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.




© 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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Using Bruce Tuckman's Phases of Team Development to Help Your Team Grow and Advance: 2021 Update



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2021 Update

Teams go through phases of development, and Bruce Wayne Tuckman established a popular framework on the subject. According to Tuckman, all phases—Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning—are necessary for teams to grow, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work, and deliver results. Scott M. Graffius developed a related custom illustration, Phases of Team Development, which he revises periodically. He released an updated version of the visual on January 4, 2021. This article features the new version of the Phases of Team Development illustration (shown above and below) along with a brief overview of the characteristics and strategies for each phase.

Five Phases of Team Development

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How to cite: Graffius, Scott M. (2021). Phases of Team Development. Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.13140/RG.2.2.22040.42246.
For permission requests, see below.

1. Forming

Characteristics of Forming include displaying eagerness, socializing, generally polite tone, sticking to safe topics, being unclear about how one fits in, and some anxiety and questioning. Strategies for this phase include taking the ‘lead,’ being highly visible, facilitating introductions, providing the ‘big picture,’ establishing clear expectations, communicating success criteria, and ensuring that response times are quick.

2. Storming

Traits of Storming include resistance, lack of participation, conflict related to differences of feelings and opinions, competition, high emotions, and starting to move towards group norms. Strategies for this phase include requesting and encouraging feedback, identifying issues and facilitating their resolution, normalizing matters, and building trust by honoring commitments.

3. Norming

Features of Norming include an improved sense of purpose and understanding of goals, higher confidence, improved commitment, team members are engaged and supportive, relief—lowered anxiety, and starting to develop cohesion. Strategies for this phase include recognizing individual and team efforts, proving opportunities for learning and feedback, and monitoring the ‘energy’ of the team.

4. Performing

Characteristics of Performing include higher motivation, elevated trust and empathy, individuals typically deferring to the team's needs, effective production, consistent performance, and demonstrations of interdependence and self-management (also referred to as self-organization). Strategies for this phase include ‘guiding from the side’ (minimal intervention), celebrating successes, and encouraging collective decision-making and problem-solving.

5. Adjourning

Typical traits of Adjourning (also referred to as Transitioning or Mourning) include a shift to process orientation, sadness, recognition of team and individual efforts, and disbanding. Strategies for this phase include recognizing change, providing an opportunity for summative team evaluations (which may go by
lessons learned, post-project review, retrospective, or another label), providing an opportunity for individual acknowledgments, and celebrating the team's accomplishments—which may involve a party and possibly an after-party.

The illustration summarizes the above information—and it shows how performance fluctuates as teams move through each phase. This information may be helpful for looking at your team.

Downloadable High-Resolution Versions of 'Phases of Team Development' Illustration

High resolution versions of the updated Phases of Team Development image are available at the following links:
here for the JPG file and here for the PNG file. For permission requests, contact the email address noted in the image.

Bibliography

Select list of publications

  • Alford, J. (2019, April 11). Our Co-Production Journey: From Sandpits to Bird Boxes. London, United Kingdom: Imperial College London.
  • Bennett, M., Gadlin, H., & Marchand, C. (2018). Collaboration Team Science: Field Guide. Rockville, MD: National Institutes of Health.
  • Couture, N. (2016, October 27). A Note About Teams. CIO. Boston, MA: International Data Group (IDG).
  • Daly, L. (2002). Identify Your Project Management Team’s Level of Development and Facilitate It to Success. Paper presented at Project Management Institute Annual Seminars and Symposium, San Antonio, TX. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
  • Deloitte (2017). Digital Era Technology Operating Models, Volume 2. New York, NY: Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.
  • Finkelstein, S. (2017, October 29). Why Companies Should Hire Teams, Not Individuals. The Wall Street Journal. New York, NY: The Wall Street Journal.
  • Forbes (2018, April 23). How to Fast-Track Any Team to Success. Forbes. New York, NY: Forbes.
  • Forbes (2012, October 27). How the iPad Mini is Defining Tim Cook’s Apple. Forbes. New York, NY: Forbes.
  • Glover, P. (2012, March 13). Team Conflict: Why It’s a Good Thing. Fast Company. New York, NY: Mansueto Ventures.
  • Graffius, Scott M. (2021). Phases of Team Development. Los Angeles, CA: Scott M. Graffius. Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.13140/RG.2.2.22040.42246. 
  • Jovanovic, M., Mesquida, A., Radaković, N., & Mas, A. (2016). Agile Retrospective Games for Different Team Development Phases. Journal of Universal Computer Science, 22: 1489-1508.
  • Kane, G. C. (2014, October 7). Why Your Company is Probably Measuring Social Media Wrong. MIT Sloan Management Review. Cambridge, MA: MIT Sloan Management Review.
  • KPMG (2017). The Digital Fund, Season 2. Amstelveen, Netherlands: KPMG International.
  • Madden, D. (2019, May 19). The Four Stages of Building a Great Team – and the One Where Things Usually Go Wrong. Inc. Magazine. New York, NY: Inc. Magazine.
  • Makar, A. (2011, July 13). Lessons Learned in Norming and Performing Team Development Phases. Louisville, KY: TechRepublic.
  • Martinuzzi, B. (2012, June 8). Six Tips Guaranteed to Reduce Workplace Frustrations. New York, NY: American Express Company.
  • Microsoft (2019, June 15). Is the Latest Technology the Key to Your Team’s Success, or is There Something Else? Microsoft Developer Support. Accessed at: https://devblogs.microsoft.com/premier-developer/is-the-latest-technology-the-key-to-your-teams-success-or-is-there-something-else. Redmond, WA: Microsoft.
  • Mocko, G., & Linnerud, B. (2016). Measuring the Effects of Goal Alignment on Innovative Engineering Design Projects. International Journal of Engineering Education, 32: 55-63.
  • Romanelli, M. (2019, September 11). Teamwork Accelerated. PM Times. Newmarket, Ontario, Canada: Macgregor Communications.
  • Riggs, A. (2020, October 15). Why I Start All My Video Meetings with Collaborative Games (Spoiler: It’s Not Boredom). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: The Next Web (TNW).
  • Rowley, D., & Lange, M. (2007). Forming to Performing: The Evolution of an Agile Team. IEEE Computer Society Proceedings. Agile 2007, 1: 408-414.
  • Scrum Alliance (2020). Learning Objectives Examples. Denver, CO: Scrum Alliance.
  • Sakpal, M. (2020, March 3. Learn How to Debunk These Five Restructuring Myths. Stamford, CT: Gartner, Inc.
  • Stern, S. (2018, September 26). Is Your Team Working the Rory Underwood Way? Financial Times. London, United Kingdom: The Financial Times, a Nikkei Company.
  • Telford, R. (2013, June 4). This is Where It Gets Interesting. Armonk, NY: International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation.
  • Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental Sequence in Small Groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63: 384-399.
  • Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group and Organizational Studies, 2 (4): 419-427.
  • United States Army (2015). Innovative Learning: A Key to National Security. Washington, DC: United States Army.
  • Watkins, M. D. (2016, June). Leading the Team You Inherit. Harvard Business Review. Brighton, MA: Harvard Business Publishing.
  • World Health Organization (2012). Being an Effective Team Player. Accessed at: https://www.who.int/patientsafety/education/curriculum/course4_handout.pdf. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

About Scott M. Graffius



Scott M. Graffius, PMP, CSP-SM, CSP-PO, CSM, CSPO, SFE, ITIL, LSSGB has generated hundreds of millions of dollars of business value in aggregate for the organizations he has served. He is an agile project management practitioner, consultant, award-winning author, and international speaker. His expertise spans project, program, portfolio, and PMO leadership inclusive of agile, traditional, and hybrid approaches. Content from Scott's books (Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions and Agile Transformation: A Brief Story of How an Entertainment Company Developed New Capabilities and Unlocked Business Agility to Thrive in an Era of Rapid Change), workshops, speaking engagements, and more have been featured and used by businesses, governments, and universities including Gartner, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Ford, Qantas, Atlassian, Bayer, the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Department of Energy, the United States Army, 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. Thinkers360 named Scott a global top thought leader and influencer in three domains: Agile, Digital Transformation, and GovTech. His full bio is available at https://www.scottgraffius.com/bio.html.

Connect with Scott on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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© 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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