Yesterday in Part 1 of “Weed Control,” we looked at the importance of strategic thinking. Today, we answer the questions, “What does strategic thinking look like? How will I know it when I see it?”
You remember from yesterday the reasons that strategic thinking is important. It is an essential driver for your career and it helps ensure our company/function is relentless in our pursuit of excellence. So, let’s now look at attributes of strategic thinkers:
- Strategic thinkers… understand customer needs and expectations and continually seeks customer input – First, we need to understand that “customer” can refer to our end user, our boss, another function, a regulatory, or anyone else dependent upon the input of our work. A strategic thinker must have a thorough understanding of the end goal – what are we working to accomplish? They must understand the goal, our strategy for reaching that goal, and the key activities needed to achieve it. This applies to us on a large-scale (e.g., company-scale) and as individuals. We must understand what it is that we do or should do that will make a difference to our team, our unit, or the company. A strategic thinker asks frequently, “What am I doing that will result in a pay-back or return-on-investment to the company? How did I earn my salary today? Is the company better because of what I am doing? What value did I add to my spouse/children/friends/neighbors/coworkers today?” In short, strategic thinkers understand what others need from us and their key motivation every day is to meet that need.
- Strategic thinkers… are innovative, creative, drive out-of-the-box solutions, and take calculated risks to achieve results – Yes, it is true… you can be successful without strategic thinking, but your success will likely be limited. Strategic thinkers drive the unexpected and often don’t simply follow the rules. Just like the salmon that swims upstream each summer to its birthplace, strategic thinkers must often be the contrarian… the one that takes a bold stand that no one else will take. They intentionally look for the innovative or new approach, are typically willing to scrap the old and find the new, and they understand that life and work is not a zero-risk proposition. A strategic thinker cannot be found in the rut of the everyday, mundane drudgery.
- Strategic thinkers… anticipate change – Change is the one constant we must all deal with. Tell me… what has NOT changed in your work or home environment in the last 5 years? I would say that for most of us, we are not in the same role doing the same things now we were doing a year or two ago. Change will occur, so a strategic thinker knows this, anticipates this, and takes action now before it hits. Individuals that are always caught off guard on change are not strategic thinkers. A strategic thinker knows that they must be constantly alert to what is coming and prepare in advance both for their current function and for their career.
- Strategic thinkers… work toward broad, longer-term solutions and are not focused only on today’s agonizing details – A strategic thinker measures every action against the broader, longer-term reality. Before every decision is made, they ask, “How will this affect others? What other actions are needed to mitigate negative impacts?” They do not charge ahead and worry about the details later. They calibrate actions against the strategy and ask, “Will this help or hurt me in achieving our long-term goals?” Management rewards individuals that can look into the future and reasonable prevent issues there by taking actions today.
So, are you a strategic thinker? How do you need to adjust your approach? Keep in mind, that your career will dramatically change (for the better) when you become a strategic thinker and drive longer-term results.
Thanks for all you do! Have a tremendous day!