Ok, so the title states strategic thinking like a technology leader. Fact is, strategic thinking doesn’t need technology…
In its most basic form, strategic thinking is the ability to plan for the future. It means having the capacity to prepare strategies and come up with ideas that will cope and change the current environment, while having considered the challenges ahead.
This is what senior leadership looks for in their people. They want to see employees who possess strategic thinking skills. This is what makes executives, directors and managers the successful leaders they are.
Why strategic thinking is an important skill
There will be many times when a manager, director or executive will need to make on-the-fly decisions while keeping a cool level-headed mindset. Strategic thinking helps to make this possible time and time again.
Just think about it. At any given time, companies must be able to respond to changes in the market place regarding:
- Local, national, and global economy
- Changes in consumer behavior
- The competition
Companies must remain competitive. In order to do this, they need to adjust the stream of ideas and information in order to compete successfully in today’s fast paced business climate. It means combining great listening skills with the ability to give direction, observing the change, demonstrating and developing possible responses as part of the solution. It is for this reason that strategic thinking is important to your company’s growth, profitability and success.
There are four key qualities that all strategic thinkers possess. These same qualities are the ones you need to continue to work on throughout your career:
1. Always learning
Commitment to constant learning and self-improvement are two of the main foundations to build strategic thinking skills. This can come from your own experiences, learning of the experiences of others, books you’ve read, your networks, presentations, conferences, or even school. The point being that you do not dismiss any potential for a chance to learn from a trusted source of knowledge.
2. Feedback and advice
Strategic thinkers always look for feedback and advice from others in order to make constant improvements and to prepare for their future growth. They enjoy testing out ideas and concepts and always examine criticisms and incorporate change where its relevant. This makes their plans and strategies robust and constantly in motion.
3. Taking risks is not an issue
To be a strategic thinker means knowing that professional excellence is not born from a mold. Cookie-cutter approaches don’t work well with them. Once careful consideration is made, they will take risks on new ideas, innovative solutions and prepare for both success and failure as they are always willing to learn from any mistakes made along the way.
4. Never forget purpose or people
It doesn’t matter whether a business designs and builds software, or sells financial portfolios, strategic thinkers will never forget or neglect their purpose, or the people related to the business. You cannot have strategic thinking without these two most important elements.
5. Improving your strategic thinking skills
By now, you should be seeing strategic thinking as an immensely valuable skill to progress your career. It’s a great skill to enable you to plan and apply reason to the many challenges you face today and down the road as you will always seek out the best and most effective solution. Getting to that point will take a bit of work in a few areas to enhance your strategic thinking skills, regardless of whatever position or industry you are in.
6. Be proactive
Understand first that strategic thinking is all about being prepared for the future. It means taking the initiative and doing things before you’re asked to or need to respond reactively.
Did you review the last-minute quick lines of code before you pushed them? Did you backup according to the version control process laid out earlier? If so then you can tick off that proactive box and keep moving forward.
7. Learn to change when change is needed
Strategic thinkers do not always believe their ideas, opinions, arguments or positions will always be right. Developing an understanding of these will develop your skills by understanding how the bigger picture is affected. The more alternative arguments are heard and explored, the easier you will find that you see projects and ideas in a more wholistic sense.
8. Optimize, optimize, optimize
In everything you do while on your project, or piece of work you’re tasked with, you can always look for ways to optimize and improve on what you produce. It’s all about being able to enhance your strategy thinking and push the reset button on direction. In other words, being adaptable and ambitious simultaneously. Ensure that anything you do, whether it is code, social media reports, or a team presentation, generates maximum value.
9. Stay in the know
Read what you can and read widely, join networks, engage with your fellow employees from various teams in your company. Look for clues on upcoming trends and concepts anywhere and everywhere you can. Understand how your role works within the context of your workplace, but more importantly to a broader extent nationally or globally. Find mentors and experts who can share their experiences and tips with you. Learn from them and hold their most important and current ideas relevant to you.
The ability to envision new solutions to old problems and to constantly re-invent your point of view in a way that is unique and benefits your organization is what strategic thinking is all about.
Strategic thinkers give thought to strategy more than just once a year. They constantly think about the ecosystem of customers, partners, workplace and competition where they exist. They always look for strategic options for the business and the people. Additionally, they are always ready to self-explore and implement at any time.
It’s a key skill if you have your sights set on climbing the corporate ladder, or even improving your position as an independent contractor who has a team. Start working on your strategic thinking skills today.
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Band of Coders Show is a podcast dedicated to helping software developers problem-solve their biggest leadership challenges. We talk leadership, productivity, team building, effectiveness, and much more.