Strategic planning is one of the most important factors that drive superlative business results. The most successful enterprises today are the ones that have fostered a strategic thinking culture. There was a time when the onus of driving change in an organization was solely the responsibility of the CEO. In today's dynamic and competitive business world, the entire organization from leadership team to front line employees is responsible for driving change. Employees across the organization are expected to pitch in with ideas, think out-of-the-box, look beyond short-term goals and focus on innovation.
Is it easy to develop a strategic thinking organization? No. Is it necessary? Absolutely, yes! Here are 5 tips to help you develop a strategic thinking organization:
1. Lay down a concrete vision and mission statement
This is the first stepping stone in creating a strategic thinking organization. A well-defined strategic plan, which includes the organization’s vision, mission and core values, helps provide a clear direction and focus for the entire organization. Once the plan is defined, it needs to be executed throughout the organization by linking to tactical actions with resource assignments and timelines. When everyone knows what is expected of them and how they can align their day to day activities to meet greater organizational goals, the operational actions of an organization becomes more streamlined and efficient.
2. Encourage proactive problem-solving behavior
As Assegid Habtewold wrote in his book, The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks: For Continued Success in Leadership, “Rather than micro-managing to resolve every problem, create the right atmosphere, process, and system that facilitate effective problem solving.” In other words, strategic thinking has to become a way of life for your organization. If activities that require strategic thinking are a regular part of an employees’ day, over time, it will become a positive habit. An organization needs to encourage proactive problem-solving behavior to help managers and employees develop the habit of thinking strategically. One way to encourage such behaviour is to provide managers with the necessary feedback and progress on strategic actions regularly, thus empowering them to make better decisions. Cloud-based technologies like Envisio’s strategy execution software make it easy to implement and communicate your strategic plan throughout your organization and provide insight into the health and progress of your strategic plan.
3. Foster a collaborative culture
In many organizations, it is only the leadership team who are well-versed with the issues being faced by the organization. This effectively reduces the solution thought-pool. An organization needs to create a collaborative culture where there exists a strong sense of community, relatively low barriers to participation, informal mentorship structures and support for creating and sharing one’s ideas. Solutions come from knowledge. When employees have access to information relating to the organization’s goals, results and challenges, they will be better placed to offer relevant solutions. Knowledge is power, and empowered decision-making is possible only when information is readily available and participation is encouraged. Employees flourish when they feel they have a voice and they can see their work as part of the bigger picture.
4. Mentor your managers
Organizations can't afford NOT to have a mentorship program. After all, the skills of an organization’s human resources are the most valuable asset. Corporate mentoring programs provide a means of cultivating those skills throughout your organization. To be the best, your managers will have to learn from the best. By connecting your managers with mentors who have a highly strategic way of thinking, your organization will be able to foster strategically-thinking managers. The managers in turn will be able to mentor juniors within the organization.
5. Recognize and reward
The Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences wrote on their website, “Recognition serves as a tool for reinforcing the behaviors that drive an organization to excellence and gives a vital boost to employees’ engagement that has a “ripple effect” that reaches beyond the recipient” and there’s research to back this up. Studies have shown that employees who are appreciated show greater job satisfaction and drive to improve, as compared to those who only receive monetary appraisals. One way to promote strategic thinking is to show appreciation for managers and employees who display the behavior. Through recognition, strategic thinking behaviour can be positively reinforced increasing the likeliness of reoccurrence.
These tips can give you a firm foundation in your quest for developing a strategic thinking organization. While this is not a simple or easy task, the truth is that the results are well worth the planning and efforts.