less_than_symbolEverybody says we need to be strategic, but the reality is very few people have a strategic mindset, especially at work. This conundrum seems to be driven by a world of instant response and having access to what we want, when we want it. Be it overnight shipping, finger tip access to information via the internet, or using a credit account to instantly purchase items that we may or may not be able to afford, it conditions us to be tactical and think short-term, moving us away from a strategic mode.

The concept of “instant” can be good. It is appealing, and does offer value, but it does not position individuals or organizations for the needs or challenges that may arise in the near or long-term future. By keeping our head up and looking towards the horizon, we can set a clear strategic direction and adjust our strategic course on-demand.

This strategic conundrum can be driven by many reasons and common misconceptions. Here are a few of the most common:

A Time Issue

Our time is limited to only 168 hours in a week. In addition to our regular work, we have to answer and return phone calls, respond to emails, pickup kids from school, make dinner, among many other things. Because of our time crunch, we condition ourselves to respond to life in a reactive way. Our excuse is that there is just not enough time in the day.

The reality is we need to make time for strategy so we can gain time later. Acting strategically is not just looking at the big picture, but it is also thinking about and processing the big picture. Crafting strategy does not have to be a time suck. In fact, strategic thinkers are often able to minimize time spent on problems as a result of a little foresight and planning. Start out by spending five minutes looking at your day from a strategic mindset. Consider the key steps you need to take to make your week productive and successful.

The Notion That Strategy is Reserved for Leaders

Strategy is not reserved for leaders. Strategy is for anyone who can and wants to prosper and beat out the competition. Strategy is about positioning yourself, your team, department, or organization for success. While leaders may set the overall strategic direction of the organization, you as an individual need to be thinking about how you can contribute to the organization at your individual level to beat out the competition and support an overarching strategy. Individuals put traction into an organizations strategy.

Pure Ignorance

Ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge, education, or awareness. Some individuals may feel that they don’t understand what being strategic is or even where to begin. While certain aspects of strategy can be complex, it is fundamentally about creating direction and priorities that will advance both your short-term and long-term direction and efforts. Simply picking up a well respected book that offers insight to strategic thinking and concepts will provide a great introduction. However, don’t stop with a quick read. You need to continue to learn about it and refine what strategy is and how it best applies to you. You don’t need to become an expert, but seek to gain some perspective.

Shoot From The Hip Mentality

Some people believe that planning or anticipating for more than 6-12 months ahead is absurd. The common excuse is that there are too many external variables, factors, and unknowns that are out of your realm of control, — making it pointless to plan. Any organization or individual who wants to be world class needs, needs to dump this notion if they want to stay relevant and competitive. Throw this idea out the window. This is a fast track to extinction. While there may be a sliver of truth to it, you can change or influence that which falls within your sphere of control. If you are thinking and planning ahead, if you are scanning your external environment, then you can forecast or anticipate, with some degree of accuracy, how you will be directly affected by external sources over which you have no control. A strategic plan does not need to be a big formal document written in stone and signed by blood. Think more realistic and catch a glimpse of your desired future state.

Don’t use one of many lazy excuses as to why you can’t be strategic. Take control of your future direction, otherwise you’ll find many missed opportunities that have come and gone. Capitalizing on just a few of these may surprise you as to have valuable it is. Once you see the value, you will be sold on thinking strategically.

If you fail to plan, plan to fail. – Unknown

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About the Author
Chris Stowell
Christopher Stowell is currently serving as CMOE’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing where he works with multi-national organization to develop their people. His special interests lie in coaching teamwork, strategy, e-learning, and assessment design, and delivery. Chris has a special talent in helping companies assess their organizational effectiveness and identifying key issues and opportunities in order to advance their performance and achieve long term results. Additionally, he has extensive experience in designing, coordinating, and facilitating customized adventure based experiential training events for high performance teams.

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