Strategic thinking means focusing on the desired plans and results of your organization and integrating this focus into the overall goals of your job and team. Increasingly, this type of thinking is necessary at all levels of the organization – not just at the top – and can greatly enhance your career. Here are some easy ways that any employee can become more strategic in their role.
1. Gain a broad understanding of your business.
Obtaining a broader understanding of all of the major business areas of your organization and how they operate helps you understand the needs and demands of other departments. There are several ways you can accomplish this. You may seek out opportunities for cross-training, lateral career development, or job rotation; shadow a strategic thinker or seek one out as a mentor or coach; and develop relationships and connections across business units, divisions, and departments. With more knowledge of other departments, you increase your ability to make good decisions, solve problems more effectively, and become a more valued contributor.
2. Recognize the priorities of your business.
Strive to understand the short and long-term strategy of the business as well as its vision for the future. Where is it headed now and in the future? What is it trying to accomplish? What is the big picture? Continue to ask questions about the direction of the organization, even when leaders to not explicitly communicate it. You may consider keeping a list of these priorities handy so that you are constantly reminded of the organization’s objectives.
3. Link your activities and goals to the business objectives.
Your business’s priorities should guide the goals you set and your day-to-day activities and tasks. When creating your own goals (or department’s), choose objectives that align with your organization’s objectives and priorities. This means that they should link to the bigger picture. For example, if your organization is focused on improving revenue or improving efficiency, your goals should line up with this objective. Oftentimes, we may create our own personal and professional goals in a vacuum, not considering the implications or priorities of the business. This hurts the business and ourselves, limiting our strategic potential and derailing us from the organization’s direction.
4. Expose yourself to different business challenges and demands.
Exercise your mind and career. By working on challenging business projects outside of your area of expertise, you become exposed to new problems, people, and experiences – all of which can help deepen your strategic thinking skills. Additionally, find ways to work on cross-functional teams and initiatives that expose you to different perspectives on business problems. Also, it’s important to find ways to reduce tactical components of your job so that you have more time for planning and strategic activities that will enrich your career. Become comfortable with new technology, processes, and efficiencies. Finally, volunteer experience within committees, boards, and leadership roles can all help strengthen your strategic mindset.
5. Focus on strategic tasks.
The main difference between strategic and non-strategic tasks and activities are the reasons for doing the tasks and the outcomes. For example, non-strategic actions are not driven by an identified and measurable business need, while strategic actions are. With strategic tasks, some data, observation, or information suggests a business need to take a certain action. In addition, strategic actions tend to be driven by or result in a measurable business outcome – such as better performance, improved retention, enhanced productivity, and achievement of an organizational objective. Non-strategic tasks do not have as much value to the business and are generally more reactive than proactive. Examples of such tasks are below:
6. Anticipate problems, trends, and needs.
A final tip for enhancing your strategic thinking skills is to improve your anticipation of changes, potential problems, and trends in the market, economy, and the needs of your customers. For example, if you are a manager, you may anticipate changes in staff, workload, and performance requirements. If you are an HR professional, you may anticipate new benefit, compensation, or other rewards trends; the need to hire additional staff or obtain needed skills through training and development initiatives; or plan leadership development initiative to support succession in the organization.
Strategic thinkers are needed at all levels of the organization – not just the top level - including HR, managers, and professionals. By improving your skills you can be more valued and achieve greater accomplishments within your organization.
For help with strategic HR initiatives such as performance management, workforce planning, succession planning, or employee engagement, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.