Organizations often value employees who can make tactical decisions because it may help them identify creative solutions to challenges in the workplace. Whether you’re a company leader or just starting your career, using this type of thinking can enhance the choices you make, which may improve your productivity. Developing strategic thinking skills and implementing them may also assist you in distinguishing yourself at work, which can help you earn promotions.
In this article, we explain what a strategic thinker is and why this type of thinking is important, share eight signs that you’re a strategic thinker and show how to develop your skills.
What is strategic thinking?
Strategic thinking is a rational thought process that focuses on analyzing different factors or variables. The thought process includes carefully and deliberately seeking vulnerabilities and threats to watch for while also exploring opportunities to pursue. You can use these skills to use resources and develop a coherent framework for making decisions in the workplace. The ability to think tactically can allow you to make more informed decisions and improve your productivity because you can think of several creative solutions for a challenge.
Here are six common elements to think strategically:
Analysis tools: Analysis tools can include creating strength, weakness, opportunity and threat (SWOT) analysis to gain a comprehensive view of a company before making a critical decision.
Strategic purpose or mission: A strategic purpose or mission is understanding the reasons for thinking about all choices and the causes for making a decision.
Values: Values reflect a company’s culture, and employees can use the vision when making decisions, working on projects and interacting with other professionals.
Visions: Visions provide direction and purpose for team members when working on assignments. A vision allows them to understand how their hard work contributes to the company.
Primary goals: Primary goals help create actionable and relevant steps for completing tasks to achieve a company’s goal.
Action planning: Action planning defines a company’s goals, the reason, the steps and the deadline for the employees to adhere to when working on their tasks for the goal.
Why is strategic thinking important?
Thinking strategically is important because it may lead you to create a clear set of plans, goals and new ideas. Regardless of your industry, new trends can develop quickly, and companies require you to take advantage of them to capitalize on potential opportunities rapidly. By utilizing your skills, you can become more skilled at capitalizing on new opportunities and forecasting trends.
Additionally, thinking strategically allows you to make considerable contributions to your position and ensures you remain an essential employee within the organization. It also can help to prove to your employer you’re ready for new opportunities.
8 signs you’re a strategic thinker
Here are some signs you’re a strategic thinker:
Spending time in self-reflection: If you frequently reflect on your work of completed tasks or experiences you wish had gone differently, you’re likely a tactical thinker. One characteristic of thinking strategically is reflecting on events and experiences and using the knowledge to affect your future performance.
Asking a lot of questions: Tactical thinkers try to understand the context and avoid encountering potential challenges, ensuring everyone involved understands their assignments and the reason they’re completing them. These thinkers ask questions about why an issue is significant, what key factors led to a decision, what outcome is most desirable and who it may affect.
Compartmentalizing distractions: If you’re a tactical thinker, you likely are effective at compartmentalizing your responsibilities and minimizing distractions to focus on the highest priority.
Setting regular goals: Tactical thinkers often set performance goals to continue progressing professionally.
Demonstrating decisiveness: Tactical thinkers understand the importance of being conclusive in their decision-making. They efficiently gather data and decide based on the information, and they recognize that reaching decisions and being decisive takes both knowledge and confidence.
Welcoming feedback: Tactical thinkers collaborate with others and are open to feedback to improve their abilities.
Enjoying helping others: These thinkers may enjoy helping others to perform their best and achieve their fullest potential. They recognize it’s vital to help individuals overcome challenges to reach company-wide goals.
Planning long-term career goals: If you’re an individual who regularly imagines where you desire to be professionally in one or five years and begin taking the steps to get to where you wish to be, you’re likely a tactical thinker.
How to develop strategic thinking skills
Here are the six steps to help further develop your strategic thinking skills:
1. Schedule time to pause and reflect
The first step to improving your strategic thinking skills is to commit to slowing down and reflecting on situations. Schedule time daily or weekly to think actively about your latest choices and overall performance. For example, you may plan on doing this during your morning walk, while driving your work commute or during a time of day when you’re alone. Make sure you’re in a quiet location and repeat the habit regularly.
2. Learn and adjust your thinking style
Strategic thinking requires you to take part in two different thinking styles. One style is divergent thinking, where you examine a situation in its entirety and generate ideas. The second style is convergent thinking, where you look closely at your concepts and arrange them rationally. Being aware of these two thinking styles and applying them consciously can help you think more strategically.
3. Gain new experiences
When you expose yourself to a variety of experiences and ideas, it can help you think more strategically about situations at work and in your personal life. To gain experience, try visiting different places. For example, you could take a unique route home after work. To learn new ideas, consider having conversations with new people. For example, you could talk to someone in an elevator, on a bus or at the supermarket.
4. Discuss your ideas with other individuals
Another way to improve your strategic thinking skills is to discuss ideas with other individuals, especially those who have different perspectives than you. Doing so makes it easier for you to look at situations outside your perspective. Understanding other individuals’ viewpoints may help you generate new strategy ideas. If you’re resolving a problem, bringing together unique perspectives or traits, such as creative and technical specialists or introverts and extroverts, can help generate new ideas you may not have thought of on your own.
5. Encourage others to think strategically
Encourage others to think strategically by asking for their thoughts and ideas. Consider rewarding team members for expressing innovative and creative ways of completing tasks. Public recognition can support creativity among the team and help create an environment for strategic thinking.
6. Decide and implement your next steps
Part of being a tactical thinker is implementing what you plan. After you think and generate ideas, put your strategy into action. Identify the resources required for the idea and obtain them. Creating written steps on how you plan to use your skills daily can help you with the next steps in implementing your plan. Writing your steps into actionable plans helps you commit to them and incorporate them into your workflow.
I hope you find this article helpful.