How much strategic agility do you have and do you know what it really means to be strategic? Many of my executive clients have a goal to improve their strategic ability. Many of them are unsure if they are currently being strategic enough for their role and don’t know what they should be doing to develop themselves further.
The Oxford definition of strategy is defined as:
“A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”.
“The art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a war or battle”.
Whilst the majority of us are not in the military I’m sure many of you feel at times that trying to deliver on a strategy in organisations can sometimes be likened to manoeuvring in a battlefield!
Being strategic requires that you firstly give yourself the time, space and also the permission to focus on the big picture view. Often senior executives struggle to be as strategic as they want to because they get too caught up in the detail of doing.
The giving yourself permission is interesting. I find many of my clients have a guilt associated with stepping out of their day to day business to spend time thinking and planning. It’s like we are all so programmed with the need to know everything, be seen to be always busy ‘doing’ and be constantly reachable that to leave our desks for 2 hours and shut ourselves away from everything can be very stressful for many people. Yet unless we sit up like a helicopter how can we hope to see the whole picture, the complexity of the parts and how they fit together, and decide the path we should take and what obstacles and opportunities lie in our path? The answer is we can’t.
A client of mine had an interesting experience when she first set aside time to work on her strategic agility. Her idea was to leave the office on a set day and time and go to a café to do some industry analysis reading and strategic planning. This was to enable her to have a more strategic voice at the senior executive meetings. I asked her to outline exactly what occurred in her thoughts, feelings and behaviour during the exercise.
She said she felt very guilty and nervous at leaving work and also overwhelmed by what she wanted to get through. She was wondering who knew she was not in the office and what they would think of her if they knew. She set great expectations for what she wanted to achieve. Once there she said she found peace and quiet and was totally absorbed in her task in a state of flow. She could see the huge benefit in what she achieved away from the busyness of her office.
So what are the key actions of a strategic person?
One of the tools I value and incorporate into my coaching is the use of Lominger’s 67 key leadership competencies by Korn Ferry in the USA. The tool is backed by extensive research and gives ‘action learning’ remedies for people to work on to develop their ability.
If you are unsure if you have strategic agility then ask yourself the following. If you answer yes to any of these then you may be unskilled. Remember that sometimes we can also overuse a skill.
• Can you pull together a compelling strategic plan?
• Are you more comfortable in the tactical here and now?
• Can you weave a vision of the future?
• Do you reject the usefulness of strategy, thinking it’s pie in the sky?
• Do you have narrow experience and are unknowledgeable of business and world events?
• Do you lack perspective to pull together varying elements into a coherent strategic view?
For developing strategic agility some of Lominger’s key remedies include:
• Use strategic language in presentations
• Recognise the value of strategic planning
• Be curious and imaginative
• Broaden your perspective
• Delegate the tactical things and make time for strategy
• Avoiding ambiguity? Embrace uncertainity
• If you can’t think strategically then practice strategic thinking
• Addicted to the simple? Embrace complexity
• Don’t want to be strategic? Get some help
* ‘FYI – A Guide for Development and Coaching’ Lominger Korn Ferry International – Michael M. Lombardo & Robert W. Eichinger