Category Archives: Strategic thinking

Being a strategist

“Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own Marcus Aureliuscompass also.” e.g., (Aurelius M.)

Being an effective strategist is difficult and you need to know yourself, your enemies and the outer world. You need to be positive since keeping a positive mental approach is your strength. If you find difficulties, you should try to analyze your task to find out the key factors. Then you should be able to disaggregate your main task into smaller (and easier to accomplish) sub tasks. Through next chapters we will disaggregate the strategic building process to highlight the key factors around which to work to building up an effective strategy.

Thinking like a strategist

“In manufacturing, we try to stamp out variance. With people, variance is everything.” e.g., (Welch J. 2001) – Chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001.

Everyone can be a strategist. It is a matter of mental approach; it is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.

First of all it is essential to take some time to look at the “big picture”. Don’t start planning before thinking since you could end up with the wrong solution. To think strategically it is not needed to know dedicated tools but it is not possible to come out with a great strategy without being a strategic thinker.

The strategic thinker is interested in any aspect of the company since a good idea may come out from the examination of specific areas. He has to be capable of a kind of mental gymnastic allowing him to link ideas from different specialists, highlighting opportunities, contradictions, tensions and paradoxes.

Of course for action oriented individuals it would be somehow painful spending time thinking when they should be doing. The risk is to start planning to early and since planning is getting the things done, strategist would go too early through a less imaginative (and uninspiring) part of the job.

Acting like a strategist

“People will only follow you if they see you’re ahead, are convinced you know the route, trust you, and want to get there too.” e.g., Dixon P.

“You cannot have strong leadership without passion.” e.g., (Dixon P.)

“The best way to support dreams and stretch is to set apart small ideas with big potential, then give people positive role models and the resources to turn small projects into big businesses.” (Welch J. 2001)

To act as a strategist you need to ask yourself and to the other people inside the company:

  1. Why not change the rules?
  2. Why do we do what we do?
  3. Why are we happy (or not) with the status quo?
  4. Why not do something different?
  5. Why will our plan work (or fail)?

e.g., (McKeown M. 2012)

At first strategists use to work alone but sooner or later they have to work with a dedicated team (also to give more straight to the proposed strategies). In any case they will strictly interact with the key specialists of the company since these people could be a good source of inspiration for strategic thinking. For this reason it will be important throughout all the strategy design and deployment to involve the company specialists.

A practical suggestion is to start interacting with these specialists not presenting you as “THE STRATEGIST”. Instead you should keep a low profile asking them to explain the actual company strategies. They will be happy to collaborate with you showing their point of view about the company.

Never forget that it is like entering in other people houses and even if you have a strong commitment from the head of the company you cannot put “your boots on their tables”.

Through these interviews, strategist will collect the specialists’ interpretation of the company strategy. Comparing these interpretations, it will be possible to determine how different they are from each other. If there is a clear company strategy it will be possible to determine the lock of permeability to strategies of the organization.

In the real world it is normal to find different interpretations of the current company strategy since people are naturally interested in different aspects of the “big picture” do to their professional background and emotions. If the interpretations are too far from the original strategy, specialists will drive the part of the company they are responsible of toward different directions. As previously stated, through a strategy, the company has to focus all the company resources toward a common object. This way the company will be able to offer a value added product/service. Without focusing to the same object, the company will be able to add less value to the products/services with the consequence of lowering their competitiveness.

Author: Carlo Olmi