Strategic Planning Skills: Development Pointers (Part 1)

Whether it is developing assessments, coaching executives, or just taking better care of our clients than anyone else…our team here at Sigma is second to none.  Case in point are the in-house resources that we develop for our coaching clients.

So for today’s post, I thought I would share one of those resources specifically targeted at Strategic Planning Skills.

Skilled Strategy Planners (PART 1):


  • Have a mental blueprint of where they want to go and how they will get there
  • Have the ability to identify the what and when of resource investment that will help the organization grow
  • Have the ability to focus attention on the long-term importance rather than on the short-term urgency

Development Pointers

  1. To be strategic you can’t just focus on what’s in front of you – that approach can lead to missed opportunities and signals that you’re on the wrong track. Instead, you need to exercise your ‘peripheral vision’ which means actively looking for game-changing information, searching beyond current boundaries of your business, and building external networks.
  1. Think critically. When faced with a new issue, try to look at each problem through multiple lenses. First, slow down and reframe the problem or issue. Ask yourself and others to try to define the problem. Challenge current beliefs by playing devil’s advocate. Encourage debate in order to provide new insight into a problem.
  1. Take your time gathering and synthesizing information to make sure you have interpreted the situation correctly. Make a list of all the important things that have to be true for your interpretation to be correct. Rank these assumptions in order of how easy it would be to verify each. Use at least three sources of data when collecting supporting evidence. Look for patterns that emerge but also look for disconfirming evidence that questions your assumptions.
  1. You may not be able to wait until you have all the information you feel is required in order to make a decision. Try making a decision even if you have incomplete information. You can break down a big decision into smaller decisions or even reframe the decision to have other alternatives besides yes or no.
  1. You probably won’t be able to get everyone on board but by making sure to have open dialogue, build trust, and engage key stakeholders you will be able to rally your team around a new strategy. Ask for input from everyone and encourage your team members to share their opinions and ideas. Be sure to communicate clearly early on what the strategy is and explain why the final strategy decisions were made the way they were.
  1. Both successes and failures are valuable learning opportunities. Promote debriefing sessions and if you realize your strategy has gone off course, quickly re-adjust. Make it a point to celebrate successes and even failures that provided you with insight.

Activity:  Using Scenario Planning to Build your Strategic Effectiveness  

These are well-crafted narratives about the future that tell very different stories about what might happen. Scenario planning can help you anticipate and understand risk and help you discover strategic options of which you were previously unaware.

  1. Define the issue. Think about the time frame, scope, and decision variables. You might want to consider market and costumer needs, and competition.
  1. What you know. Think about the how past trends have affected your industry and how current trends will affect it. Write down these trends and provide an explanation for why and how they will have an influence.
  1. What you do not know. Think about the uncertainties whose outcomes will exert a significant influence on your industry. Describe these and explain how and why they are significant.
  1. Construct multiple scenarios. Brainstorm different outcomes for the uncertainties you came up with and how you would respond to them.
  1. Assess the plausibility of each scenario. Review your scenarios and determine if there are any inconsistencies.
  1. Eliminate scenarios that are implausible. Your final scenario drafts should be diverse and plausible. Make sure that they cover a range of issue that you might come up against.

Check back again for Part 2 where we’ll give you an activity to help you Build Strategy and Leadership Skills.

And, don’t forget to check out

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