The fourth critical skill for strategic thinking is the ability to create adaptive strategies. This includes the ability to design flexibility into your plans by creating an ability to review and adjust your progress on your strategies.
Adaptive strategies are valuable in both strategy formulation and execution.
In strategy, it helps you avoid setting a direction for your company that leads to an unsustainable future. Examples of this are common in any industry related to technology. As just one example, many devices like the GPS and digital camera became less universally needed when the devices were largely replaced by the mobile smartphone. The smartphone combined the functionality of those devices into a single package. Any strategy that took you down the path of manufacturing such devices inevitably led to a dead end. In that dead end, your manufacturing capabilities, while expensive, became irrelevant to meeting the customer need. On the other hand, if you focused on the creation of software and using data from GPS devices, you would not be in a dead end. Those competencies are critical to success in many smartphone applications, as well.
Underlying this skill in strategy is the ability to extend current trends and changes into the future.
Sometimes this is difficult, as the results of current trends may not be immediately visible. As an example, the invention of canned foods led to the invention of the elevator. Not because the technologies connect at all, but because the food innovations allowed cities to become more dense. This made real estate more valuable and taller buildings desirable. Furthermore, in current technology, self-driving cars could make large parking lots less common. Clearly, the car no longer needs to stay near the passengers in order to be useful. Understanding these changes requires an ability to strip away the external form of products and services in order to perceive the need. Although it’s impossible to get this 100% right, successful companies have greatly extended the viability of their operation.
In implementation, adaptive strategies enable you to find another way when you reach a dead end.
One of the most important elements of having this ability is having an objective that clearly states the result you are looking for, rather than an action. With the ability to focus on the result, you gain flexibility. When one approach to achieving the objective is blocked, it’s often possible to achieve the objective by following another path. If you think of your strategic objectives as actions, a good result becomes far more difficult. This is because completing the action IS the objective. If the action doesn’t lead to the result you want, you will have to go back and restate the objective.
The benefits of adaptive strategies are the ability to see the path you are on, the place you want to reach, and notice the changing paths that are available to reach your desired destination. Simplified Strategic Planning is a wonderful, robust tool for doing this in any organization.
Adaptive strategies give you the ability to design flexibility into your plans by creating some benchmarks.
You can then use those benchmarks as a guide and recognize the opportunity to revise your plans as needed. This gives you the ability to be proactive and anticipate change, rather than being reactive to changes after they occur.
If you’d like to learn more about strategic thinking and more specifically how to generate adaptive strategies, 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.