How to think strategically and see the big picture
With notifications, emails, meetings and conference calls hijacking our daily agenda; it’s no wonder we struggle to keep up with the big picture at work. What will our business look like in 5 years? What competitive threats do we need to overcome to stay healthy?
The speed of change around us means we need to be better prepared for the future, yet we seem trapped in our inboxes. Today’s advantage in the market could be tomorrows weakness that leaves the company languishing. RIP Blockbuster, Kodak, Nokia, Tivo, etc.
The challenge today is finding a simple set of techniques to help you get your thinking straight. Here are six tips for thinking critically and building a long-term strategy.
Ask ambitious questions.
Don’t just ask ‘Can we improve the experience for our customers?’. Better ask ‘How do we create the worlds best customer experience that is ten times better than today?’. Asking big questions is what Elon Musk does. He goes for moonshots. No incrementalism here thanks.
Get the facts
Don’t guess what’s happening today. Dig into your data and find out what’s happening. Ask others to check and verify your facts. Look to benchmark these against external sources.
In the example of customer service, the ultimate source of truth is the customer. So talk to them, don’t sell them, and look for their pains and what uncover the gains they want.
Ask why and what could be
Take a moment to reflect on the facts. Why did this happen? Map out the causation of the particular events or circumstances. If customer service was poor, track down the cause. Does the customer support team have a lack of training?
To go deep, learn from the Toyota Motor Co. They ask why fives times of a single issue to find the ultimate truth.
Decode the patterns
Don’t think about any fact or issue in isolation. Start to organise the facts into buckets. Seek the typical characteristics of the problems and the possibilities.
Do many issues in customer service, for example, appear to occur at the call center? Or is it always at a particular stage in the customer journey? I find clustering issues with sticky notes on a wall to be a handy tool for pattern recognition.
A pattern is not enough. You need to take your buckets or clusters of ideas and apply them to frameworks. Frameworks are a fancy way of saying developed models that articulate how the world works. Famous examples here are Sigma 6, Balance Scorecard, Lean Canvas, etc.
Once you play with frameworks, your facts and insights become strategies. But remember great strategy needs testing and validation.
Make it memorable
People need a little encouragement to buy into your idea. I strongly recommend that you outline a strategy or a plan in three ways.
- Here’s what we’re going to do
- How we’re going to do it in a unique manner
- Here’s why it matters
Generic Strategy Summary (really short summary)
We will have the best customer service on the planet.
We will do this with empathy for our customer and focus on removing friction and stress from the experience.
We believe that when we make our customer experience stress free, we help them do more of what they love. And when they realise their dreams, we know the world is a better place for it.