Weed Control (Part 1): The importance of strategic thinking

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I was recently asked to provide a presentation to an organization on strategic thinking. So, when I considered how best to articulate this in a practical way, I chose to use the analogy of “staying out of the weeds.”  This shifted to “weed control.”  Thus, the title of this.  Today, we look at the importance of weed control (strategic thinking) to our company and your career.

CEB, Inc. (a management service company) recently conducted a survey of several thousand leaders of regulated functions across multiple industries as to what competencies were important for success in our companies and in individual careers. They were then asked to rank these competencies in order of our individual effectiveness.  In short, strategic thinking was rated the most important competency for individuals.  Leaders of all businesses said strategic thinking was the most important competency an individual could have to drive success in their organization (this ranked above things like organizing, leading, functional expertise, analyzing, etc.).  And, to top it off, when asked to rank what competencies were done the best, strategic thinking was rated near the bottom.  In short, most do the worst in the competency considered the most important.

Why is strategic thinking so important? There are a number of reasons that driving strategic thinking is of value:

  1. It ensures we are looking at the big picture, while losing focus on the “weeds”
  2. It helps provide a roadway (with rumble strips) to ensure we stay on track
  3. It ensures we understand and constantly verify customer expectations and input
  4. It produces imaginative solutions
  5. It encourages reasoned and calculated risks
  6. It helps us anticipate changes in business conditions and facilitates adaptability
  7. It helps ensure we consider to broader implications of our decisions
  8. It keeps momentum going toward long-term strategy rather than short-term pressures (e.g., weeds)

Strategic thinking is also important for individuals. Senior managers today do NOT reward individuals (typically) that are continually wrapped up in weeds.  They understand that weeds must be dealt with, but they are more interested in the longer-term, broader picture.  Individuals that can see the big picture, summarize issues into key points and provide an approach for solving problems are the individuals that are consider high-potential employees.

So, make no mistake about it…. Becoming a strategic thinker is absolutely critical to our company and your individual career success!  In the next two parts of “Weed Control”, we look at what good strategic thinking looks like (Part 2) and steps we can take as individuals to expand our own ability as strategic thinkers (Part 3).

Thanks for your great work and the encouragement you provide others. Have a weed-free day!



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