Friday, April 27, 2012

Who needs strategic thinking?

Last week, my colleague, David, and I facilitated a leadership workshop with a group of talented leaders working at one of Finland’s largest companies.  When discussing and defining strategic thinking, one participant contributed “seeing the whole field” as the definition of strategic thinking.  This definition inspired me to write our blog on the topic of Strategic Thinking

So, who needs strategic thinking?  To answer this question, I think it is useful to reflect on one of the key attributes of strategic thinking in practice:  systems perspective, or as our savvy participant put it, “seeing the whole field”.  Liedtka states that "a strategic thinker has a mental model of the complete end-to-end system of value creation, his or her role within it, and an understanding of the competencies it contains."[1] In short, anyone who is part of implementing a strategy (plan) needs to think strategically. Indeed, strategic thinking is not a competency reserved for top management or even just for the makers of strategy.  Rather, strategic thinking is a competency required from anyone involved in the implementation of strategy.  There are three levels of strategic thinking individuals in organizations need to master.

On a general level, understanding the strategy, strategic goals and the role of the business unit in achieving these goals creates the frame for meaningfulness in the workplace.  Ideally, each individual should be able to express quite succinctly what is the plan of their organization to accomplish their dream?  In other words, what is the strategy that takes them to their vision?

At a team level, individuals need to understand how their team contributes to the plan of the organization and what are the interdependencies between and among teams to reach that plan.  This insight builds individual awareness of the network of efforts required to fulfill the strategy. 

At the most essential level, at the individual level, we need to understand the connection between individual performance and the organizational strategy.  As individuals, we need to understand how our work and the objectives contribute to the strategy.  How do I contribute to the implementation of the strategy and fulfillment of the vision?  Clarity in this area creates individual responsibility towards the organizational strategy. 

Continuous strategic thinking at these three levels is essential to build the meaningfulness, insight and responsibility required for rational and emotional commitment to the strategy.  When we learn to think strategically across all levels of the organization, we will be able to implement organizational strategies with the mind and soul. Is it time that we all do some strategic thinking? 

Laura Vargas
Partner at Pertec Consulting

[1] Liedtka, J. M. (1998), “Linking Strategic Thinking with Strategic Planning”, Strategy and Leadership, 26(4), 30-35.


  1. This is very nice and informative post . I like this post very much
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  2. I just stumbled on your post from April 2012. As it relates to someones thinking "orientation" would you say its better to be systemically oriented or goal oriented?