Is your strategic thinking that strategic?

Are you walking into the future looking backwards?

I have the conversation about strategic thinking a couple of times a week, and every time the first question I have is:

"Tell me what you mean by Strategic?" 

The response is nearly always the same, a list of activities or a ‘To Do’ list that is either operational or tactical, and not really strategic as all. At best I would estimate that less than 5% of conversations actually refer to true strategic thinking,  furthermore the processes to remain strategic over time are virtually never in place.  The questions that follow my first one are usually the following:

  1. Do you do any form of strategic foresight?
  2. Do you practice any form of scenario planning?
  3. Do you monitor any emerging the global trends, not related to your business? 
  4. If you do, how often do you or your team report on those trends and feed them back to the executive team, or CEO?
  5. Do you have a dynamic steering strategy group, if so how often do they meet, and who do they report too?

If your answer to more than 4 of these questions is “No” than you and your business are not really thinking strategically and your current efforts most likely sit in the tactical/operational space.  You are not alone, the majority of businesses are.

A nice metaphor to place this in perpesctive is to consider walking into the future looking backwards. You're not going to see what’s coming until you literally fall over it. Which places you and your business right into the reactive mind space and business cycle. Would you not prefer to exist in a space where you can see and track the risks a lot further out by paying attention to them in the first place; therefore mitigating them early, placing you in control and at the helm. 

Now the future is a tricky thing because its not real yet, and doesn't have a lot of certainty. But I can guarantee you that you are more likely to make it a reality this way, then looking back at the past. In a lot of ways we've got our approach about strategic thinking backwards. 

The superlative part of this post is the answer to the simple questions"how do i do that?”is easy.... engage in points 1-5 above as a bare minimum. Take control of your business as opposed to having it's operating conditions handed to you.