During your performance reviews, how many times have you heard that in order to advance your career you needed to:
- Demonstrate you can think and plan for the future?
- Become less tactical and more strategic?
- Focus less on the day-to-day and more long-term in your planning?
The problem is that most jobs below the VP level are designed for you to be very tactical, day-to-day, and to focus on the details. This varies to some degree by industry, but generally organizations are designed for the VPs+ to do the planning and strategy while everyone else’s job is to execute and implement the necessary tactics.
There are number of ways to build that strategic agility competency required to advance, even when you are in a tactical role. Here are some practical tips:
- Conduct your own SWOT analysis on your company. Going through this process will be similar to what you would do when you are developing a strategic plan. It will get you used to the methodology and also give you a useful tool. By using this as part of your day-to-day vocabulary you’ll start getting noticed for your longer range planning.
- Create a mission statement for your department or function. While on a smaller scale, you’ll be able to use the steps to develop your mission later when you get the bigger jobs requiring strategic agility.
- Volunteer to participate on a taskforce or temporary team that has been assembled to work on a strategic initiative for the company. You get exposure to other great colleagues and learn parts of the strategic planning process.
- Don’t shy away from strategy or long range planning. It is not a waste of time if the strategic plans are created and executed flawlessly. It’s not perfect, by definition since we are anticipating the future and other external factors outside of our control.
- Seek outside programs to help you broaden your perspective, especially if you have been resident in one function in your career. These range from earning an MBA or EMBA to a 3-5 day university based course on strategic agility.
- Schedule time to spend one-on-one with senior execs who are responsible for the strategy. Ask several questions about their approach, factors considered, tough choices made, and plans.
- Get the foundation of strategy through books available including Michael E. Porter’s classic Competitive Advantage, a great book to think about business and strategy using the balanced scorecard foundation. Also, Strategy Maps by Robert S. Norton and David P. Kaplan about converting intangible traits into tangible outcomes.
- Also, an article by Jeanne B. Liedtka titled “Strategic Thinking: Can It Be Taught?” gives you the framework and tools necessary to build your strategic agility leadership competency.
Take the initiative if you are in a tactical role and start expanding your dormant competency: strategic agility. It should pay off for you when you get the next promotion.