What Does It Really Mean to Think Strategically?

Have you ever thought about what it means to think strategically? 

Does it mean to create strategies like in a war? Is it a skill you are born with or something you learn? Strategic thinking seems like a vague buzzword that senior management tosses around to sound important. 

Actually, strategic thinking is a skill we can all learn. It is how we plan, think, and ask questions to grow and learn while we work toward a goal. It’s embracing what you were like when you were a young child and constantly asking questions, like, “why?”

Thinking strategically is based on a combination of knowledge, experiences, and your hunches. It’s about taking calculated risks we hope will pay off in the future. 

It’s about shifting your focus from just doing things, to thinking and planning what should get done. 

Three Behaviors That Inspire Strategic Thinking 

Switching your focus is easier said than done. To cultivate a mind of thinking strategically, these three behaviors can help.

  1. Question why. Don’t accept doing a task a certain way just because it’s the way it’s always been done. Ask yourself why is it done that way. Or is there a better way to do it? Thinking strategically is about knowledge so you can make an informed decision. Asking questions and listening to others’ opinions helps supply the information you need to make a well-informed decision.
  2. Observe everything. Spending every minute of your day just doing stuff and getting things done might seem productive. But it doesn’t allow you to think strategically about what you are doing. Instead, take a step back occasionally and observe what’s going on. Look for areas that could be more efficient: who is doing what and how much each activity is helping things move forward. Observe critically the big picture and the way the pieces fit together.
  3. Reflect on your day. Think about what gave you energy or took away your energy. Reflect on the activities that helped you move ahead or wasted your time. Reflection time each day allows you to ask yourself if you what you learned and how to stay on track with your goals. This is where inspiration and creativity have a chance to grow and be seen. 


When you focus on doing and making something happen by doing this and doing that, you are working hard. But you are not really taking the time to think strategically. 

Instead, stop focusing on just getting things done. Take a step back and set goals for what you want in the future. 

Thinking strategically is inspiring. It helps you go from mindlessly going through the motions and taking direction from others, to planning, observing and implementing in a way that makes you successful. You can develop the skills to become a strategic thinker.

Get a free copy of the Addressing Transport Challenges Quick Guide and Scorecard to self-assess your capability, plus a series of emails providing additional information on the various steps in addressing transport challenges as a strategic thinker.

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