Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Strategic thinking

I've been thinking of the best way to explain what a strategic mindset 'looks' like, especially when I'm trying to explain it to people with no management background or just sharing ideas with young people. It seems to me that the strategic mind focuses on the long term, emphasizes sustainability, gives adequate time for quality research and ultimately decisions are made based on the findings from those research. Now that’s what I call strategy or the strategic mindset. However, I have noticed that most young people are high performers on the short term and even as important as that is, without taking a strategic view of things the results may not actually be sustainable on the long term. May be this is due to increased competition in the business environment and even society at large, but if the present generation will be able to build on the success of the past, then we need to start placing emphasis on developing the strategic mindset.

Strategic thinking is the difference between a company that has survived many decades and one that is struggling immediately theres a change in leadership. It’s the difference between two graduates earning the same amount today but in 10 years time, one is a millionaire while the other will go bankrupt if he loses his job. The strategic mind is what makes a man leave an inheritance for his children's children. My dad will call that foresight. He will usually use the word for someone who saw an opportunity when others couldn’t see it, but the strategic mind is not just about foresight, its about one's decision making process. Placing emphasis on the opportunity costs or gains instead of immediate or operational costs or gains.

Professor Andrew Kakabadse explained it more succintly:
"The worst aspects of leadership came from younger managers, especially those who were well educated, and intellectually very bright. They tended to make the worst decisions because they turned strategic concerns into operational concerns. They want to make an impact within eighteen to twenty-four months before they move on - the business, the profitability looks good, but have they actually invested in the long-term effectiveness of the brand? The answer is no. What we noted is that middle, i.e. younger managers tended to look at operational costs and operational gains, i.e. short-term costs and gains, rather than opportunity gains or costs, the impact of which takes longer to realize. "

"From a survey in which I have been involved, covering 8,000 organizations across 14 countries, the overall finding is that leadership qualities are all learned."

Now the last sentence seems to be where I'm heading to in this musing of mine…that leadership is connected to strategic thinking and if leadership qualities can be learned, then we can all develop that strategic mindset which makes us to produce not just results that are sustainable but also the right results!

Now what do you think?
To be continued...


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