Not to split hairs, or to get overly textbookish, however, as we commence this journey to understanding A Big Picture Orientation in Strategic Thinking, it is imperative that we first understand the difference between two cognitive or thinking related disciplines namely, ‘tactical thinking’ and ‘strategic thinking’.
This lesson explores the difference between these two disciplines at length.
It is essential that we differentiate between tactical and strategic thinking to prevent misunderstanding of the terms or to confuse one for the other.
Say you are in marketing, and a business unit approaches you to help them create buzz around a new product. Tactical thinking will involve finding the best possible means to generate this buzz. So, you might decide to establish social media presence, develop online and offline marketing collateral, devise a script that the contact centre can use when speaking with customers about this offering, etc.
These actions are tactics, devised to meet the desired end which is generating buzz for the new product. The objective, in this case, ‘generating buzz’ was already defined. Probably, so would the target audience and the budget for the same. What you in marketing were called upon to do was to merely identify the tactics to meet that end.
Tactical thinking, thus, refers to the cognitive (mental) processes related to defining how one can achieve a defined end.
Tactical thinking, as we have seen in this example, occurs long after the desired end and even the broad plan to achieve that end (target market, budget, etc.,) have been defined. This ‘end’, as we will see later, is what we call strategic thinking.
Strategic thinking refers to the cognitive (mental) processes that are related to defining/ identifying the ‘big picture’ in any endeavour. Specifically, it relates to:
• Establishing the desired goal being targeted for the organisation or business unit
• Recognizing why we chose this goal over other goals
• Defining what a job well done will look like
• Identifying what the future might hold and how to prepare the organisation for this future
• Determining how the plan or endeavour being discussed impacts or interconnects with other departments or projects within the organisation
Strategic Thinking involves a seat at the table with senior management, advising them on strategy, helping them see things from a different angle and helping define the path that the organisation must tread to ensure its advancement over the medium and long-term.
In many cases, it is also about helping management set goals. For example, the Information Technology (IT) could get management to see how technological developments in a sphere will shape the industry and how management needs to re-jig its plans to be ready for this change. It means looking beyond the obvious – exploring all the possibilities.
Strategic thinking calls for reflection and taking a long-term view of things.
By learning to think strategically — daily — we are more likely to keep our tactical energy aligned with strategic goals.
Let’s evaluate both thinking types based on different criteria.