Some of the most common problems people tell me they have with strategic thinking is coming up with workable ideas to deliver on strategy and then making them happen. Most people in the organization are implementing strategy, rather than developing it in the first place. In many ways it is easier to develop a vision and long term goals than to achieve them – one of the reasons so many plans are never enacted. So what are some practical ways you can come up with ideas, make sure they work and show that you are a strategic thinker? Here’s three things that in my experience make a big difference:

Experiment.
Most of what we do each day is fairly routine and based on what we’ve done before. Strategic thinking is about working out ways to achieve your organisation’s strategy into the future – probably a different environment in many ways to the present. No matter what anyone tells you, successful businesses try stuff that doesn’t work! But with some knowledge of what works elsewhere and a good feel for the culture and people in your workplace you can usually create some ideas that work really well, and that makes up for the times things didn’t work. So to find new and successful ways of doing things, you just have to bite the bullet and experiment, with the caveat that you monitor results and as soon as it becomes apparent it’s not working, stop, analyse and try something else.

Adapt ideas from others.
I think one of benefits of using a ‘consultant’ is that they go into a range of organizations and therefore have lots of ideas (or should have) available to them about what has worked in another organization and industry, and with a bit of tweeking, might work really well in yours. But you don’t have to be a consultant to have access to what others are doing. The internet is filled with articles about every conceivable topic, somewhat like this one, where consultants and other ‘experts’ explain ideas and processes to show their proficiency. Magazines and professional journals – some available at low cost or free from libraries, cafes, waiting rooms etc – are great sources of information about what others are doing. Network meetings and conferences are a great chance to actually hear from and talk to people about their ideas. People love to talk about their own job or organization, so if you ask them about any successful initiatives they’ve been involved in, they are almost certain to happily explain all about them.

Too often we network with our own 'kind' - accountants network with other accountants, HR managers with other HR managers and so on. This may be useful for professional development but is unlikely to give you completely different perspectives and ideas. Accountants are likely to develop new ideas more from a discussion with marketers, or production managers than from other accountants, and vice versa.

Estimation accuracy.
I have noticed something very interesting with most of my clients, and with myself. We seem to overestimate what we can achieve in the short term and underestimate for the long term. I see this in my own to-do list. My to-do list today has an impossible number of tasks on it, all apparently critical but clearly not all will get done! On the other hand, I have thought in the past that my long-term goals were too ambitious, only to find them achieved within time, or ahead of time.

The problem with this estimation error, is that people become despondent that things are not happening as they expected, and in some cases, drop strategic projects altogether. That’s why it is critical to have regular sessions to track progress of longer-term projects, and acknowledge progress at regular intervals.

The other problem is that long-term strategies and goals are sub-optimal because your expectations of what can be achieved in the longer term is too restrictive. Allowing for achievement beyond your estimation in strategic projects may ensure greater success.

Author's Bio: 

Jenni is the author of 'How to Think Strategically: Strategical Savvy Essentials' and the originator of the concept of Strategical Savvy - the competency of being recognized as stratetgic. She is the Principal Advisor at Strategies Direct Ltd and is an author, trainer and consultant specialising in strategic thinking, leadership and succession. Find out more about her and obtain free reports and articles at www.strategies-direct.com