In today’s fast-changing world and business environment, managers and individual contributors alike need to have a broad perspective and see the big picture. Many managers are so focused on delivering ‘today’s’ achievements, preoccupied with daily obligations that they fail to position themselves for long-term success. In this time of rapid change economically and business wise around the world, strategy is moving away from the fundamental ‘strategic planning’ to more of ‘strategic thinking’ in order to survive the crowded and competitive global environment.

Articles In This Series (all articles in this series will be added here):

  1. #1: How To Introduce Strategic Thinking In Project Management
  2. #2: Using Strategic Thinking To Analyze The Bigger Picture
  3. #3: How To Set Long And Short-Term Goals?

What Is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is more like analysis while strategic thinking is about synthesis. Planning strategically means breaking down a goal into steps. Then designing how the steps may be implemented and estimating the anticipated consequences of each stage. Strategic thinking is about using intuition and creativity to define an integrated perspective, roadmap or vision. This helps to understand where the organization should be going in next three or five years. 

In functional terms, strategic thinking should help to understand, explore, analyze and define a complex solutions and then develop planning action plan that will bring the greatest possible positive impact towards a pre- defined goal, so it is acceptable to conclude that strategic planning is subordinate to strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is essential as it helps in developing strategic plans. It positions a business   based on the goals and possible positive changes they have to achieve. This is why most companies require executives and managers to have a strategic mindset. Because that’s what sets them apart from those who think in a conventional manner.

All World-Class Executives Are Long-Term Thinkers

They plan five years forward and think about where they want to be and what they will have to be doing at that time in order to achieve the businesses long-term goals. They are constantly asking themselves how to set goals and better their strategic planning process to further their business goals. How deep into the future a strategic plan goes? As always, It depends on a number of variables.

At big companies where more extensive data makes long range planning more dependable. Their plans can reach out as far as 25 years. And although it’s unusually long, it may not be effective because of world and business changing. In general, most strategic plans look forward from three to five years. In some example, where the economy and the specific industry are turbulent, even a three-year plan may not be practical. In these instances, setting up a one year plan with built-in policy-revision meetings every three to six months may be a better way to go. In this article we will show you what steps should be taken to determine a long-term strategy which will suit your current situation.

1. Clearly Define Your Company’s Vision

You should be able to define your company vision in no more than 100 words. Think and develop this statement and make it publically available to both your employees and your current and future customers. This sentence should answer the key questions that drive your business: Where is your company headed? What do you want your company to be? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you have some thinking to do! If you have the answers in your head, but not on notebook — get writing. If you have them written down, congrats it’s time for the next step! You’ve completed the first and most critical think in creating a long-term plan.

2. Know Your Business Like Nobody Else

Conduct a SWOT analysis. By knowing where your business is now, you can make more data driven predictions for how it can grow. Questions such as “Why is this business important?” and “What does this business do best?” are a great place to start. A SWOT can also help you plan for making improvements. Questions such as “What needs improvement?” and “What more could the business be doing?” can help guide your strategic plan and opens up new opportunities.

3. Define And Write Down Your Personal Vision

While your personal vision is important to your strategic plan, it doesn’t need to be shared with your team workers and customers. Your personal vision should incorporate what you want your business to bring to your life—whether that’s rapid growth, early retirement, or simply more time to spend with family and friends. Here is no bad answer.  Aligning your personal plan with your company vision is key to achieving your personal and business goals. Just as with your company vision, have your personal vision written down in a 100-word statement. Know that statement inside and out and keep it at the cutting-edge of your decision making.

4. Create Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals should include everything you want to achieve over the next 36 months. Goals should be “S.M.A.R.T.” (specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, and timely). An example of S.M.A.R.T. goals include “building out a new product or service within the next year” or “increasing net profit by 4 percent in eight months.” If you’ve already conducted a SWOT analysis, you should have an idea of what your business can reasonably achieve over a specified period of time.

5. Draft Strategy

Strategies are the steps you’ll take to achieve your short-term goals. If the short term goal is “build out a new product or service,” the strategies should based on:

  • Researching competitor and market
  • Getting in touch with suppliers and vendors
  • Defined a development plan
  • Outlining a marketing and sales plan for the new opportunities 

6. Design An Action Plan

An action plan is a crucial part of the business planning and strategy development process. The best analysis, in-depth market research and creative strategizing are pointless unless they lead to action. An action plan needs to be a structured document; it must be easy to read, change and update. You need to also make your action plan specific about:

  • what you’re doing
  • when you will do it
  • who will be accountable
  • what resources will you use
  • how that action will be measured.

Regardless of how long of a strategy you are creating, follow the steps above. If you’re looking for an experienced business partner that understands strategic thinking and uses it in their daily work – contact us and we will come up with solutions that will help you improve your business and provide great value to your customers through SMART solutions.