To kick things off; strategic thinking is different to strategic planning. Here’s why:
Strategic thinking is a forward-thinking and innovative process in which we consider ‘what’ we’re doing and ‘why’ we’re doing it.
Compared to strategic planning which is defined as:
A data-driven process that looks to communicate the ‘how’ we’re going to achieve the above ‘what’, by creating goals and a pathway leading to them. Strategic planning looks at the predictable!
Both can help the wider strategy. Where strategic thinking creates ‘blue-sky thinking’; strategic planning helps us stay grounded and envisage a path through data and realistic parameters within our working environment. Conversely, strategic planning can restrict strategic thinking which can impact the execution of your overall strategy. This is due to relying on ‘past experiences’, the data, often resulting in us being afraid to challenge the norm and think outside the box during our strategy planning. This is where combining strategic thinking with strategic planning comes in.
Most companies take up strategic planning activities once a year to help guide them throughout the following months. The problem here is that the world changes daily. So how can a written ‘guidebook’ maintain relevance in an ever-changing world?
positive effects from strategic thinking
By utilising the power of strategic thinking, we can stay innovative and adaptable to changing circumstances, keeping our eye on our main goals and taking the right steps to reach them through our strategic planning.
strategic thinking creates clarity
Creativity and ‘out of the box’ thinking stems from strategic thinking skills. We envisage and predict the future we wish to see. This provides clarity on what we’re looking to achieve and is where we combine strategic thinking with planning to define the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ for our strategy. Remember thinking provides the purpose, planning provides the path!
Furthermore, clarity creates better decision making. When we mix together the vision and how we’re going to get there, our decision-making process becomes much easier, aligning our decisions with our vision and strategy.
talking about vision…
When we are able to think strategically, we are able to plan effectively. We can define our goals and the pathway to achieving them. Moreover thinking strategically defines a ‘vision’, which allows us to always know where the finish line is so that even if we go off track slightly, we know we are still making movements in the right direction to achieve our goals.
aligning your teams
Thinking strategically = identifying a vision + identifying goals = bringing together the right people to achieve the vision + strategic planning = a path to success.
A coherent team, all driven and motivated by the same values is the dream we want. Well, strategic thinking is what helps us to achieve this dream. How? By bringing together the right people, driven by the ‘why’ (the cause), who are motivated to work together. These are the types of people we all want to work with. The types who’ll find a way to get it done, the right way!
motivation for the win
All of the above combine together to create the motivation benefit. By understanding our cause, creating a visionary path to get there and bringing this idea to our team, our collective intrinsic motivation kicks in and the team can become far more inspired through the knowledge of the cause, rather than the monetary incentive. By bringing our talent together and presenting a vision, as well as letting them know what we need from each one of them, we offer something money cannot drive – purpose. Consequently, this both excites and inspires our talent, who’ll work tirelessly to help achieve the target, think differently about the solution and collaborate in ways we would never imagine for the greater good of the business.
When we’re motivated, we perform better. It’s that simple. Our thinking is sharper, we’re more creative and the big idea can often come from a motivated team. Granted, there are plenty of ways to achieve higher performance and this is just one of many that will help us to see longevity in our business, with the right people steering the ship on course to succeeding.
learning through strategic thinking
The ability to think strategically requires research into many variables. For example, having a quality SWOT analysis will provide better knowledge on where to guide the business. This results in learning. We learn about our competitors, what’s worked, what hasn’t, any obstacles lying ahead and how to overcome them. We should never base our performance on our competition, but keeping an eye on them is necessary. Otherwise, we may take our foot off the gas and watch them come soaring past.
identifying additional opportunities
By thinking more strategically, we identify more opportunities. This can help us to understand what’s right for the business, our team and us. With a connected team, we can collectively identify additional opportunities through a group effort and devise tactics to achieve the opportunities relevant to the goal and vision. In addition, this enhances team cohesion whilst also creating more and more opportunities consider during the path to success.
The benefits of being a strategic thinker are ever-growing. Ultimately, when we apply strategic thinking and planning together coherently, we create a roadmap for success.