SEVEN SPECIFICS OF BEING A STRATEGIST
We were talking about asset management – of course! – but more specifically about ‘thinking like a strategist’ when my friend and colleague, Ruth Wallsgrove, asked:
‘What would a strategist do that a professional engineer, accountant, or administrator would not?’
Now the truth is that any professional can think like a strategist, and often does. The trick to doing it better is to do it consistently, consciously, and in collaboration with others, in other words – corporately! So What does it mean to ‘think like a strategist’? Here are what I consider the 7 specifics.
- The Goal – Strategists adopt a big goal, the aims and objectives of the organisation they serve. They recognise that once the prime objective of their organisation is recognised, there may be many different ways to achieve it, in addition to those already identified – and they look!
- The Time Frame – Not ‘now’, and not ‘then’, but rather ‘from now to then’. A focus on what needs to be done to plot the path from the current situation to the desirable future. Such a path needs to be flexible and allow for adjustment as changes occur. (i.e. there is always a Plan B. C…)
- The Scope – the whole organisation and its wider social and environmental context
- The Reason – never ‘because XYZ is doing it’ or ‘because we have always done it this way’ (or even because it is new, innovative and exciting) but because, on balance and considering the options, it is the best way- for now -of achieving the goal. Always reviewing.
- The Attitude – Pragmatic (think Machiavelli), do what works, but analyse why it works. Curious. Sceptical. Analytical. Challenging.
- The Awareness – Strategists are not Superman and do not attempt to be. They know they need, and they fully appreciate, the contribution of others: professionals, tradespeople, users. The stance is one of willing collaboration.
- The Communication – understanding what drives the actions of others is key to the way in which ideas can and should be presented to be effective. People don’t fear change, they fear change being imposed on them. The art of good communication is winning hearts and minds. Strategists listen for more than words, they attune to the emotions of others (feelings of fear, trepidation, courage, hope)
The key difference between the Strategist and Other Professionals can be seen in the goals that they adopt.
Take Backlog for instance. A maintenance engineer will see the need purely in terms of the asset, its reliability and ease of operation. He will generally not see that the resources needed to achieve this reliability and ease of operation that could be used elsewhere in the organisation, and possibly achieve even greater good.
Take KPIs. An accountant may see, and even promote, rules such as debt ratios or productive staff: overheads ratios because these are manageable by her division. She may not even see the damage that is being caused to overall corporate goals by such rules.
Or take “finished staff work”. Any administrator that insists on finished staff work as the sine qua non of excellent administration has to accept old ideas thus ruling out new ones. Easier on him, but not necessarily to the benefit of the organisation.
Each of these is an instance of ‘solo thinking’
Solo thinking is ‘what’s best for me, my performance, my KPI’ – rather than ‘corporate thinking’ or what’s best for the organisation or community.
Organisations bring this upon themselves to a large degree by failing to articulate their goals, and especially their values. They also bring it on themselves by not encouraging and rewarding the strategic behaviour that would serve them better.
Thinking like a strategist, is ‘thinking holistically’ (I realise this word scares the living daylights out of many people, but it really is necessary!)
Professionals can improve their ability to ‘think like a strategist’ by moving ahead in any of these 7 specifics