Being Strategic and Creating Strategy Aren’t the Same Thing

I recently had the privilege of writing a guest post over at Michael Carty’s XpertHR blog.  He’s doing a series called “If I Could Change One Thing about HR…” One thing that occurred to me while writing my piece is, there’s a difference between creating a strategy and being strategic.  Just because someone can create a strategy doesn’t mean they can think strategically.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a strategy is a detailed plan for achieving results.  There are many different kinds of strategies – marketing strategies, compensation strategies, recruitment strategies, social media strategies, even strategic plans.  You get the point.

Thinking strategically means a person is capable of a thought process that allows them to facilitate a dialogue of critical thinking and innovation.  There’s a terrific comparison chart on Wikipedia showing the differences between strategic planning and strategic thinking.

This isn’t to say that the two aren’t interrelated.  Creating strategy is important for business.  But strategic thinking is a competency that needs to be developed.  Jeanne Liedtka penned a fascinating article on the five elements of strategic thinking that really deserves a read.  As business professionals, I wonder how much time and emphasis are we placing on these elements:

For business pros, this means relying less on gut instinct and more on analytics.  What a concept!  We need to shift our focus from a “been there, done that, so I know the answer” to a “been there, know what happened, now apply the learnings to our current situation”.

I can easily see the value in strategic thinking. Being able to effectively apply our theoretical knowledge and in-the-trenches experience will serve us well.  The question becomes where and how to educate our future workforce on these competencies.

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