A good way to begin “strategic thinking” is to remind yourself why you chose the business or industry you came to be in. What were your hopes or aspirations at the time? While probably not at the top of your thoughts, the core values that attracted you once are most certainly still important to you. No matter what opportunities you choose to pursue, start by reminding yourself about the things that really matter to you. If you are doing this with a team, the process of identifying the most important common values is always a good first step.
One you are clear on what is really important at the core; there are many good tools and methods to help identify opportunities. In this article I offer four frameworks to consider; perhaps one will be tempting to delve into depending on your situation.
In any business or organization it is important to differentiate yourself in a relevant, meaningful way from everyone else out there. A good starting point is to take a closer look at the unique competencies and strengths in your organization.
In a method commonly used in strategic planning known as SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) it becomes relatively easy to identify strategic opportunities by mapping out organizational strengths, weaknesses, the market situation, customer needs and the environment. I highly recommend trying this out for your business. If you are interested in reading more about SWOT go to http://www.netmba.com/strategy/swot/ [http://www.netmba.com/strategy/swot/%20]
Whether you face increased competition, or simply don’t want to work as hard as you have in the past, you can become more efficient by focusing on what you do best.
In 1906 Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that twenty percent of the Italian people owned eighty percent of their country’s accumulated wealth. Over time and through application in a variety of environments, he developed a concept that has become know as “The Pareto Principle,” “The 80-20 Rule,” or “The Vital Few and Trivial Many Rule.” The rule states that a small number of causes is responsible for a large percentage of the effect in a ratio of about 20:80. In a management context, the theory is that 20% of a person’s effort will often generate 80% of their results.
The challenge is to distinguish the right 20% from the trivial many. Once you start looking, you will find powerful implications in every area of your business
Do 20 percent of your products account for 80 percent of product sales?
Do 80 percent of your visitors see only 20 percent of you web pages?
Does 20 percent of your sales force produce 80 percent of the revenues?
Is 80% of your time spent on Trivial Many activities?
What competencies are bringing you the majority of your results? Once you figure this out the idea is to focus!
Forming an alliance with a complementary partner can have many benefits. Working together with a partner may enable you to offer more value to clients, create new combinations of services, and think through ideas from new perspectives.
If you think a partnership might be beneficial, start by identifying your own core competencies. Only then, should you start looking for a partner. When you are successful at finding a candidate with complementary strengths, it is time for both of you to sit down and do some strategic planning. So many partnerships begin without clear roles and responsibilities, expectations and written goals.
For any of you who are in transition, thinking about transition, trying to build a motivated productive team, or are simply reevaluating your own strengths, I would like to share with you a paragraph from Dr. Mel Levine’s groundbreaking book “A Mind at a Time.”
“Each of us is endowed with a highly complex, inborn circuitry- creating innumerable branching pathways of options and obstacles. While some of us have brains that are wired to handle a lot of information at once, others have brains that can absorb and process only a little information at a time (often with greater accuracy). While some of us have brains that store and retrieve from memory with precision and speed, others possess brains that access facts more slowly or with less precision. Some kinds of minds prefer to dream up their own original thoughts rather than drawing upon the ideas of others, and vice versa. Although some of us have minds that are more comfortable and effective visualizing complex political or even religious ideas, others are apt to do much of their thinking in words and sentences. So it is that we all live with minds wired to excel in one area and crash in another. Hopefully we discover and engage in good matches between our kind of mind and our pursuits in life.”
While this book is intended primarily for parents, educators and doctors, it has a valuable message for anyone trying to improve their situation. Different minds learn differently, and with a better understanding of ourselves and the people in our organizations, we can help ourselves and others design goals that build on strengths. There are a myriad of excellent assessments that can be administered by trained professionals to help you gain new insights into yourself and the others on your team. I welcome your questions if this is an area that you think is worth exploring.