A View from Blue Grotto

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Can You Afford to Be More Strategic?

I look forward to the Monday edition of the Wall Street Journal. The break from the WSJ on Sundays is unnerving for me. I am an info junkie and on days I cannot read the entire Journal, I save up those sections for Sunday reading, helping to augment the now thinner Sunday edition of my local newspaper.

Monday’s WSJ reserves space for a “Journal Report” – on topics varying from issues facing Boomers during retirement to new medical technologies or, in the case of Monday, February 23, 2015 – C-Suite Strategies with an article titled: The Way to Become a ‘Strategic’ Executive.

And, even though the title may hinder your interest, if you don’t consider yourself a C-Suite tenant, I think every worker bee can glean some concrete suggestions for developing more strategic perspectives.

After surveying executives Ms. Herminia Ibarra, author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, concluded that execs are better at acting strategic than actually thinking strategically, and most of the people she surveyed admitted that they don’t necessarily know how to hone their strategic thinking skills.

They do share some common challenges:
- setting a clear and differentiating strategy
- communicating the strategy and getting buy-in for it
- allocating resources to support the strategy in a meaningful way
- ensuring day-to-day decision-making aligns with the strategy, and
- translating strategy and operational decisions into action

Of the four practices she identified that could help you to be more strategic I thought Collaborate at the Top was the most interesting. We forget sometimes that, as executives of the same organization, we share in the same mission and though our exact deliverables differ, we bank on – and contribute to – the success of the whole.

Sharing ideas and best practices is key to implementing this practice for increasing strategic thinking. Inviting others to better understand how you and your team are creating success or overcoming challenges helps them to brainstorm ways they can adapt and modify – creating tools they can bring back to their own divisions or functions.

How do you share what you’ve learned, the good and the bad, in a way that helps others, but also helps you yourself to broaden your toolkit for ongoing strategic thinking? Could you be transparent with others about what is and what is not working? Can you really afford to be more strategic?

One of my recent blogs was about the power of the TED Talk. TED-style infomercials are a platform for sharing, but maybe just as importantly for organizing your knowledge and expertise. The worker bee to the C-Suite executive and everyone in between is required to organize and manage hundreds of pieces of data and processes and outputs and …the list is endless. Identifying an effective way to share what we are learning and what still needs refining is an important process in building our capacity for strategic thinking.

I asked in that blog: what would be your TED Talk topic? It would be a great exercise to engage your team in a brainstorming session that challenged them to “present” to one another on the best practices that could help others to break out of a rut. I bet it would help you break the cycle of Ms. Ibarra’s challenge #2: communicating the strategy and getting buy-in for it.

Email me with ways that you and your team work on building strategic aptitude.

For a copy of the WSJ article (if you don’t already subscribe): http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-key-to-becoming-a-strategy-minded-executive-1424664606

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.

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