The 4 Components of Strategic Thinking & Management

Where living a successful life is concerned, there are two pieces of advice that are often given: "Chase your dreams" and "Keep your eye on the ball". Unfortunately, most of the time, they aren't offered together.

In the discipline of Strategic Thinking & Management, it is important to have both the Outcome and the Plan to function well together. To have both the Big Picture and the Small Picture in view at all times.

As the modern world careers uncontrollably into the future and become more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) better ways of handling it is needed.

Taken from the theatre of war, the terms Strategy and Tactics are often used in sports and business. However, it has applications in all aspects of human life, whether it be personal, professional or organisational.

The challenge that many individuals and organisations face whether it be in losing weight or selling more, is that while they have a very clear vision of what they want to achieve, they might not be able to change the plan according to emergent changes. This is being Tactically Blind.

Others face an opposite challenge. While they know exactly what to do on a daily basis, fighting fires, reacting to challenges and winning one battle at a time, but they lack an overarching goal that governs these actions. This is being Strategically Blind.

Ironically, while they might have both Outcome and Plan documented, they are missing two intangible components, forcing them to focus on only one or the other. These two components link and drive those documents. They are Awareness and Will.

Awareness is the constant sensitivity to how well the long term outcome guides the short term plan and how much it is allowed to change according to the situation without losing sight of the end.

Will is the passion, energy and trust that pushes the plan through short-term downturns in the belief that an upswing is coming in the future.

All four are connected in a mutual feedback loop that informs, modifies and nurtures each other. A strong Plan takes into account downturns and stockpiles resources to keep the Will strong (think keeping salaries and benefits running even during dry years).

The strength of Will allows us to keep an eye on the goal which allows us to stay Aware of and adapt to constant changes. In very rare cases, Will and Awareness force a redefinition of the Outcome.

When Fujifilm found that increasing digital camera sales began to wipe out their film production business, they decided to redefine their Outcome from a successful film company to a successful cosmetics company. They looked at the chemical processes they had mastered and adapted them to making skin cream under the Astalift brand. They trusted that the change would work.

Their Awareness and Will caused a change in their Outcome and Plan which continues to feed back into the loop. They are now aware that the future isn't set and look forward to innovate further.

On the other hand, Nokia might have had an amazing Outcome and Plan, but the lack of Awareness slowly diminished their Will to proceed and by the time they realised they had to change, it was too late.

The oft-repeated quote says: Fail to plan and you plan to fail. That's nice but the plan is only one part of it. I propose we add in the other three.

See your dreams, take the ball, mark the other players and chase it all the way.