According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review Poland, the ability to think strateically, to plan ahead, is what sets leaders apart from the rest. Strategising, however, is a word that is thrown around way too often in ‘corpo-speech’, yet rarely do we stop to consider its implications. First, let’s start with the basics: What does it mean, to think strategically? Or even better, what does strategy mean? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a strategy is ‘A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim’. But behind this deceptively simple definition lies an intricate subset of skills, such as acute observational skills and an ability to listen, which, when put together, allow those who master them to act on occurrences that are yet to happen. In other words, strategising entails gaining a better understanding of the future.
Below we share eight tips to help you think strategically.
Observation is key
Sampling your surroundings is fundamental if you wish to become further acquainted with any new challenges and opportunities that may spontaneously arise. Strategising entails knowing the environment one is going to operate in, and nothing beats hands-on experience. Looking for the next big thing? Familiarise yourself with the needs of those around you. Seeking to establish a new market trend? Start by analysing the current trends in your sector. Want to build a strategy for success? Focus on the major issues underlying the sector you will delve into. If you want the vici, then you’ll need to ensure you’ve done the veni and the vidi first.
If your long-term strategy seems all too daunting, it’s perhaps best to break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks which, in turn, require their own simpler, more specific strategies. This process ought to be helpful in revealing which elements are useful and which are ultimately redundant.
Set the alarm
Once you’ve compartmentalised, it’s also important to optimise your time. Coming up with a comprehensive timeline is an excellent way of ensuring your efforts will stick to the schedule, and help get you focused on those more immediate tasks. See to it that you establish an end-date, and challenge yourself to attain your various goals within the allocated time frame.
Know how to fit the blows
Being full of energy and expectations about your organisational ideas is a central part of strategising; after all, passion is the most powerful driver of all. However, be wary of falling into false perceptions of security: If everything seems to be just too perfect, then perhaps you haven’t considered the tough questions. What are the risks? Are they worth it when measured against the benefits? How much time will it take away from my personal life? How much of a strain is this venture going to place on me? And, most importantly – am I willing to risk failure? This may be a hard pill to swallow, albeit one that needs to be swallowed, nonetheless.
Listen to those around you
Being an active listener becomes a fundamental part of the job. Listening entails absorbing information to better comprehend the environment, and it provides you with a basis from which to start operating effectively. It is also an excellent way for building the trust of those close to you, and to establish you as reliable and caring. No matter how intricate and elaborate your plans might be, little will be accomplished if you don’t have loyal people by your side.
To change the future, know the past
It’s no secret that futurists and tacticians of renown scrutinise the past as a means of getting a better grasp of the future. This is because understanding structures and recurring patterns is vital if you seek to make reliable predictions about things that have yet to happen, with a modicum of certainty. Human history is peppered with self-replicating paradigms of behaviour; getting the timing of their recurrence right may spell the difference between a successful and a failed strategy.
From short to long
It’s all well and good looking at the past to try and understand the future; however, when aiming for the long haul, it’s crucial that you maintain a view of the short term at all times. Having grandiose plans for, say, a period five years from now is only viable if those plans have accounted for the gap in between. Sometimes fixating on the end goal prevents us from seeing the full picture.
Did we just mention that you should listen to those around you? Well, that and, obviously, learn how to put the different skills that your colleagues, employees (and yourself) possess to their best possible use in order to, in turn, specialise. Allocate specific skill sets to their matching strategies to maximise efficiency and minimise unnecessary costs. After all, time is money, so why not save both?
So there you have it! Eight tips to help you improve your ability to think strategically and accomplish your goals. Just remember, the key is to divide and conquer.
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