It’s very easy today for people to become paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. This places a greater demand on leaders to keep staff focused on the prospect of a brighter, yet plausible, future. This week’s post examines how managers can do this by helping their staff learn to think strategically about the company and their own careers.
We have found that encouraging strategic thinking from the top of the organization to the shop floor is largely a matter of executive action and intention. In our experience, when executives make strategy development an activity exclusive to the top members of the organization, they discourage strategic thinking.
Specifically, executives and managers stifle strategic thinking by not actively being open to others’ feedback, pushback and ideas. When people feel that their suggestions are not being met with receptiveness, they will not participate in a strategic discussion even when given the chance.
To overcome this dynamic, we advise getting everyone in the company involved in strategic conversations. If you demonstrate that you are committed to other people’s ideas by incorporating and promoting them, you will encourage people to think strategically.
One easy process is to pick several areas where you want to create a breakthrough in performance and form teams. Gather people from varying levels and departments, creating a blue team and red team for each desired area of breakthrough. Then have a friendly competition for ideas on how to achieve the desired leap forward.
To encourage maximum strategic thinking, tell the groups that you are looking for “out-of-the-box, yet plausible” ways to take the organization to the next level.
Another common contributor to hindered strategic thinking is asking your staff to always put forth their tactical ideas, but never their strategic ones.
Executives can encourage higher-order thinking by making sure meetings are balanced out between time dedicated to discussing long-term strategic issues and short-term tactical ones. One of the biggest complaints we hear in companies is that all the meetings are about tactical items. Employees complain that time is never spent having conversations about the bigger picture and longer-term issues.
What can you do today to encourage strategic thinking? I would love to hear your comments.