How strategic thinking and planning positively impact your success

By Anne Bachrach

The Accountability Coach

Whether you own your own business, are progressing in your career, or are seeking strategy for some other aspect of life, you should be putting forth effort to become a better strategic thinker. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

What is strategic thinking? Strategic thinking is a somewhat complex term. For a better understanding of what it means, we must first define strategic planning.

Strategic planning is a process of analysis and declaration, usually used by companies to focus their goals and directives. Strategic planning focuses on strategy, direction and decision-making. Before an organization can plan for its future, it must first examine its own strengths, weaknesses and threats, as well as summarizing its political, economic, social and technological missions. The primary objective of strategic planning is not merely analysis, but the formal consideration of an organization’s future course.

How does strategic planning differ from strategic thinking?

There are some subtle differences that should be reviewed. Strategic thinking is not as detailed as strategic planning. Strategic thinking implies predicting a general “shape” of what the future might bring; i.e., financial trends or significant political events. Strategic planning plans for the future in tremendous detail. Of course, nobody can predict the future, and so strategic planning centers more on predicting organizational performance rather than social outcomes.

There are also more subtle differences. In strategic thinking, managers understand the entire system, including all functioning units. With strategic planning, some management personnel may be kept in the dark, only being taught how to fulfill their role. The best way to understand the difference is that strategic thinking seems to favor a more effective operation, whereas strategic planning focuses on efficiency.

Both systems are recommended for a variety of reasons. A company leader must have a clear direction of where his or her company is going. Just as an individual sets short-term goals, so the leaders in an organization must continue to set goals and directives on a continuing basis.

Whether you own your own business, are progressing in your career, or are seeking strategy for some other aspect of life, you should be putting forth effort to become a better strategic thinker. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Tips to become a better strategic thinker

Every strategy starts with a vision — a vision of success, both in the long-term and short-term. Strategists are not afraid of failure, but look forward to learning from experience. You will continue to learn, no matter how long you live. All of the experience that you accumulate should help you to improve strategic thinking. The best strategists use both strategic thinking and planning to their advantage, managing their time efficiently, even while focusing in on details as much as possible. Try and remember this simple fact: Time is more costly than money. Money comes and goes, but you can never get wasted time back.
Becoming a better strategic thinker requires that you modify your thinking so that you can be more observant about what is happening around you. Most strategic thinkers have a very high level of awareness and are careful to take in as much information as possible. The more you know about the past and present, the more you can predict the future. This is what strategic thinking is all about.

It is also important that you stay patient. Staying patient doesn’t mean that you have to control your enthusiasm or refrain from taking risks. Actually, the more short-term goals that you create, the better off you will be. You should also be encouraged to consider more risks, as this can help you get over your fears of taking decisive action. Short-term goals keep individuals motivated and confident. At the same time, you need patience to help keep your upcoming goals moving you toward your dreams and to keep your long-range mission in check.

Why great strategies fail

All of these tips can help you to formulate a great strategy. However, there is no guarantee that your brilliant strategic plan will work. This is why you are advised to never risk more than you have to lose, especially when starting out in business. Oftentimes, you will miscalculate if you are trying to strategize for a potential outcome. As previously mentioned, you cannot predict the future with 100 percent accuracy, no matter how much you plan, and no matter who you are.

A miscalculation could also be due to an error in your strategy. Some of the most common errors result from simple planning mistakes. For instance, a failure to understand the client or targeted client could be responsible for a poor marketing campaign. The company may overestimate their resources or even the competence of their staff to handle a complicated project. A lack of organization may be responsible for an unsuccessful campaign. There could even be problems with time management, with employee education, or with poor overall communication.

If this has happened, don’t let it discourage you. Use every setback as a learning experience and strategize so that the next endeavor is monumentally successful. I’m sure you have heard the expression, “learn from your mistakes.” As we move forward and make progress on our journey, we will have many experiences to learn from. Use them to your advantage.

© Anne Bachrach. All rights reserved.