This twist on the popular saying “Don’t just sit there, do something”, is meant to be a wake-up call for those who run busy lives and careers. In our contemporary society, being busy is considered a badge of honour. You are in high demand with a lot to do; you must be important.
A former colleague would always tell me he was so busy that he had no time for much else. Clearly, he had lost control of his schedule, drawn into the multitude of seemingly unimportant trivia that came his way or were imposed on him.
Tending to busy-ness instead of tending to the business has been the modus operandi for many of us in leadership positions, especially in western society. In fact, the origin of the word ‘business’ comes from the Old English word bisignis, meaning ‘anxiety’! Yes, we appear to be in a perpetual state of anxiety!
Doing has trumped thinking. Busy-ness has crowded out critical, strategic thought.
Yet, in study after study, strategic thinkers are found to be among the most highly effective leaders.
While executives will acknowledge the importance of strategic thinking, typically they will have little time for it. They’d much rather tend to short-term tactical matters. I hear it all the time. It is endemic in the business world. However, this mindset is deadly for those who must tend to the long-term viability of the business.
It is as much a mindset that needs changing as it is developing the discipline to make time and space for strategic thinking, so that it becomes routine.
So, here are my tips for fostering strategic thinking in your organization:
1. Communicate a clear leadership philosophy, set of values, vision, and goal statement so that everyone understands the broader organizational strategy and can align their own strategies and plans to stay focused on the big picture. Ensure that your values encourage and reward creative, out-of-the-box thinking that challenges convention and generally held assumptions
2. Encourage time-blocking for strategic thinking time, whether performed individually or as a group. The intent here is to set aside time to think about those few important things that are happening – particularly, trends – that could have a significant impact the business, good or bad
3. Be methodical in collecting and sharing insightful information about the external environment – new technologies, the marketplace, customers, competitors, and other relevant stakeholders – as well as what is happening internally. The idea is to open and transparent, and elevate thinking beyond the tactical day-to-day
4. If you have a To-Do list – burn it! The whole-time management movement is about doing more in the time we have – it is about efficiency, not effectiveness. The result being that you may be doing things that are not really important and for which there are diminishing returns. Strategic thinking is concerned with being more effective
5. Engage mentors or advisors who are highly strategic, keep you focused, and hold you accountable to the objectives you have set as well as the impact of your decisions