Monday, July 14, 2014

What is a Strategic Mindset?

In every successful company, there are two operating systems working at the same time. One system is focused on the cash generating part of the business, making sure that day to day systems and people are focused on the delivery of goods and services in a timely, efficient and effective manner. The other system is focused on the on-going development and implementation of strategy, including the creation of strategic clarity and urgency. In particular, it is the second system which will create the strategic mindset by which all will commit to on-going operational and strategic success.

So what is a strategic mindset?

In the beginning, there are three elements to the strategic mindset. First, there is a clear understanding of context or environment in which the company is moving through over time. For example, a leader in the computer industry may need to understand what is happening in the development of new hardware and software but also recognize that more and more people are turning to their cell phones as the primary form of computing instead of their former lap tops. This in combination with the arrival of Cloud based storage for data makes the world of service delivery completely different than in the past. 

Second, a person with a strategic mindset must understand what is the organization’s strategy for the future and why this is the best choice. This means that they have to comprehend that strategy is an extensively premeditated, carefully built, long term plan designed to achieve a particular goal. However, it also has to be adaptable by nature due to unforeseen variables rather than presenting a rigid set of instructions or tactics which has the potential to create organizational vulnerability. Therefore, strategy serves an important function in promoting ongoing evolutionary success of the company.

The third element of a strategic mindset revolves around the concept of operational excellence. Here, I reference the work of Tom Peters who defined excellence as a workplace philosophy where problem solving, teamwork and leadership result in on-going improvements in the organization focused on meeting the current customer needs.

Once someone grasps that there are three elements to a strategic mindset, then one has to remember the “genius of the and,” referencing an old Jim Collins term.  Rather than one element, e.g. context, strategy or operational excellence, being more important than the others, people who have a strategic mindset develop an awareness and understanding of how each of the three elements dynamically interact.  It is context, strategy and operation excellence instead of context, strategy or operational excellence that makes synergy take place.

This week check your own depth of understanding about context, strategy and operational excellence. Then, check on how well others grasp these key concepts.  It will be the start of a new beginning.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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