But besides knowing what strategy is all about, you also need to cultivate the right attitude towards strategy .
I’ve come across many strategists in my career.
Some were bad.
Most were average.
Only a few were truly incredible.
The things that great strategists do on a day-to-day basis may not show up on the average radar. But for those who look carefully, they become visible.
Habits of a great strategist:
How to become a strategist going beyond the traditional role of a strategist?
Here’s a list of things great strategists frequently do:
1. A great strategist makes us care
Good strategists formulate strategy using phrases like: “We want to outperform the market and have a ROCE at least 2 percent higher than the industry average in the next 5 years.”
And while this phrase might perfectly capture the company’s ambition, the truth is most people just don’t care.
Great strategists go beyond PowerPoint presentations.
They look for ways to make us care about the company strategy.
They look for ways to turn an abstract idea into a concrete race that we all want to be part of.
Just think about John F. Kennedy who made an entire nation care about NASA’s strategy by turning aeronautics into a race every American wanted to win: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
2. A great strategist keeps us focused
Good strategists know that strategy success depends on our ability to stick to the choice we have made.
Great strategists stand out because they dare to defend that choice and say NO.
They stand out because they are willing to take an unpopular stand like sacrificing short-term results to create long-term value.
They know that strategy is about choice and choosing to stick with your thinking.
And, by their example, they inspire others to do the same.
3. A great strategist facilitates our decision process
When employees complain about the company strategy, they say things like “The strategy is not clear”, or “Our organization doesn’t have a strategy.” But the underlying point they want to make is “I don’t know what I can do to help”.
Bad strategists don’t pay attention to this hidden message. If the strategy message is clear for them, they assume it’s clear for everyone.
Great strategists strive to get everyone on board the strategy ship. They will provide strategy information in a language people understand.
A great strategist provides prioritization guidelines to align day-to-day choices with the big choice.
4. A great strategist simplifies our lives
Every strategist knows that complexity creates opportunities in the outside world. Why else do you think there are a million different subscription options for your mobile?
Great strategists also know that copying this complexity on the inside will make life for everyone a living hell.
They know that you don’t need a different department for each client segment you approach in the market. They know that internal complexity is the biggest performance killer—as Chris Zook and James Allen from Bain & Company point out in their book Repeatability after extensive research with 1000+ organizations
5. A great strategist tells us stories
Psychologist and researcher Jerome Bruner found that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story.
Stories are powerful because they provide context and create an emotional connection.
In other words, the right story wrapped around an idea makes the core message stickier—easier to remember. A PowerPoint or Excel presentation doesn’t.
That’s why great strategists tell stories.
6. A great strategist digs in
Strategy Execution isn’t something other people should worry about while doing something far more important.
Great strategists know this, and that’s why they have Strategy Execution high on their agenda as well.
They know that if they don’t, PowerPoint will end up catching dust on desks until the next strategy exercise.
7. A great strategist educates us
Bad strategists show off their strategic thinking skills at every opportunity.
Good strategists never brag about their conceptual strengths.
Memorable strategists make it their mission to share their knowledge, educating others on what strategy is all about, and how to ask the right strategy questions.
In short, memorable strategists inspire others to think the unthinkable.
And then—like everyone else—they role up their sleeves and help the organization succeed.
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