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Thinking Strategically-How to Be Ahead of the Curve

Thinking Strategically-How to Be Ahead of the Curve

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Published by cmoeinc

Thinking Strategically: How to be Ahead of the Curve By Steven J. Stowell, Ph.D.

Today, many of us face incredible pressures to deliver immediate results in our work places, to do more with less, and to manage an ever-increasing workload. The pace and urgency of daily demands can make it difficult to look even one step ahead. But in this rapidly changing world, leaders must learn to look ahead, not just think about today, but also tomorrow.

Thinking Strategically: How to be Ahead of the Curve By Steven J. Stowell, Ph.D.

Today, many of us face incredible pressures to deliver immediate results in our work places, to do more with less, and to manage an ever-increasing workload. The pace and urgency of daily demands can make it difficult to look even one step ahead. But in this rapidly changing world, leaders must learn to look ahead, not just think about today, but also tomorrow.

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Published by: cmoeinc on Dec 10, 2012
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ThinkingStrategically
oday, many o us ace incredible pressures to deliver immediate results in our work places, to do more with less, and to manage an ever-increasing workload. Te pace andurgency o daily demands can make it dicult to look even one step ahead. But in thisrapidly changing world, leaders must learn to look ahead—to not just think about today,but also tomorrow. Strategic thinking is nothing more than the capacity to anticipate, the disci-pline to prepare now, and the ability to position yoursel or the uture. It is the ability to mobilizeand ocus your resources and energy on things that will matter in the uture.Tat uture is coming at you ast. You can prosper or be a victim asleep at the wheel. As humanbeings, we have the capacity to think broadly, i we choose. We can choose to think consciously and deliberately about the uture and about the big picture or not. Being strategic means havingthe courage to think deeply about what you want to do and achieve. Applied Strategic Tinking®(AS) is about creativity, intuition, and planning to help you reach your destiny. In essence, stra-tegic people think and act beore they have to, beore they are orced to take up a reactive posi-tion. Unless we change and develop our thinking patterns, our success will stagnate.
How to beAhead of the Curve
By Steven J. Stowell, Ph.D.
 
Thinking Strategically: How to be Ahead of the Curve
2
© 2012 CMOE Press
We must realize that everyone is the leaderover his or her own job, project, and assign-ments. Eective leadership means being re-sponsible or what happens in the uture, aswell as or today. A primary goal o leaders atany level should be to gain a better understand-ing o their own job and responsibilities, aswell as business conditions, the environment(the market, customers, and competitors),and the indicators that identiy changes andnew trends. Leaders must be in tune with thesignals that provide insight into the needs andwants o team members, senior management,and suppliers. Leaders must know who theircustomers are, why they come to you, and whatthey will be looking or in the uture. Leadersmust anticipate how their eldwill change in the uture. Leadersmust be tapped into the competi-tors that most aect their world(what products they oer andhow customers see them).Te problem we ace in becom-ing more strategic in our think-ing and planning is that society in general is addicted to short-term thinking. In act, many o us are addicted to the routineactivity trap. Routine activitiesseduce us into a very tacticalstate o mind, caught in a short-cycle, stimu-lus-response mode o living. We worry aboutmanaging our to do lists, what will happentoday, whether or not we’ll make our numbers,how to get a product launched on time, or how to get equipment xed to meet today’s produc-tion schedule. We see sales numbers drop, andwe react quickly with a short-term patch-upperspective. We put out the urgent res and ailto think about the longer-term impact o ourdecisions. As a consequence, we continue todo what we’ve always done, though changingconditions may make old solutions irrelevant totoday’s problems. We simply overlook opportu-nities to see our situation rom a strategic per-spective. oo oen, we ocus on survival andmaking it through the next crisis—we simply manage today at the expense o the uture.
Strategic thinking requires theability to see and understand your work environment. It re-quires objectivity and an ability to separate yoursel rom themaelstrom o daily events, andlook at the bigger picture.
Tere are plenty o legitimate reasons to pay attention to the daily operational issues. Weare requently rewarded or it, and job secu-rity oen depends upon it because too many managers are short-term thinkers. But we mustlearn to look to the horizon and identiy thesignals that indicate comingchanges in our world that willimpact tomorrow’s success. Noone will magically invent timeor us to ponder on importantuture issues—you have to makea conscious choice to carve outopportunities to explore and in- vestigate the uture. You have toshi gears, slow down, and ocusyour mind with discipline andskill. So, thinking strategicallis nothing more than preparingor important uture moments.When you develop the disciplineto set aside the urgencies o the day and con-centrate on the horizon, you create enormousadvantages or yoursel and your team.
The Skills
Cultivating success involves seven essentialstrategic skill sets. Tese seven skills can beused separately (as stand-alone skills), or youcan link them together and create a top-to-bottom process. You may encounter situa-tions where some o the strategic thinking hasalready been done. In these cases, the strategicthinking process acts like a good review andcheck-o system, or a decision-making lter.You may nd that these ideas help in selective
The problem weface in becom-ing more strate-gic in our think-ing and planningis that societyin general is ad-dicted to “shortterm” thinking.
 
Thinking Strategically: How to be Ahead of the Curve© 2012 CMOE Press
3
situations, or on important projects or initia-tives that are already underway. So, whetheryou use these skills systematically or individu-ally, you are likely to develop some thought-provoking ideas that will save you some agony,money, and time, as well as increase your con-tribution to the success o your organization.Remember, it is never too late to begin actingstrategically. Now is the time to refect on yourcurrent situation and prepare or the uture. Fi-nally, don’t try to do everything at once. Learnrom your successes and ailures as you developyour strategic thinking skill set.
1. Tame the Beast 
As we alluded to earlier, the rst step o yourstrategy-thinking journey centers on creatinga little space in your lie to clear your head andnd time to refect. Extra time and a clear headwon’t come looking or you. You have to bedeliberate as you create space in your operatingworld. Our beasts are not bad in and o them-selves. All too oen, we simply allow themto get out o control. In act, many o us havelearned to love the renzied beast. Unless wetake deliberate steps to control the daily pres-sures and grind, our hard work evolves into ourworst enemy rom a strategic point o view.For each o us, the 800-pound gorilla can besomething dierent. For some people, the sheer volume o work prevents them rom lookingahead. For others, the drama o regular emer-gencies holds them captive. Some o you may treat everyone else’s urgent requests as yourown and ail to place your own responsibili-ties into proper perspective. Regardless o thecause, the beast is always close by. Yet, i wemanage our beasts well, they can become valu-able allies; i we allow them to run rampant,they can lead to our eventual downall.It is unortunate, but too many people measureus by how many gorillas we can carry on ourbacks. Sometimes, we mistakenly think that theway to build respect and credibility is to runwith the beast and become a pack mule or extrapair o hands. Te key in this step is to takeresponsibility or the proper care and eedingo your gorillas. So, how do you get a leash onyour beasts?First, you need to dene some strategic groundrules; then, have the courage and discipline tostick with them. Tat means, i you need thirty minutes to think about the week ahead, thendon’t jump into the rst skirmish that comesup. I you need a long lunch each month toplan ahead, don’t compromise it at the rsturgent request. Secondly, you have to block o some time. It doesn’t have to be much—justenough to get your mind in gear. Tird, beobservant. ake things in, be curious, ask ques-tions, nd out where your organization is goingand link your strategy to it. Fourth, be willingto learn, try the strategic thinking tools, andtrust the process. Fih, be ready or some pushback and surprised looks. People who aren’taccustomed to seeing you in a strategic lightwill have to get used to the new you. Anyonecan quibble with your thoughts, analysis, andorecast. Expect some resistance. It is natural asyou become a strategic change agent or catalyst.
2. Acquire the Target 
In order to be a strategic thinker, you needwhat we call a strategic dashboard to help youcheck out the things that are driving your cur-rent success and understand exactly what willdrive your uture success.aking the time to survey your work and deneyour priority objectives isn’t too dicult; you just need to muster the discipline to look atyour world rom a distance and rom a dierentperspective. You may eel that it is unproduc-tive to do this—that you are not accomplishinganything. And or the truly activity-addictedperson, that eeling is normal and natural. Youmay need a coach, mentor, or associate to pro- vide support along the way to help in managingthe 800-pound gorilla. Other people are simply araid o what they may discover as they un-earth their strategic objectives. Tey may see

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