Four Ways to Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills Today



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Strategic thinking is often considered essential to an organization's successful performance. Some have even advocated for companies to develop the strategic thinking skills of their executives and other staff as a core competency. How can strategic thinking skills be developed? But first, here's a definition.

“Strategic thinking is a distinctive management activity whose purpose is to discover novel, imaginative strategies which can rewrite the rules of the competitive game; and to envision potential futures significantly different from the present. Furthermore, strategic thinking is specified as being conceptual, systems-oriented, directional (linking the future with the past), and opportunistic.”
— Ellen F. Goldman


In other words, strategic thinking is a process used to broaden an individual's perspective to achieve successful outcomes such as competitive advantage. And it can happen at every level of the organization; it's not just for executives.

Here are four specific things you can do to improve your strategic thinking skills.

1. Schedule Time for Strategic Thinking

You are investing in your success as well as that of the organization. Find the time to focus on strategic thinking. A tip is to place a recurring event on your calendar to reserve time for strategic thinking activities.

2. Monitor the Big Picture Including Trends

The default focus at most organizations is on what’s directly ahead. However, "peripheral vision"—including keeping sight of the big picture and industry trends—is essential for long-term success. Some tips follow. Keep abreast of industry organizations and publications. Build external networks to help you best scan the competitive landscape. Determine the unique perspective that your role provides, and define its favorable impact on the organization’s vision, mission, and/or strategic objectives.

3. Ask Questions to Uncover Patterns

Further to your mindfulness of the big picture and understanding of changes in the industry, you can put strategic thinking to work by asking yourself and others questions. A few examples follow. "What if _____?" questions are frequently effective in helping one "see around the corner." And variations such as "If _____, then _____?" often yield insights as well.


4. Embrace Uncertainty and Conflict

Strategic thinking involves envisioning the future and potential proactive ways the organization can change to remain competitive and successful. You should accept that the future is uncertain, and challenging assumptions by asking questions and other tactics may make some people uncomfortable. Remaining mindful of those aspects will help you stay the course in regularly practicing strategic thinking and securing the benefits summarized in this article.

Conclusion

By sharpening your strategic thinking skills, you benefit both yourself and your organization. It helps you make a greater contribution to the business—which may also support your advancement—and it helps the company enjoy greater competitive advantage and long-term success. So, start work on your strategic thinking skills today!

Bibliography

Atsmon, Yuval (2017, May 2). How to Unleash Your Strategic Thinking. Digital article. McKinsey & Company.

Bonn, Ingrid (2005, June). Improving Strategic Thinking: A Multilevel Approach.
Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 26 (5). DOI: 10.1108/01437730510607844.

Cowan, N. (2001, February). The Magical Number 4 in Short-Term Memory: A Reconsideration of Mental Storage Capacity.
Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24 (1): 87-119.

Dixit, Avinash K. and Nelebuff, Barry J. (1993).
Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Goldman, Ellen F. (2007, Summer). Strategic Thinking at the Top.
MIT Sloan Management Review, 48 (4): 75-81.

Graffius, Scott M. (2016).
Thinking Strategically and Acting Tactically. Winnetka, CA: Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions.

Reynolds, K. (2013). Strategic Thinking for Today's Project Managers. Paper presented at PMI Global Congress 2013—North America, New Orleans, LA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Syrett, Michael and Devine, Marion (2012).
Managing Uncertainty: Strategies for Surviving and Thriving in Turbulent Times. London, United Kingdom: Profile Books.

About the Author



Scott M. Graffius is an agile project management consultant, practitioner, award-winning author, and keynote speaker. Content from his books, speaking engagements, and more has been used by businesses, governments, and universities, including Gartner, Cisco, RSA, Ford, Qantas, Atlassian, Bayer, the United States Department of Energy, the New Zealand Ministry of Education, Tufts University, Texas A&M, and others. Thinkers360 named Scott a Top 20 Global Thought Leader and Influencer. His full-length bio is available at: https://bit.ly/bio-smg.

Connect with Scott on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

The short link for this article is
https://bit.ly/4-strategic.
This article was first published here. Later—on August 24, 2021—the article was posted to LinkedIn
here as well.



© Copyright 2020 Scott M. Graffius. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written permission of Scott M. Graffius.




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Scott M. Graffius Quoted in Publication of the National Academy of Sciences



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Scott M. Graffius was quoted in a publication of the National Academy of Sciences.

The respective content is: “If you don’t collect any metrics, you’re flying blind. If you collect and focus on too many, they may be obstructing your field of view.” — Graffius, Scott M. (2016).
Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace.

Chris Hare Colin Giffen were the Technical Editors on Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions.

For details on the respective National Academy of Sciences publication, see the
accompanying PDF.

About Scott M. Graffius



Scott M. Graffius, PMP, CSP-SM, CSP-PO, CSM, CSPO, ITIL, LSSGB is an agile project management consultant, practitioner, award-winning author, and keynote speaker. Content from his books, speaking engagements, and more has been used by businesses, governments, and universities, including: Gartner, Cisco, Ford, Qantas, Atlassian, Bayer, the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Department of Energy, the New Zealand Ministry of Education, Tufts University, Texas A&M, and others. Thinkers360 named Scott a Top 20 Global Thought Leader and Influencer on Agile. His full-length bio is available at:
https://bit.ly/bio-smg.

Connect with Scott on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

About Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions

Scott M. Graffius is the CEO of Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions™, a professional services firm, where he partners with client companies to help them achieve their strategic objectives and business initiatives through project management leadership. A fantastic agile transformation experience and result with a client organization in the entertainment industry was the inspiration for Scott’s first book, Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions. It helps teams develop and deliver products in short cycles with rapid adaptation to change, fast time-to-market, and continuous improvement—which supports innovation and drives competitive advantage. The book has garnered 17 first place awards an it has been featured by over 30 media outlets and publications. The book is available in paperback and ebook/Kindle formats in the United States and around the world. To learn more, visit AgileScrumGuide.com.

About the National Academy of Sciences

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a United States nonprofit organization. NAS is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, along with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).

As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Election to the National Academy is one of the highest honors in the scientific field. Members of the National Academy of Sciences serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation" on science, engineering, and medicine. The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code.

Founded in 1863 as a result of an Act of Congress that was approved by Abraham Lincoln, the NAS is charged with "providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. … to provide scientific advice to the government 'whenever called upon' by any government department."

To learn more, visit the NAS website at
http://nasonline.org.




© Copyright 2020 Scott M. Graffius. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written permission of Scott M. Graffius.



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Scott M. Graffius Speaking at PMI Budapest, Hungary



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Scott M. Graffius will present a talk on leadership, "Navigate the Phases of Team Development with Speed and Agility for Happier and More Productive Teams," at an event of the Budapest Chapter of the Project Management Institute. It will be held on Wednesday, 16 February 2022, from 12:00 to 13:00 Central European Time. The event is virtual and free. Register at
https://pmi.hu/en/calendar?eventId=9624.

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About "Navigate the Phases of Team Development with Speed and Agility or Happier and More Productive Teams"

Description

Want happier and more productive teams? Among other things, it takes great leadership. And proven strategies can provide a real edge! Enter Bruce Tuckman's phases of team development — a model that’s stood the test of time because it remains highly relevant and beneficial. If you are a leader (or aspire to be one), a member of a team (or may be in one in the future), or are just looking to develop your skills, this talk (based on Bruce Tuckman's model, but with a fresh angle: 0% theory, 100% real-world-based) will give you a practical framework with actionable tips for working in and leading teams of all types successfully. You'll learn about the five phases — Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning — including detailed descriptions of each along with proven strategies for addressing challenges or issues which may occur along the way. You'll understand how to use the model to your advantage by effectively navigating all of the phases with speed and agility, from team set-up to the after-party! Which helps advance the teams’ happiness, productivity, and success.

The presentation draws on the speaker’s first-hand, real-world experience, with guidance supported by research, recommendations, and coverage from the Project Management Institute, Google, Microsoft, IEEE, MIT, Software Engineering Institute, Harvard Business Review, and many others.

Benefits/Key Learning Objectives

This talk will help attendees develop and enhance the contributions they make to their organizations by being able to:
  • Understand the five stages of team development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning.
  • Learn the characteristics of each phase.
  • Apply proven strategies to help handle challenges or issues experienced by teams. By doing so, they’ll advance the teams' (and their own) success.

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About Scott M. Graffius

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Scott M. Graffius, PMP, CSP-SM, CSP-PO, CSM, CSPO, SFE, LSSGB, ITIL | High resolution photo available here



Scott M. Graffius, PMP, CSP-SM, CSP-PO, CSM, CSPO, SFE, ITIL, LSSGB is an agile project management practitioner, consultant, award-winning author, and international speaker. He has generated over one billion dollars of business value in aggregate for the organizations he has served. Graffius is the founder, CEO, and principal consultant at Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions™ and subsidiary Exceptional Agility™, based in Los Angeles, California. His expertise spans project, program, portfolio, and PMO leadership inclusive of agile, traditional, and hybrid approaches. Content from his books, workshops, speaking engagements, and more have been featured and used by businesses, governments, and universities including Gartner, Microsoft, Deloitte, Oracle, Cisco, Ford, Qantas, Atlassian, Bayer, the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Department of Energy, the United States Army, Project Management Institute, the IEEE, the New Zealand Ministry of Education, Tufts University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Warsaw University of Technology, University of Waterloo, Loughborough University London, and others. Graffius has spoken at 58 conferences and other events around the world, including Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States. Thinkers360 named Graffius a global top thought leader and influencer in four domains: Agile, Change Management, Digital Transformation, and GovTech.

His full bio is available at
https://www.scottgraffius.com.

Connect with Scott on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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About the Budapest Chapter of the Project Management Institute

The Budapest Chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI Budapest) is a professional project management organization, chartered by the PMI in 2003. The Chapter works as a community of volunteers to improve the quality of the project management profession by increasing the recognition and value of project management certifications, and by building relationships. To learn more about PMI Budapest, visit https://pmi.hu.

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About the Project Management Institute

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the world's leading professional association for a growing community of millions of project professionals and change-makers worldwide. As the leading authority on project management, the PMI empowers people to make ideas a reality. Through global advocacy, networking, collaboration, research, and education, the PMI helps prepare organizations and individuals to work smarter in a dynamic and rapidly changing world.

Building on a prominent legacy dating to 1969, the PMI is a “for-purpose” organization working in nearly every country around the world to advance careers, strengthen organizational success, and enable change-makers with new skills and ways of working to maximize their impact. The PMI provides global standards, certifications, online courses, thought leadership, tools, digital publications, communities, and more.

To learn more about the PMI, visit
https://www.pmi.org/.

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The short link for this article is: https://bit.ly/pmi-bud

The event covered by this article appears in the Public Speaker section of the website,
here

A related post is on LinkedIn
here



© Copyright 2021 Scott M. Graffius. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written permission of Scott M. Graffius.




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