Nearly all the popular books, articles, and training that focus on developing strategy and plans target the senior level, though it’s just as important for everyone else in any organization to think strategically as it relates to their own world.
Most organizations say they want to be proactive and forward thinking. So it only makes sense for all its members at all levels to think about the future in their own individual areas of responsibility. The question is: how can team leaders, project managers, sales representatives, engineers, and others start thinking strategically? How can this be done in a practical sense? How can organizations get their employees to be more innovative, look around corners, plan ahead, and bravely take on the future?
Is Your Success Deliberate?
We can never just hope we’re taking the right path, or leave it to hope that things will just naturally work in our favor. Tomorrow is NEVER just another day. We must be able to look beyond the road just ahead – take an active role in creating the future – the circumstances, the outcomes to achieve the best-possible outcomes. This doesn’t mean planning for unrealistic or impossible achievements; just taking the time to think “strategically” about what matters, what the focus should be, what results are desired and what might be the best way to make it all happen. In other words, make success deliberate – not haphazard.
Everyone has the capacity to think broadly and beyond the immediate. Unfortunately, most employees are rarely asked, or at best, just superficially. Leading is only about the future. Leading is always creating a future that hasn’t yet happened. Innovation happens when people become curious, ask questions, and take action in whatever role they’re in. Without leaders who create the time and space to encourage people to think about tomorrow, it just won’t happen.
Who Knows What’s Possible?
How can a leader develop a strategic-thinking ability in others? We can’t tell someone to think strategically. Training may help, but it’s not the answer. Leaders need to ask engaging questions about specific business and organizational issues, and provide the time and space to listen and discuss. The right questions get people to think about the right things. The questions are always more important than the answers.
Companies needn’t close down to make time for these discussions. When people are interested, involved and know their opinions matter, it’s amazing how time suddenly becomes available. I’ve worked with clients who at first complain they have no extra time for this – then can’t understand how they ever did without it. Leaders can’t accept the excuse there’s no time. “No time” translates to “not important.” Does that mean it’s not important to get everyone focused on what matters most? Such simple questions and discussions often lead to staggering and immediate benefits – increased sales, better customer service, improved quality, faster cycle time, and better profitability. Who knows what’s possible when the right questions are asked? Maybe there’s a real breakthrough lurking, hidden, just barely out of sight, that needs the slightest coaxing to present itself!