Expertise in strategic thinking is not the product of innate ability and pure serendipity.
Expertise in strategic thinking is not the product of innate ability and pure serendipity. It arises from specific experiences personal, interpersonal, organizational and external which occur over 10 or more years.
But how exactly should organizations accomplish this? Past studies on the subject have been limited, typically focusing on singular teaching methods, experiences or planning processes.
What types of work experiences, for example, are more important than others, and do they need to follow any specific chronology?
To answer these and other questions, I conducted a study that identified executives who were considered the top strategic thinkers in their industry. In addition, the research investigated the different ways in which the executives acquired their expertise in strategic thinking — a process that typically took more than a decade.
Given the complexity of the process, the research was limited to one industry healthcare and to only the provider segment within that industry.
A pool of 36 potential executives was generated, from which 10 were ultimately selected to participate. The individuals were all CEOs and were representative of the general demographics of U. The professional work experience of the participants ranged from 23 to 40 years. The Seidman phenomenological interviewing technique ii was utilized to gather data.
The process consisted of three minute interviews with each participant. Based on the comments provided by the participants, graphic maps of their experiences were prepared. The figures were used in subsequent interviews in a manner similar to the way in which cognitive maps are used in research on strategic decision making: The interviews were transcribed, and the resulting 15, pages of data were analyzed, first by reducing the volume of information to what was most important and interesting, then by capturing the essence of the entire experience of becoming an expert strategic thinker for the different participants through the preparation of individual profilesand finally by identifying thematic connections across all the data.
Teachers College Press, The data showed that strategic thinking arises from 10 specific types of experiences — for instance, spearheading a major growth initiative or dealing with a threat to organizational survival. Moreover, executives appear to gain their expertise in strategic thinking through one of three developmental patterns.
These findings help demystify the process by which strategic thinking is learned, offering important implications for management development and the practice of strategy. Although numerous books and articles purport to cover the subject, they typically deal more with strategic planning and strategic management.
This question is at the heart of every discussion of individual abilities. But even those leadership theorists who believe in inherent mental processing capabilities 7 note that such abilities must be enhanced as part of management development. My study was concerned with identifying the experiences that contributed to the development of expertise in strategic thinking, not with measuring any levels of cognitive functioning.
As such, the nature-versus-nurture argument was moot to this research. But each individual described at least one experience at each of the four levels of interaction. Ten Experiences That Contribute to the Ability to Think Strategically View Exhibit Ten Experiences That Contribute to the Ability to Think Strategically Expertise in strategic thinking arises from the contributions of 10 experiences that can be grouped into four levels of interaction: Every executive in the research study did not benefit from all 10 experiences, but each individual reported at least one experience at each of the four levels of interaction.
One aspect noted was the value of exploring different perspectives, for example, through travel and exposure to different cultures as well as through debate training and practice of the Socratic method.
General Work Experiences The participants cited experience in a variety of organizational types and locations, which provided exposure to numerous strategic issues and familiarity with a breadth of strategies. The most important factor here was the responsibility for significant projects for example, implementing the merger of two organizations, evaluating a business for sale or turning around an organization that was facing bankruptcy and the freedom to make most, if not all, of the decisions related to those initiatives.
Becoming a CEO This experience is somewhat paradoxical. Many boards want individuals who already have expertise in strategic thinking as their CEOs. All the individuals that the study identified as experts in strategic thinking were CEOs, even though this attribute was not a criterion in the selection process.
Those who do are individuals who are in frequent contact with the executive at least once dailyproviding immediate feedback.
Being Challenged By a Key Colleague Colleagues played an important role by challenging the thinking of the executives. In general, the interactions were private and spontaneous, with a wide range in tone from relaxed, informal conversations to highly aggressive, confrontational exchanges.
Such efforts were usually extensive and fairly sophisticated. Market data, for example, were often segmented by geography and demographics, with information on purchaser preferences and use, and views of competitors detailed by the various market segments.book, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (Free Press and Prentice Hall International, ).
Strategic planning isn’t strategic thinking. One is analysis, and the other is synthesis. Mintzberg, H – The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning. Title: The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning. Author: Mintzberg, H. Printer: Free Press (); Prentice-Hall () Date: Buy on Amazon here.
In his Harvard Business Review article in , Henry Mintzberg coined strategic planning as the mere programming, i.e. the calculation of a plan.
As such “strategic planning isn’t strategic. The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning. A version of this article appeared in the January–February issue of Harvard Business Review.
Henry Mintzberg is the Cleghorn Professor of. Getting strategic about strategic planning research Full Article Figures & data References For example, Mintzberg ( Mintzberg, H. “ The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning.” Harvard Business Review 72 (1): – Mintzberg, H – The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning.
Title: The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning Author: Mintzberg, H Printer: Free Press (); Prentice-Hall () Date: Buy on Amazon here.