Getting employees to think strategically rather than operationally can be difficult. Here are some simple tips on learning to think more strategically:
- Remember that the foundation for a sound strategic plan is goals. They provide direction and focus and well as a basis for finding alternative ways of achieving them. Never lose sight of your goals.
- Forget about “the way it’s always been done”! Think about how things could be and/or should be. Get outside your comfort zone!
- Practice creative thinking. Tell yourself that no idea is too crazy. Generate as many ideas as possible. As an example, take one of your products or services and list all of the possible ways it could be marketed remembering that anything goes. Force yourself to be creative and think “outside the box”.
- Analyze and process data and information in an unbiased manner. Good long-term strategies are developed around good information and sound logical reasoning. Take the time to gather good data/information, but don’t get caught up in over-analyzing things!
- Look outside the operating environment. Learn to look at customers and markets available to you. Get externally focused! Understand your markets.
- Think in strategic terms rather than task-oriented terms. For example, suppose a goal is to grow revenues at an annual rate of 9%. This sets off all kinds of task-oriented thinking; staff needs, promotional materials, space planning, etc. Think more in terms of alternative strategies for growing the business, new ways to penetrate existing markets with a new product for example.
- Become a thinker! Take time to sit back and clear your mind of details and just think. Think less about details and more about your goals and how to achieve them. Step back and think big picture on a regular basis. Find quiet time to do it. Thought can be the most productive form of work.
- Generate as many ideas as possible. Quantity will often breed quality. Also, some ideas can come together to form very effective strategies.