Strategic Thinking and Common Sense – Both Sides of the Same Coin?

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Strategic thinking, much less strategic planning, can be a foreign topic to many team members. Yes, even executives. This begs the question, how did these people ever get to be executives if they are not able to think strategically? That’s a good question, but one for another blog. This blog will help you determine if your team is thinking strategically and what to do if they aren’t.

Here is a hypothetical situation of what can happen. Let’s say an organization recently completed their two year strategic plan. Great start. Their plan calls for a large monetary goal to be reached in just two years. Setting an aggressive, yet reachable goal, is another good thing. The implantation of their plan, may be a little more elusive. Here are some reasons why this may be true.

  • Most of the team members are not strategic thinkers
  • There is no accountability
  • Talent management could use some tweaks

Let’s take a look at each of these factors and see what can be changed to implement a strategic plan.

Lack of strategic thinking - Instead of thinking how to implement their new plan and what has to happen in order to reach milestones, people are thinking of themselves. For example, when work they are expecting from others doesn’t show up, they become stymied. Instead of helping others reach goals or make changes that can benefit the entire organization, they get hung up on not “putting a feather in someone else’s hat.” They let their dislike for the behaviors of others keep them from looking at the big picture. They fail to think about how strategic thinking can serve to further their own goals and agendas as well as those of the team and the entire organization, oh and let’s not forget their customers.

There is no accountability – Individuals on the team, blame the CEO for their culture of no accountability. This team needs to think of ways to hold one another accountable and drive that thinking throughout the organization. An article in Harvard Business Review by Jeremy Grenny provides some sobering concepts:

  • In the weakest teams, there is no accountability
  • In mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability
  • In high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another.

Talent management could use some tweaking - Everyone is good at something and the reverse is, of course, also true. These blogs are often about hiring and getting the right people on the bus and then ensuring that those people are in the right seats on the bus. That’s all well and good, but sometimes, people need to change their seats. Here’s an example. An individual who is near retirement, may just be coasting, they are disengaged, and no one holds him/her accountable as they’ve become a sacred cow. Here’s an idea. The next time, there is a project needed to help push the two-year plan forward, ask for volunteers. If the sacred cow volunteers and then accomplishes the task, well a lightbulb should be burning brightly in your head, especially if this behavior is repeated. Let’s gradually change the scared cow’s duties. If his/her current positon is no longer viable for the organization, phase it out. If it’s an essential position, then phase someone into it. The sacred cow is now performing work of interest to him/her, the organization is achieving necessary goals toward fulfilling the strategic plan, and the team is setting important items in place for the future.

Strategic thinking isn’t about the luck of the toss of the coin. Nor are these ideas rocket science, but rather fall under the heading of common sense. Yes, I dare say that in most cases, strategic thinking boils down to that elusive element, common sense. In addition, people must be willing to put their petty thinking away and stop cutting off their nose to spite their face. Coaching is a great tool for helping to cure that level of thinking. Teambuilding exercises can be of benefit as well. Training people to be strategic thinkers is not only possible, but an excellent idea to drive throughout the entire organization.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like more information on how to develop strategic thinkers in your organization, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 404-320-7834, or visit


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