Strategic Thinking 101

When I think of strategy the first thing that comes to mind is a War Room full of Generals or Sun Tzu's The Art of War.
Whether you are a coach for a football team, a business person, the general of an army, or you are simply trying to get your life on the right track, learning how to think strategically is an essential skill. Strategy is just a form of deep thinking, and the thing about thinking is that its hard work- therefore not very many of us do it. This is why you probably work for someone who mastered this skill. I'm going to break down exactly what it means to become a strategic thinker, and what you can do to work on this skill. Welcome to strategy 101.

The Game of Kings
The Game of Kings

There's a reason they call chess the Game of Kings. Chess is one of the best ways to learn how to think in terms of strategy. A strategy is essentially a plan of attack, with many back up plans to ensure you account for every scenario. Tai talks about his formula for life- KSE or Knowledge, Strategy, and Execution. Most people make the mistake of missing the correct order here, like just E, or EKS, or any of the other countless variations. The truth is most people completely skip the strategy part. You can see this by simply looking at their results. Tai describes strategizing as the personalization of the knowledge that you acquire and turning it into a precise course of action. Strategy is how you break down the most complex tasks and problems and find a way to turn them into manageable bite sized pieces. An excellent book for you to read on the subject is Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland.

John C Maxwell says that you should plan your life and live your plan. Maybe right now you have a to-do list for the day, or if you are a little more advanced you may have planned out your entire week. Maxwell's practice is to plan out 40 days ahead so that he knows exactly what he will be doing every hour of every day. You might think this is a bit extreme but virtually every high achieving person has a process like this. You need to schedule in time for relaxing and having fun, and also time to deal with unknown. Implementing this method of thinking will skyrocket your results. To use an idea from scrum, plan out your entire week of work and find out exactly what you have to do, then take 15 minutes every morning to find out if you are on the right track and if there is anything impeding your progress.

Why You Need to Engage Your Strategic Thinking Process Now!

Strategic Thinking Makes Simplifies the Complex.

Having a good strategy is how you take extremely complex problems and solve them. In Engineering you are taught how to solve difficult problems by breaking them down step by step. Its amazing what you can do once you apply this thinking process to your business and life. John Maxwell says that strategic thinking is nothing more than planning on steroids and there is definitely some truth to that.

2) Learn to Ask the Right Questions

Judge a man not by the quality of his answers, but by the quality of his questions. Asking the right questions is the process of breaking down difficult tasks. Here are a few: Are we moving in the right direction? Are the right people working on the right things? What are our projected revenues and expenses? How can we afford it? Are we on target to meet our goals? How can we get better? What is slowing our progress and how can we get rid of it?

3) Strategic Thinking Leads to Personalization and Precision

All strategic thinkers are precise thinkers, and they are experts at matching their strategies to their problems. There is no such thing as a one size fits all strategy, which is why chess is such a great game. You may start off with a certain strategy but you are playing against a real opponent who has strategies of their own, which requires you to adapt and counter attack. Utilizing strategic thinking is one more way to sharpen your mind.

4) Reduce Your Errors and Prepare for the Unexpected

If you are the type of person who is more action oriented and tends to jump straight into things I have bad news for you. You're much more likely to miss your targets and objectives if you don't take the time to plan on how to get there. Sometimes you will get lucky and get a win from time to time, but in general you will waste a lot of time and energy. I tend to think of it like sailing from England to America, its fine if you set out with a destination in mind but if you don't know how to chart a course and make sure you are sticking to it, you're probably going to end up in Africa. Preparation really is half of the battle. When you have a set of contingency plans, you wont get flustered when your original plan falls through and you will still reach your goals.

5) Influence Over Others

Lets be honest, most of us would like to increase our influence over our friends, family, coworkers, and potential customers. Strategic thinking is what will gain you the respect of your peers and will help you stand out from the crowd. Just think back to the time when you were going on a vacation and that one friend had planned out everything from the resort to the excursions, they always stand out as the leader. Not all strategic thinkers are leaders, but all leaders think strategically. Be the one who steps up and takes control of the situation and people will naturally follow you.

The Habit of Strategic Thinking

The thing about strategic thinking is that you must continually do it. Here are a few ways to reinforce the habit.

  1. Play Chess- Developing chess like thinking is going to give you a huge advantage in your business. Get in the habit of trying to see a few steps ahead. Always know what the worst case scenario is and have a plan for it. You might think that this is being negative but this is really just being realistic.
  2. Schedule the time to just think- You should plan to only think at least once a week, pick a spot that you can be distraction free and take the time to be alone with your thoughts. You should determine what time works best for you and block that time off.
  3. Plan out your day, week, month, year and so on. Take the time everyday to ensure that you are on the right track and eliminate any barriers. This is how you reach your goals and end up having a badass life.
  4. Discipline yourself into taking complex tasks and breaking them down as small as possible. Like Henry Ford said " Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs."

So there you have it, doing these things will get you on the right track to changing your thinking. Because strategy is such a broad topic you can learn  it from many different sources such as sports, military, business, marketing, and politics. There are tons of books on the topic of strategy that you can read, I like anything by John C Maxwell, Scrum, and classics like the Art of War. There's a reason the general is the highest position in the army, they mastered the art of strategizing. This is how you are going to accomplish more than anyone else and lead a better life.

Until next time.

~Ben

 

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