What Gets in the Way of Strategic Thinking?
Steps You Can Take to Move Forward
Last week, I wrote about a leader who needs her team to think more strategically in order to accomplish significant company goals. The truth is, executives and professionals at all levels encounter numerous obstacles daily that impede strategic thinking.
Here are the obstacles my clients talk about most often:
- A “silo mentality” where departments don’t want to share information
- Poorly defined company mission and vision
- Poorly defined or poorly communicated business strategy
- Time and resources: the team is stretched thin executing tactics
- Big ideas are rejected automatically
- Mediocrity is rewarded
- Lack of accountability
- Persistent short-term thinking
- Misaligned strengths (poor hiring decisions)
- Barriers to communication between staff and C-Suite
- Lack of training or coaching to think more long-term
- Managers who can’t (or won’t) help connect the dots between tasks and strategic goals
Some of these barriers may be out of your control. But what about the areas that you can control, or at least influence?
For instance, you may need to serve as a translator of the company strategy to your team, without much guidance from your CEO or board of directors. Let’s say your company is led by an executive team that has a brilliant vision of the future. But they won’t slow down long enough to evangelize that vision in a way that engages employees. You have an opportunity to fill that void.
What if you report to a boss who is scattered, stressed, and never seems to have time to explain why she is asking you to take on new projects? She might take for granted that you understand company strategy as well as she does. But in reality, she does a poor job of communicating company objectives to her team. You will need to step up and uncover more information through other internal resources.
Cutting through these obstacles can feel like unraveling the proverbial Gordian knot.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.
Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
– Sun Tzu, Chinese Military Strategist and Philosopher
A first step is to survey your surroundings and determine the top three things that get in the way of strategic thinking. Find one or two things you can influence, instead of trying to take on the entire puzzle at once. Start by addressing the area that will deliver the most significant impact once resolved. Once you see progress in one aspect of the problem, you can choose the next high impact piece of the puzzle to solve.
This approach assumes that you haven’t given up entirely on the culture and leadership at your company. Do you think it’s worthwhile to invest your energy in improved strategic thinking? Then plan on taking a systematic approach to building this mindset over the long-term.