The eleventh critical skill in strategic thinking is patience – the ability to wait.
This is not just waiting to act – it is about waiting to judge and decide an issue. This critical skill is important for three key reasons.
1. Great strategic thinking requires adequate thought and information.
Both information and thought require time to develop well. When we skip building the foundation of data and analysis, we may very well arrive at a faulty decision. We also may fail to understand why the decision would work – or why it wouldn’t work. This thorough understanding builds both support and confidence in the decision.
2. The strategy that is quickly visible is often the exact same strategy your opponent thinks of.
“Knee jerk” strategy is far too common. The process of gathering information and analyzing possibilities is work, and it takes time. Both of these may be avoided by people who just want to “get to the answer”. There is a very good chance that competitors are showing the same impatience. Therefore, a little extra time will help you anticipate their strategies and devise an approach they haven’t prepared for.
3. It is often possible to devise a superior strategy with just a little more thought and information.
Quite simply, information and analysis are the building blocks of good strategy. An overwhelming amount of data won’t help you strategize better. The right information and analysis, however, will help you devise a better strategy than one you create in a vacuum.
In practice, patience can show up in several ways in your strategic planning.
First, it’s important to conduct a preliminary strategic planning meeting (as outlined in Simplified Strategic Planning). In this meeting, you will organize and assign research before you have your central meeting to formulate strategy. Second, spend considerable time reviewing the data with the strategic planning team. Finally, do the analysis and set the direction for your organization. Mistakenly, companies often make strategic decisions in that first, preliminary meeting, before laying the foundation of data and analysis. Without question, you’ll be happier with the resulting plan if you suspend this type of decision making. Wait to make strategic decisions until you reach the section 5 exercises, especially Strategic Issues and Strategies.
Beyond patience in the strategic planning process itself, you may also find great advantage in strategic patience.
This is partly because great strategic advantages are the result of investing large amounts of time and/or money. When we are patient about our strategies, we gain the ability to substitute time for money in building these advantages. Failure to show patience can result in a rushed job on creating strategic advantage. Any such advantage can be matched and possibly overcome with a similarly rushed effort. Instead of creating a sustainable advantage that is difficult to copy, the rushed approach can turn your markets into a donnybrook of competitors hurriedly introducing flimsily constructed strategies.
Are you showing enough patience in your strategic planning and strategies?
If you’d like to learn more about strategic thinking and more specifically the importance of patience, Simplified Strategic Planning is a great place to start. For great ideas on how to improve the quality of your planning, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consider holding a one-day workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning.
Dana Baldwin is Senior Strategist with the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.