Simon leads a program of multi-million dollar construction projects. He is a skilled project manager, an excellent people leader, widely respected, and has heaps of potential. His key area for development was ‘strategic thinking’. Having been given this feedback over a number of years, he agreed and fully owned this challenge.
His problem? Simon didn’t know how to develop the capacity for strategic thinking. He could recognise and admire strategic ability in others, and could not work out how to do strategic thinking himself.
Strategic thinking – both the motivation and the ability to do it – is the combination of four thinking approaches:
- Big Picture Thinking – Strategic thinking happens when we take an overview, and not work in the detail.
- Alternatives Thinking – There is no one clear future – a motivation to develop and explore varying possibilities is critical.
- Future Thinking – When we are focused on the past or the present, strategic thinking is challenging. Strategic thinking is focused on a time we have not yet experienced – the future.
- Conceptual Thinking – Thinking in concrete terms – focusing on making a structured plan – limits strategic thinking. Just jumping straight in and doing it, risks a leader being seen as ‘act first – think later’. Instead, conceptual thinking motivates a leader to understand and develop ideas and theories, and understand the underlying theoretical concepts.
Simon’s score card? He was highly motivated by thinking Big Picture, Alternatives and Future. His challenge was Conceptual Thinking, and so he’s been working on that. After three months focus, he has been able to increase both his motivation and ability to think conceptually, and others are noticing.
Challenged with thinking strategically? Which one of the four thinking approaches do you need to focus on?