How To Think Ahead: Mastering the Art of Strategic Thinking At The Workplace

July 5, 2023
How To Think Ahead: Mastering the Art of Strategic Thinking At The Workplace

Picture this: You're an executive at a company, and you've been tasked with developing a new software product. As you dive into the project, you find yourself getting bogged down in day-to-day tasks — managing your team, communicating with other departments, and making sure everything is on track. 

It’s all important work. However, if you only focus on these tactical tasks, you may miss the opportunity to think strategically about how your product fits into the market and how it can address your customers' needs.

Strategic thinking means taking a step back from the day-to-day tasks and focusing on the the bigger picture. It means asking yourself questions like: 

👉What are our long-term goals? 

👉How does our product fit into the market? 

👉How are our routine tasks adding value to the overall organisational goals? 

👉What are our competitors doing? 

👉How can we differentiate ourselves?

In this blog, we have elaborated on all the ways to help you shift from being a tactical executor to a strategic thinker. Let’s delve right into it!

Decoding the Strategic Mindset

It’s actually a terrific thing if you’re asked to be more strategic. Chances are, you are viewed as an important asset at your workplace and are expected to go beyond executing your tasks.

Of course, without concrete guidance, being asked to be more strategic can feel more confusing or frustrating than motivating or empowering. 

And that’s not just the case with executives or managers. Research has found that 90% of directors and vice presidents haven’t received any proper training to become competent business strategists. 

Check out the video to see what strategic thinking means to most employees!

strategic thinking at work

In reality, strategic thinking is simply a shift from figuring out “how” to do your routine tasks to “why” you are doing them.

As Professor Dorie Clark mentions in her Strategic Thinking course, “You stop being evaluated on whether you can implement a task or a project, and you start being asked to conceptualise it and make determinations about what’s valuable for you, the company, and other employees to be spending their time on.”

In simple terms, it is considering the current situation, challenges and opportunities at your workplace and having a long-term plan in place for the future.

Strategic Thinking in Action

Here are some real-world examples of successful strategies that were implemented through strategic thinking:

  • Amazon: Amazon's strategic thinking is focused on creating a customer-centric business model. The company has continually invested in improving the customer experience, using data to personalise recommendations, and optimising the supply chain to provide fast, efficient delivery.
  • Netflix: Netflix has used strategic thinking to disrupt the entertainment industry. The company realised that streaming was the future of entertainment and focused on providing a seamless experience to customers, investing in content creation and building a loyal customer base.
  • Apple: Apple's strategic thinking focuses on innovation and design. The company invests heavily in research and development to create new and innovative products that appeal to customers and focuses on creating a seamless and intuitive user experience.

Steps to Foster Strategic Thinking in the Workplace

Now that you’re set to foster a strategic thinking mindset, you must be wondering how exactly to go about it. Following are some simple steps to get you started!

Steps to Foster Strategic Thinking in the Workplace
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Analysing the Barriers to Strategic Thinking

For a decade, strategic thinking skills have been most valued in managers by numerous the sources, including the Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive Magazine, HR Magazine and the American Management Association. Yet, developing a strategic mindset and related skills can have its own set of challenges that might hinder the overall implementation. Here are some of the most common ones: 

Barriers to Strategic Thinking
  • Lack of time for strategy: Only 15% of executive leadership teams discuss strategy for more than an hour per month, and 50% don't discuss it at all.
  • Lack of commitment: Just 20% of workers understand how their tasks relate to the organisation's goals and strategies.
  • Issues with prioritisation: In the corporate setup, every task, discussion, email, or meeting is considered to be ‘on priority’. This reflects how most companies lack a disciplined process for focusing on pressing issues and have little time to map a strategy for the future.
  • Fear of change: Most times, resources may be resistant to implementing the changes required to foster a strategic mindset.
  • Absence of tools or training: While most organisations prioritise developing a strategic thinking competency, very few make provisions for actually inculcating it.
  • Misalignment: It’s vital for all team members to understand their roles and responsibilities to contribute more effectively towards the end goal. But quite often, there’s a misalignment that hinders the entire strategy-building process.

Measuring the Impact of Strategic Thinking on Business Performance

Merely implementing strategic thinking at your workplace won’t be that effective till you measure the kind of impact that it’s creating. You can leverage a suitable talent development program to map the progress of your employees. Apart from that, here are a few ways in which you can do that:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Revenue growth, customer satisfaction, and employee productivity are common KPIs that can be used to measure the impact of strategic thinking.
  • Customer Feedback: Gathering customer feedback can help businesses understand how their strategies are perceived and identify areas for improvement.
  • Data Analysis: By analysing data from various sources, businesses can gain insights into their strategies' effectiveness and identify improvement opportunities.

Final Thoughts

A Harvard Business School study found that firms with clearly defined strategies outperformed their competitors by 332% in sales and 304% in profits, with total returns to shareholders soaring to 883%.

These staggering figures underline that strategic thinking is crucial for businesses to thrive in today's rapidly changing environment. By prioritising strategic thinking within the workplace, businesses can create a culture of innovation and adaptability that drives success. 

At Enparadigm, we help your workforce develop their strategic thinking capabilities through immersive learning simulations. Our experiential learning platform crafts personalised learning journeys for your employees with immersive scenarios and instant feedback to measure learning impact and application in the real world. 

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