How to Strengthen your Strategic Thinking Skills

Have you been told that you need to be more strategic?

Being told that you aren’t strategic enough really stings. Worse is when you try to clarify what more strategic would look like and get few tangible suggestions. 

Everyone has an opportunity to think more strategically. Being more strategic doesn’t just mean making decisions that affect the whole organisation into the future. Or building to that community vision of reducing traffic congestion or the road toll. It requires that you put a series of;key decisions in the context of these broader goals. 

If you’re not being seen as enough of a strategic thinker, my guess is that it’s because you’re busy. What percentage of your work hours are spent in meetings? How much of the time left over is responding to emails, making phone calls, and doing some actual work? Is there any time left? Probably not a lot.

Under the guise of productivity, you have probably had to squeeze out thinking time. The ‘important but not urgent’ thinking task is pushed back by the urgent (even unimportant!).

The result is decisions that are often based more on reflex action than on reflection. The risk of reflexive, knee-jerk decisions is that they tend to be based on what has worked before. That would be fine if our world was static, but it is not. 

Your industry, context, even your profession, is changing at an unprecedented rate. Doing what you’ve always done can be as risky (or riskier) as trying a new and unproven approach.

In this context, it’s critically important to make time to reflect before making decisions. Asking yourself these questions: 
What is the opportunity and what are the risks? What is involved? Who is involved? What is at stake?

What at first seems like an opportunity might reveal significant risk and what seemed risky at first might reveal a significant opportunity for innovation.

Your other response to a harried life might be to make a list of things to accomplish, put your head down and get things done. But focusing too narrowly on tactical tasks restricts your chance to be strategic. 

Strategic thinking people create connections between ideas, plans, and people that others fail to see. They see the world as a series of interconnected ideas and people, and find opportunities to advance their interests at those connection points.

But a person who reflects on situations and connects ideas and people still has one problem: it isn’t possible to do everything! 

Possibilities are unlimited; but time, money, and resources are not. That necessitates the ability and willingness to make choices.

Making choices, both about what you will do, and what you won’t, is a critical part of being strategic. Closing one door in favour of another requires the courage to take action (for which you could later be blamed if things go wrong) and confidence to abandon an alternative (which could be a missed opportunity). 

It is at the point of choice that your ability to be strategic is finally tested. It isn’t without risks, but the risk of not choosing, of spreading limited resources over too many options is greater. You will be seen as more strategic if you take action and course-correct than if you choose to do nothing or take the easy option.

You don’t need a new title, more control, or bigger budget to be more strategic; you just need to be more deliberate in your thoughts and actions. By investing time and energy to reflect on the situations and decisions that face you; by finding ways to connect ideas and people that you had never linked before; and by having the courage to make choices about what you will do and what you won’t, you will greatly increase your strategic contribution. 

Soon people will be looking at you differently, even giving you that promotion or job offer you’ve been hoping for. You will certainly feel more confident and satisfied with your professional practice.

Build strategic thinking time and skills 

You may be interested in TFI Online Courses Addressing Transport Challenges, and also check out the Mobility Trends mini-course – both help build your strategic thinking skills

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.