By SIKS MIKAH
The term “Strategic thinking” has the connotation of a technical and complicated process. Not surprising as corporate people often talk about this in the light of charting a plan or direction for the company.
A sound strategic plan would ensure a business would have clear focus and goals. According to CEO D Jungle People John Kam, strategic thinking should be practised for both personal and professional life.
To do this, he has suggested subscribing to the 3Cs in strategic thinking. The first C deals with clarity. This means to know what you want out of life or for your company.
“Clarity is as simple as understanding what is it that you want and what is it that you want to influence? What is it that you want to impact? It’s really difficult to think strategically when you’re not really sure of what you want,” said John.
Putting it simply, it would mean asking these questions. If it is for your business ‘Are you looking at improving your Profit & Loss? Are you improving market share? Are you trying to go and penetrate into a new market? What is it that you want to achieve?’
And on the homefront, where strategic thinking is also relevant, it could be ‘Do you want more quality time with your kids? Would you like to have a better work-life balance?’
In the business milieu, strategic thinking is a vital management tool that can determine the success or failure of a company. Over time, one who practises strategic thinking, which often requires mapping various factors against the business environment, will be able to prepare for the future.
The markets today are fast-moving, competitive and often catapulted by unpredictable factors that are man-made or otherwise. Under circumstances such as these, a person who is a strategic thinker is less likely to panic but would be able to handle an imminent crisis.
For an organisation, strategic thinking should also be encouraged at the level of individual departments besides being practised at the senior management level. This act of inclusion prepares employees for any unforeseen circumstances.
Aside from averting the crisis, strategic thinking helps to prepare a clearer path to reach one’s goal. Thinking ahead on how to best use resources and how to innovate sets one apart from being a follower to being a trendsetter.
This acquired skill is particularly relevant to a saturated market where it may seem to others that there is no room for growth. A strategic mindset could help to predict a saturation point and how else to penetrate the market.
John’s second C – Context – embodies this skill of being able to identify what are the primary factors that influence the outcome. That context helps one to understand what is the ecosystem or the environment surrounding the outcome.
“So for example, if I were struggling with work-life balance, some of the primary factors influencing this outcome would be a high workload, or perhaps a demanding boss. This is where you have got to go one step further, the secondary factors that influence the primary factors.
“And if you go a little bit deeper, taking the example above, it could be ‘what’s influencing my work-life balance, other than a demanding boss and long work hours, it could be lack of skill sets. It could be because I don’t have the necessary skill sets to be able to do it faster.
“As a result, I have to end up working longer hours or having to deal with a more demanding boss. Now that’s a secondary factor. If you can go down to tertiary factors you will get closer to the root cause rather than just addressing what is obvious,” John explained
The needs of employees are important factors for consideration in strategic planning. These cannot be identified if employees are not involved in strategic thinking from the beginning. This could result in derailing the plans if employees are found to be lacking in skillsets when the plans are about to be launched.
Therefore, the purpose of strategic thinking is to put together a comprehensive plan that is integrative and takes into consideration different views and data to pave the way forward for the business.
And then it brings you to John’s final C – Conclusion which is the question of ‘what do I do about the situation that I’m in having considered the primary, the secondary, the tertiary factors and beyond.
“If you can imagine that this as a linear line, primary, secondary and tertiary, then you explode this into a sphere, that kind of thinking is strategic thinking.
“You then make single or multiple decisions that influence as many of these factors as possible. Will this ensure a good strategy? No, because no matter how good you are at mapping all these factors out, there will be factors that are unknown, or there will be factors that you miss out.
“So cut yourself some slack. Not every strategy is going to bring brilliant results. But the more factors you are able to consider before making a decision, it will help you predict some of these outcomes. And then you become more strategic,” said John.
Strategic thinking doesn’t stop with the rolling out of strategic plans. The process continues taking into consideration new data and current factors to set the pace for moving to another level.