Businesses need strategic vision. They need decision makers who can set and maintain a course to achieve company goals. This requires that business leaders develop strategic vision in order to answer the hard questions: Specialize or broaden product offerings? Stay domestic or go international? Invest in mergers and acquisitions or in research and development? The list goes on; each one presenting an opportunity to achieve higher success by strategically deciding which actions best align with company’s aims.
All current and future leaders need the ability to strategize. In his article, “Is A Lack Of Strategic Vision Holding You Back?” Jack Zenger, CEO of leadership development firm Zenger/Folkman, reports that “in a study we conducted on more than 47,000 global leaders we found the biggest single differentiator between top management and middle managers was their strategic vision.” Given the demand for strategic capacities, individuals in or entering the business world will benefit from developing this capability. Approaches to improving strategic vision include getting in the know on both company specific information and general world happenings, spending time with a variety of people, and embracing unconventional ideas.
Getting in the Know
Knowledge is one of the key components of strategic vision. Rob Denker, managing principal of management consulting firm RD & Partners and author of “5 Ways to Vastly Improve Your Strategic Visioning and Leadership,” recommends: “stay constantly informed and up to date about your industry and competitors, as well as what’s happening right within your company.” Knowledge of an organization’s and its industry’s needs, as well as proposed solutions, is necessary to develop a beneficial strategic vision. Denker also advocates for obtaining a broader understanding of “the larger business, social and political environments.” Getting in the know on multiple influence spheres fosters the awareness necessary for developing strategic vision.
Spending Time with People
One important method of getting in the know is spending time with people. Zenger counsels individuals to “spend time with customers” in order to “understand how they think, and what products or services they’d like to have but are not currently available.” Spending time with coworkers and lower level staff also merits benefit to individuals seeking to develop strategic vision. Coworkers and lower level staff can not only offer insights on how to best serve customers, interacting with them can also lead to ideas on how to streamline company processes and better meet company goals.
Listening to people pays off. Zenger states, “the best leaders understand this principle well: Good ideas don’t always cascade down, but most often bubble up to the top from underneath.” Spending time with those closest to the needs and challenges a company is seeking to address will foster strategic vision for both client- and company-oriented initiatives.
In his article, “Visionary Leadership: Five Insights To Shape An Emerging Industry,” Anthony Petrucci, a senior director at tech company HID Global, suggests that unconventional thinking is a key element of strategic vision. He claims, “a visionary leader can create a compelling vision by turning anticipated disruption into a new opportunity.” However, unconventional thinking does not only involve thinking differently about industry changes, it more broadly includes looking into any viable idea that others may initially set aside. Petrucci observes that “visionary leadership reshapes industries, challenges conventional thinking and ignites reimagining.”
With Apple products in the hands of millions around the world, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, clearly developed a successful strategic vision. How did Jobs grow that vision? “Jobs looked to surround himself with people that ‘thought a bit differently.’ He wanted his team to dare to be bold, go against industry norms and risk failure in pursuit of daring innovation,” says Craig Catley, managing director of Strategy Blocks. In other words, Jobs wanted his team to embrace unconventional ideas. By opening the imagination to embrace unconventional ideas with all their possibilities, leaders can improve their strategic vision.
Envisioning the future course of a company requires learning, experience and effort. However, whether just entering the work force, seeking to climb management ranks, or striving to better lead a company, developing strategic vision leads to success. An organization’s strategic vision separates them from others and leads them to industry prominence. Regardless of an individual’s current position within a firm, getting in the know, spending time with those closest to the problems and needs, and embracing unconventional ideas will improve strategic vision.