For companies to enjoy sustained success their managers need to break free of the day-to-day busyness and think strategically. A key step in the transition from manager to leader.
Many managers find it difficult to raise their focus above the day to day busyness of their roles. Caught on a treadmill of daily activities they have little time for strategic thinking.
We call it ‘Strategic Myopia’ the ability to look beyond the quarter and to pay attention to the longer term requirements for success.
But taking care of the short term is not enough. A blinkered obsession with the short term is dangerous, particularly in a fast changing world (1).
Sustained success requires paying attention to the medium and long term, as well as the short term. Otherwise busy managers may be winning their daily or quarterly battles, but at danger of losing the war.
Managers are responsible for 3 time horizons(2). That means they need to think strategically – tactics are not enough, nor is simply reacting to opportunities or challenges as they emerge. Indeed thinking strategically is one of the things that distinguishes a manager from a leader.
Yet research tells us that managers have a problem thinking strategically:
That is a problem because if the leader cannot articulate the strategy what hope is there for those who are further down the organization?
One of the implications of a lack of strategic leadership is a lack of alignment – with different functions, managers and teams pulling in different directions.
How to bring a team that is pulling in different directions into alignment? Well it requires guiding the team in the process of answering 3 questions:
These 3 questions are the simple formula for breakthrough performance (3):
But it starts with a shared definition of success – that is where the business or project is going and what is must achieve. This is the focal point around which a team, its priorities and its efforts can be rallied and coordinated.
1. Winning The Long Game, Krupp & Schumaker (2014)
2. The Alchemy of Growth, Mehrdad Baghai
3. The Breakthrough Imperative: How the Best Managers Get Outstanding Results, 2008.