Upon meeting new people, one of the first questions I am asked is often, “Where do you work?” or “What do you do?” This was the case a few nights ago, after being introduced to a colleague of a friend. When I explained that I work for CMOE, which provide leadership and employee development training, he asked me to tell him more about it. I gave a brief list of our services and explained that one of our most popular workshops is on strategic thinking. He said he took a class on strategic management, but it didn’t apply to him because he wasn’t an executive. I explained to him that strategic thinking is not the same as strategic management.
Let’s look at Strategic Management in general terms. Wikipedia explains, “Strategy is the art, science and craft of formulating, implementing and evaluating cross-functional team management decisions that will enable an organization to achieve its long-term objectives. It is the process of specifying the organization’s mission, vision and objectives, developing policies and plans. Strategic management seeks to coordinate and integrate the activities of the various functional areas of a business in order to achieve long-term organizational objectives.”
Applied Strategic Thinking
Applied Strategic Thinking is a way of scanning your environment, finding ways to perform more efficiently, being more innovative, and reacting to outside challenges and opportunities with more confidence because you have already considered variables.
Notice that the main difference between these definitions is the timing. Where strategic management is a long-term plan for the future, Applied Strategic Thinking considers the future from the next few seconds to however long the concept will be relevant. In other words, you can consider the best route around an accident or plan for your retirement and everything in between including your influence on the future of your organization.
The second difference is in the number of members. Strategic management usually takes a team to determine the direction of an organization. Strategic thinking is something everyone, as individuals, can do. So a strategic thinking janitor may discover that changing a product will be less expensive, more effective, or perhaps more environment friendly than the current product being purchased. Strategic thinking means an individual looks at his/her environment, evaluates it, and then asks, “What would happen if . . .?”