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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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Strategic Thinking In Stages

The right thinking style for each stage ...


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 27/12/2023 @ 8:00AM

My favourite definition of strategy is one I learnt early in my time as a consultant and it’s stuck with me ever since. It's this: “Strategy is about marshalling your resources to achieve your objective” ...

Time to exercise and strengthen those neural pathways with some strategic thinking!

Time to exercise and strengthen those neural pathways with some strategic thinking!

copyright: katherine benziger

We usually think of these resources as all the external things we need. Finance, infrastructure, systems, process, other people in the business, our contacts and their contacts and so on and so forth. In this blog post, I want to focus on the internal resource we all have, but rarely use to its full capability when devising our strategies.

"I'm talking, of course, about your brain!"

In order to explain, I need to digress a little. We are all familiar with the concept of handedness. People are either right-handed or left-handed. This is an example of our brain's preference for one set of pathways over another.

Recent research demonstrates that these preferred pathways can be 100 times more efficient than the alternatives. Think of how difficult and tiring it is to write with your left hand if you are right-handed ... it's the same with your thinking.

The brain has many of these pre-set pathways and there are many tools on the market that categorise these in different ways. The one that I favour is derived from Katherine Benziger and is usually shown in a matrix such as the one above.

These 4 styles can be recognised as different ways of perceiving, processing, initiating and reacting to the world and the other people within it. Each of us uses all four ways of thinking in the same way that we use both our right and left hands, but we all have a preference for one set of pathways over the other.

Back to your strategy ... let's talk you through using the right thinking style for each stage which can help you build a robust strategy. Time to exercise and strengthen those neural pathways!

Any strategy starts with defining the objective. How can you marshall your resources if you don't know what you're trying to achieve? Your thinking here needs to be visionary. This type of thinking is about peering into the unknown, stepping away from the detail and viewing the big picture. It's about novelty, daring to be different as well as playful and creative.

Visionary thinkers take risks, they believe that they can achieve anything and that they can overcome problems on the way. It's about the big idea and can be scary if it's not your preferred way of thinking, but staying in that mode is where the new ideas are formed.

However, if you stay in visionary mode and jump straight into action then it can be like jumping off the cliff and finding out if you have a parachute halfway down. So, whilst holding onto your dream, your big idea, now you need to switch your thinking to reality and apply some reasoned thinking. This is where logic, evidence and the implications of what you're planning come into play.

Test out your idea on some other people, not just your fans, but the doubters too. Do some research and some number crunching. You may oscillate back and forth between your vision and reality a few times until you're confident that you have the full picture and are confident that you have the risks covered.

Now, you will have spent some considerable time honing this idea and it's still not ready for action. What about all the other people, the stakeholders, who are affected by this? Unless they were the person you asked to test out the idea they've had no time to get used to it. You will need them on board to help you put this into action.

A switch of thinking to being empathetic, taking on board how to engage, inspire and motivate them to come along with you. Remember they are part of those resources you're marshalling.

"There are three ways they need to engage!"

Intellectually they need to understand what you're hoping to achieve and your rationale for choosing this way of doing it. Emotionally, they need to love it and see what's in it for them too. Then behaviourally they've got to be able to understand their part in it, what changes they will have to make personally. What's their part in realising the dream? I hope you can see the value of the time you took to test the idea out thoroughly before bringing it to a wider audience.

Many of these people can help you with the next switch of thinking, moving into the detail away from pure strategy into the planning stage. Now, your thinking needs to change to ordered, process thinking. Who's going to do what and how and when will this happen?

If others are going to need to come along these steps with you, you may oscillate between empathy and ordered thinking as you allow others to help you make your dream and their own match up.

So, in conclusion, when developing your strategy, be it big or small, learn how to be a bit more ambidextrous in your thinking and choose the right part of your brain to help you marshall your resources and achieve your objective.

Need some help exercising those underused neural pathways?

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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