervisor, using strategic thinking, proposed turning the sales list into a simple folded page printed on plain paper with illustrations in one color on the front. The use of color in this context was unheard of. The trial run of the first leaflet produced a sensation in the London Baltic Exchange, multiplying the company’s sales as well as solving the printing problem.
The result was because of the publicity, the company won the largest container agency contract in the world at that time. Every other company was still printing its list on standard headed paper.

Being able to think strategically, and to see the bigger picture, are attributes that every great leader should possess. In order to understand strategic thinking, you first need to understand strategy. This topic defines the term ‘strategy’ and further explains the realm of strategy.

Bill Phillips
Bill is an International Facilitator, Trainer, and Team Coach. He has successfully coached CEOs, board members, directors, executive teams, and team leaders in public and private companies, NGOs, and UN organizations in 15 countries across four continents. Bill is the creator of Future-basing®, a highly potent process for building strategy, vision, and cooperation.

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