Strategic thinkers are shown to be the most highly effective leaders in multiple studies, observes Robert Kabacoff, writing for the HBR.org Blog Network.
So given the value of strategic thinkers, how can organisations develop more of them?
Kabacoff points out that it is difficult to acquire the skill of strategic thinking because it is as much a mindset as a set of techniques. However, the author insists that it is possible to install strategic thinking skills in leaders, and he offers some ways to foster strategic thinking as part of a management approach:
• Encourage managers to allocate a regular slot for strategic planning, both alone and with others. It should be a regular part of their job.
• Give leaders information on the market, industry, customers, competitors and new technologies that influence your organisation. Their thinking needs to be elevated beyond the day-to-day business.
• Keep people up to speed on what is going on internally. Information needs to be shared across boundaries. Assign cross-functional teams to work on strategic organisational issues, and share the results of their thinking and efforts throughout the organisation.
• Link up managers with a strategic mentor – someone who knows how to keep people focused on strategic goals.
• Articulate your philosophy, mission and goals throughout the organisation. It is important for everyone to understand the broader organisational strategy so they can incorporate it into their own plans and strategies.
• Reward people for thinking, not simply reacting. “For example,” says Kabacoff, “managers [can be] rewarded for being able to quickly generate several solutions to a given problem and identifying the solution with the greatest long-term benefit for the organisation.”
• Incorporate strategic thinking into training and development programmes. You should strive to teach employees what strategic thinking is and encourage them to ask “why” and “when” questions.