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Sense opportunities and threats

Clearly, it’s important that we find those opportunities to deploy our strengths where they can have the biggest impact. We must also shore up our weaknesses where there’s the greatest threat. But how do we go about sensing these threats in the first place?

Our strategies aren’t always about winning, they’re not about dominating your competition sometimes, as we’ve seen with the COVID situation, we just need a strategy of survival. Just to try and get through this period and make sure we’re still positioned to win in the future.

See what others miss

A great strategist is able to sense their surroundings.

They’re able to see the opportunities and the weaknesses and the threats, and they’re able to use that to navigate their strategy and adjust it to support their business in real-time. Let’s take a quick look at Professor Henry Mintzberg’s idea of strategic thinking as seeing.

Seeing ahead

The first of Professor Mintzberg’s seeing analogies are seeing ahead. And that’s really looking at planning and anticipation, looking at trends, looking at opportunities, being able to see ahead is essential when making a long-range plan.

Seeing behind

But we’ve also got to look behind, we’ve got to see behind us and learn from the history. To go and see what’s happened before and make sure we don’t make the mistakes of the past.

See above

You’ve got to be able to see above and see the big picture of things being able to look at the viewpoint across multiple different stakeholder requirements which we’ll talk about in detail later on.

Seeing below

We’ve also got to be able to look below us, we’ve got to be able to dig into the root cause analysis of what these problems today are really caused by. Because if we don’t see down to that level of detail, we miss opportunities to fix things that are fundamental to the way the problem works.

Seeing beside

We can also go to see beside, which is partly lateral thinking and partly empathy. It’s working out how do we see differently? How do we see in a different way from the way that we’ve always seen before? Because if we repeat the same things we’ve done before, we’re just not going to succeed.

Seeing beyond

Seeing beyond is very important, and that is that long term, long-range vision, and it’s really looking out past three years towards the five-year horizon and where does our business want to be in five years and how does data support those ambitions?

Seeing through

Then lastly, it’s all about seeing through. Writing strategies and creating new ideas is all well and good, but if they sit there in the desk drawer, they don’t get used, they don’t get applied, your team aren’t engaged behind them then you’re never going to do anything that enacts real change.

There you have it. There’s some of Professor Mintzberg’s great insight into how we can see and sense our environment and how that’s not a replacement for strategic thinking, but how it informs and guides the rest of our strategic decision making.