The Critical Need for Strategic Thinking


We believe there are two high-impact practices that can help build strategic thinking capacity across organizations, and failure to leverage them can significantly undermine strategic performance both short term and long term.


Our experience reveals these facts:

  1. Less than 15% of companies make it a regular practice to monitor performance results in relation to the prior years’ strategic plan.
  2. Even fewer take effective organization-wide action to enable employees to think strategically.

These practices may be your organization’s opportunities to build strategic thinking into the fabric of the culture, and drive improvement and transformation.  It’s up to you.

Let’s talk about the first opportunity. Without monitoring performance results in relation to the prior year’s strategic plan, managers can’t easily know how effectively performance on goals and score card metrics predicts actual business strategy execution, and further, they risk embedding disconnects between strategy and plan year over year — resulting in underperformance year after year due to misalignments of business strategy throughout the organization.

Lack of strategic alignment costs money. Disconnections confuse your customers and your employees. What businesses need is to find a way to encourage and develop strategic thinking as a routine practice every day, throughout the organization.

Now, let’s touch on the second opportunity. The February 2, 2017 Forbes article, “How to Master Strategic Thinking,” published by Carey-Ann Oestreicher Community Voice Forbes Coaches Council, highlights the opportunity all organizational employees can leverage to develop and apply strategic thinking. Management can put muscle into this opportunity by establishing forums, communication and training enabling employees to understand more about the company’s common purpose, the work of all departments and the impact of each individual’s performance on strategy execution.

The article provides real meaning to this idea with the following comparison of strategy to assembly of a puzzle: “When you understand more about all areas of the organization and know who all of the key players are, then each project you work on becomes like a puzzle. When you put in one piece, it will change and shape the whole puzzle. Each piece, every decision you make, will impact the other pieces either directly or indirectly. When you can think of all areas and the impact your decisions will make on the entire company, then you see the big picture more clearly. That is strategy.”  And, we are convinced it can be applied organization wide.

At the bottom line, the solution is building human connections that strengthen understanding of the organization across functions and at all levels, aligning and enabling people to develop and apply strategic thinking. Imagine the implications of positioning all of your people to think strategically.

To drive and strengthen strategic thinking skills and practices in organizations, consider starting with an assessment. An assessment can surface information that generate insights managers can use, to create a roadmap fostering strategic thinking in leaders, managers and the workforce.  Over time, strategic thinking can become part of the fabric of the company culture.  Think about the implications of building a culture where strategic thinking is automatic behavior.

Interested in reading more about this? We also recommend the article, “Turning Great Strategy into Great Performance,” by Michael C. Mankins and Richard Steele in the July-August 2005 issue of Harvard Business Review. We also invite you to check out our other LinkedIn articles about strategy and strategic performance.


Updated 09/02/2018


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