Strategic Thinking: what it is and how to do it


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An overview of strategic thinking - what it is and how to get started building strategic thinking processes in your organisation.

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  • Strategic Thinking: what it is and how to do it

    1. 1. Strategic Thinking: what it is and how to do it Maree Conway VISTA Conference May 2009
    2. 2. A bit about me Long and good career in CAEs, TAFE, universities 2007….integrating long term thinking into strategy development, using futures approaches Managed their planning/quality units 1999-2005 2005-2007
    3. 4. Capture your thoughts <ul><li>As we work through the session, write down changes you can make in how you think and do when you return to work. </li></ul>
    4. 6. Integral Framework Based on the work of Ken Wilber Reflective Practice Leadership Good Ancestory Interior Exterior Individual Collective Strategic Thinking
    5. 7. Strategic Thinking Generating Options What might happen? Strategic Decision Making Making choices What will we do? Strategic Planning Taking Action How will we do it? Options Decisions Actions
    6. 8. Long term Uncertain Divergent Incomplete Beyond linear Disrupting alignment
    7. 9. <ul><li>Short term </li></ul><ul><li>Logical </li></ul><ul><li>Convergent </li></ul><ul><li>Pragmatic </li></ul><ul><li>Deductive </li></ul><ul><li>Creating Alignment </li></ul>
    8. 10. <ul><li>Strategic thinking is about developing strategy. </li></ul><ul><li>Strategy is about the future. </li></ul><ul><li>ergo… </li></ul><ul><li>Strategic Thinking is thinking about the future. </li></ul>Strategic Thinking
    9. 11. <ul><li>Integrating the future into your decision making processes today by thinking big, deep and long. </li></ul>Strategic Thinking
    10. 12. <ul><li>Big – do we understand how we connect and interact with other organisations and the external environment? </li></ul>
    11. 13. <ul><li>Deep – how deeply are we questioning our ways of operating? </li></ul><ul><li>Do we operate from our interpretation of the past, or our anticipation of the future? </li></ul><ul><li>Are our assumptions today valid into the future? </li></ul>
    12. 14. <ul><li>Long – how far into the future are we looking? Do we understand the shape of alternative futures for our organisation? </li></ul>
    13. 15. <ul><li>Strategic thinking is identifying, imagining and understanding possible and plausible future operating environments for your organisation… </li></ul>
    14. 16. <ul><li>… and using that knowledge to expand your thinking about your potential future options… </li></ul>
    15. 17. <ul><li>… about how to position your organisation effectively in the external environment, </li></ul>
    16. 18. <ul><li>… in order to make better informed decisions about action to take today. </li></ul>
    17. 19. Thinking Big: Thinking in Systems
    18. 20. <ul><li>Leaders need to learn to see the larger systems of which they are a part. </li></ul><ul><li>Shifts focus from optimising their piece of the puzzle to building shared understanding and larger vision. </li></ul>Thinking Big: Systems Thinking Peter Senge, The Necessary Revolution, 2008
    19. 21. <ul><li>Forces your attention: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>out to the external environment to understand the impact of change, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>on connections and interdependencies, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>on aligning internal capacity with reality of a constantly changing external environment, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>on identifying strategy that will ensure viability of your organisations into the future, and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>on the big picture. </li></ul></ul>Thinking Big: Systems Thinking
    20. 22. Thinking Deep
    21. 23. <ul><li>What might seem real to you probably won’t seem as real to the next person. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>not right, not wrong, just is. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How you filter information (your lens) to create meaning is critical to understand. </li></ul>Worldview
    22. 24. Our assumptions encase us in the past.
    23. 25. Assumption 1: It’s impossible.
    24. 26. Assumption 2: I’m too busy.
    25. 27. Assumption 3: It’s irrelevant.
    26. 29. You will know when to test assumptions when the pain of continuing with ‘business-as-usual’ is greater than the fear of challenging yourself and others.
    27. 30. Thinking Long: Environmental Scanning
    28. 31. <ul><li>Creating graduates for jobs that don’t exist, using technology that hasn’t been invented, to solve problems that haven’t happened. </li></ul><ul><li>Must understand the shape of this world to be able to lead towards it. </li></ul>In education…
    29. 32. Organisation Global Industry Technology Lifestyle Values Politics Economy Environment Demographics & generational change Learning Educational Gaming Funding Engagement Online Sustainability Vocational Imperative The External Environment Globalisation Wildcard Wildcard Wildcard Wildcard
    30. 33. Today Future TIME UNCERTAINTY Linear Future Low High The linear future is the one we believe to be true, usually based on untested assumptions Usual Planning Timeframe (3-5 years) Trend
    31. 34. Today Future TIME UNCERTAINTY Linear Future Low High Possible Futures Usual Planning Timeframe (3-5 years) Trend
    32. 35. Today Future TIME UNCERTAINTY Linear Future Low High Possible Futures Usual Planning Timeframe (3-5 years) Trend And…don’t forget the wildcard…
    33. 36. Whatever takes you away from conventional thinking… Trends Emerging Issues The weird and unimaginable
    34. 37. <ul><li>Scan actively </li></ul><ul><li>Scan in strange places </li></ul><ul><li>Scan for diversity of perspectives (not right, not wrong, just is) </li></ul><ul><li>Look for connections, collisions and intersections. </li></ul><ul><li>RSS feeds </li></ul><ul><li>Meta scanning sites </li></ul>Scan: know earlier
    35. 38. <ul><li>Collective wisdom is best when interpreting scanning results. </li></ul><ul><li>Need systems to record and share scanning ‘hits’. </li></ul><ul><li>Need regular gatherings at all levels to interpret and explore what it all means for your organisation. </li></ul><ul><li>Get your whole organisation thinking. </li></ul>Scan: know together
    36. 39. Putting it all together: What might be… and what can we do about it today?
    37. 40. There are no future facts
    38. 41. Types of Futures Time Today Futures Cone developed by Clem Bezold Possible Plausible Probable Preferable Scenario “ Wildcard”
    39. 42. <ul><li>What will be the shape of the future? </li></ul><ul><li>What will be important ? </li></ul><ul><li>What will be peripheral ? </li></ul><ul><li>What does it mean for us? </li></ul>
    40. 43. <ul><li>The future might be unknowable , but you can understand a lot about what will influence the future. </li></ul>
    41. 45. The impact of global trends...
    42. 46. … and of government policy
    43. 47. Competing for talent Skilling, re-skilling, up-skilling Flexibility Relationships
    44. 48. Increasing competition or more collaboration?
    45. 49. Global 2.0 is here…understanding and engaging with an array of cultures…
    46. 50. Diversity of workforce and student population increasing
    47. 51. ...student choice and time, place and pace of learning
    48. 52. … how will we learn?
    49. 53. SNACK CULTURE Deconstructing products - smaller, faster, cheaper
    50. 54. Photo: Is the singularity real?
    51. 55. How will automation affect our work?
    52. 56. The way we do business is changing.
    53. 57. … and we need to demonstrate our ‘ green’ credentials
    54. 58. Implications <ul><li>Students – how will they learn, what will their experience look like? </li></ul><ul><li>Staff – how will you work, what will a day look like for you? </li></ul><ul><li>The organisation – how will it have changed? How will it have stayed the same? </li></ul><ul><li>Learning – what will it mean (structure, delivery, assessment, recognition)? </li></ul><ul><li>Industry – what will it look like? How will people work? What skills might be needed? </li></ul>
    55. 60. <ul><li>Beyond the short-term </li></ul><ul><li>Beyond busy </li></ul><ul><li>“ We want to be proactive…” </li></ul><ul><li>But, you can’t be proactive unless you have spent time thinking about how you might react to events that have not yet happened. </li></ul>Why do it this way?
    56. 61. Reactive Futures
    57. 62. Proactive Futures
    58. 63. Reactive Futures – seek certainty
    59. 64. Proactive futures – embrace complexity
    60. 65. <ul><li>REACTIVE FUTURES </li></ul><ul><li>Let’s get someone to tell us about the future of… </li></ul><ul><li>PROACTIVE FUTURES </li></ul><ul><li>Let’s think about how to focus our organisations on the future. </li></ul>
    61. 66. After the event Anticipating the event Reactive Futures Proactive Futures What has happened? What is happening? What caused it to happen? What is driving the trends that will influence our future? What are our alternative futures? How do we respond? What ought we do today? What would be the long term consequences of our actions today? What will we do? What will we do?
    62. 67. <ul><li>Mental filters ( patterned responses ) </li></ul><ul><li>Overconfidence ( far too certain ) </li></ul><ul><li>Penchant for confirming rather than disconfirming evidence </li></ul><ul><li>Dislike for ambiguity ( want certainty ) </li></ul><ul><li>Group think ( Abilene effect ) </li></ul>Recognise the blinders PJH Schoemaker and GS Day Driving through the Fog, Long Range Planning 37 (2003): 127-142
    63. 68. <ul><li>Moving beyond pattern response and habitual thinking that no longer works well when uncertainty is dominant. </li></ul><ul><li>Re-training our brains to make new connections (ie be creative). </li></ul><ul><li>Moving our brains from automatic pilot to manual steering. </li></ul>It’s about changing the way you think…
    64. 69. <ul><li>We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. </li></ul>
    65. 70. <ul><li>What assumptions that underpin how you think about your work now will need to change? </li></ul>
    66. 71. A Challenge: Beyond Busy
    67. 72. <ul><li>The pressures of his job drive the manager to be superficial in his actions - to overload himself with work, encourage interruption, respond quickly to every stimulus, seek the tangible and avoid the abstract, makes decisions in small increments, and do everything abruptly. </li></ul>Henry Mintzberg The Manager’s Job: Folklore or Fact, HBR, 1975
    68. 73. <ul><li>“ Managers who get caught in the trap of overwhelming demands become prisoners of routine. They do not have time to notice opportunities. Their habituated work prevents them from taking the first necessary step toward harnessing willpower: developing the capacity to dream an idea into existence and transforming it into a concrete existence .” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Heike Bruch & Sumantra Ghoshal, A Bias for Action: How Effective Managers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results, and Stop Wasting Time, HBSP, 2004 </li></ul></ul>
    69. 74. The Result? Our organisations will tend to be purposeless wastelands, populated by the perpetually busy and the inherently unhappy . Stephen Johnson, What do you do for a living?, 2007
    70. 75. <ul><li>I’m too busy dealing with today to think about the future… </li></ul><ul><li>actually means… </li></ul><ul><li>I can only think short term, not long term. I don’t have time to think strategically. </li></ul>
    71. 76. If you succumb to the busyness syndrome, this is how you approach the future.
    72. 77. <ul><li>A futures thinking approach may mitigate against falling into the trap of being caught reacting to the day to day, where the urgent drives out the important, where the futures goes unexplored and the capacity to act, rather than the capacity to think and imagine, becomes the sole measure for leadership. </li></ul><ul><li>Brent Davies </li></ul><ul><li>Leading the Strategically Focused School: Success and Sustainability (2006) </li></ul>
    73. 78. To think strategically, you have to move beyond busy.
    74. 79. Characteristics of Strategic Thinkers
    75. 80. Open mind…
    76. 81. Systems thinker…
    77. 82. Accept diversity…
    78. 83. Think outside the box…
    79. 84. Think outrageously at times…
    80. 85. Curious… Explore, learn, reflect
    81. 86. Optimistic about creating the future…
    82. 87. Challenge assumptions…
    83. 88. Aware of own worldview…
    84. 89. Are compassionate…
    85. 90. … and generous
    86. 91. … and, seek and foster collective wisdom
    87. 92. <ul><li>Focus : critical issue/decision today </li></ul><ul><li>Scan : two trends likely to affect your decision into the future (think uncertainty not predictability) </li></ul><ul><li>Interpret : think about how these trends might play out over the next 10 years </li></ul><ul><li>Imagine : how your organisation look like in 10 years – image/metaphor/book or movie title </li></ul><ul><li>Decision: – implications/options for your decision today. What will be the same, what might you do differently? </li></ul>Your turn…
    88. 93. Back to Work
    89. 94. <ul><li>Strategic thinking is thinking about the future. </li></ul><ul><li>As leaders in organisations, your responsibility is to influence others to understand the imperative of the future. </li></ul>
    90. 95. <ul><li>That a sustainable way of life for us as individuals, for our organisations, our societies and our planet is possible only if we integrate the future into our decision making today. </li></ul>The imperative of the future
    91. 96. The imperative of the future Peter Senge Creating Desired Futures in a Global Community, SOL, 2003 We focus on immediate needs and problems and are trapped by this illusion that what is most tangible is most real . We've been conditioned for thousands of years to identify with our family, our tribe, and our local social structures. A future that asks us to overcome this condition and identify with all of humankind looks alien indeed ...we've never before lived in a world in which one's actions, through global business, can have their primary consequence of the other side of the world.
    92. 97. And, just how do I do this in real life?
    93. 98. It’s a challenge!
    94. 99. The gap between reactive and proactive futures is bridged by making time for strategic thinking . .
    95. 100. <ul><li>Individual </li></ul><ul><li>Foresight </li></ul><ul><li>unconscious </li></ul><ul><li>implicit </li></ul><ul><li>solitary </li></ul><ul><li>Strategic </li></ul><ul><li>Foresight </li></ul><ul><li>conscious </li></ul><ul><li>explicit </li></ul><ul><li>collective </li></ul>Individuals recognise and build their foresight capacity Individuals begin to talk about and use futures approaches in their work Collective individual capacities generate organisational capacity (structures & processes)
    96. 101. Based on the work of Ken Wilber Reflective Practice Commit to building time to do this daily – stop doing something else if you have to YOU Leadership Make a change in your routine when you go back to work. Good Ancestory Recognise the impact of decisions today for future generations Strategic Thinking Whenever you have to make a decision, ask: “Am I thinking, big, deep and long?” Interior Exterior Individual Collective
    97. 102. Based on the work of Ken Wilber Reflective Practice Encourage and support an outward looking staff YOUR ORGANISATION Leadership Build a scanning system to inform decision making – and pay attention to it Good Ancestory Create a futures focused decision making culture Strategic Thinking Have thinking workshops as well as planning workshops Interior Exterior Individual Collective
    98. 103. <ul><li>Strategy framework defined by tomorrow’s strategic issues rather than today’s operations. </li></ul><ul><li>Strategic thinking capabilities are widespread in the organisation (not just senior executives). </li></ul><ul><li>Process for negotiating trade-offs is in place. </li></ul><ul><li>Performance review system focuses managers on key strategic issues </li></ul><ul><li>Reward system and values promote and support the exercise of strategic thinking. </li></ul>How do you know when? Adapted from Thinking Strategically, McKinsey Quarterly, June 2000
    99. 104. <ul><li>Strategic Thinking = integrating the future into your decision making today. </li></ul><ul><li>Futures focused decision making = “am I thinking big, deep and long?” </li></ul>
    100. 105. <ul><li>The aim is to understand - as best we can - the long term context of our decisions today, so that we make those decisions as wise and as robust as is possible . </li></ul>
    101. 110. <ul><li>Maree Conway </li></ul><ul><li>Thinking Futures </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Photos from and </li></ul>