Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why is BEING Strategic so Hard?

Many professions besides HR talk about being strategic.  I was speaking with an operations manager on a plane last week and he said that he was told he needed to be more strategic.  Why is it so hard to do?  It finally dawned on my this year that I'm not sure what "being strategic" means.  Do you sit around and think big thoughts?  Do you run scenarios all day to see which ones are right for the business?  Do you conduct external scans until a big idea comes?

I believe its more about THINKING strategically than just BEING strategic.  I can get my arms around thinking strategically.  According to Forbes magazine:
First of all, what exactly is “strategic thinking?” To think strategically requires founders and key team members to continually assess your business and your industry, and to apply new business insights. The goal is to use these insights to reinforce a company’s differentiation in the marketplace to achieve competitive advantage. You need to think strategically before your team can move on to the long or short-term strategic planning. You need both of these to make smart decisions on a daily basis. If you don't know where you're going, you'll have a hard time getting there!
I love the above definition and I think it applies to all functional areas of a business.   Thinking about HR for a moment, I believe you can apply the concepts this way:

In order to assess the business and apply new insights HR must:

  1. Understand that insight comes from taking what you know combined with key data, turning that into information and developing something that is relevant to the business.  I believe HR has struggled in this area due to the slow adaptation of metrics and analytics as tools to obtain insight.  
  2. Use critical thinking skills to be able to make connections between external and internal factors that lead to insight for the business. 
  3. Insight comes from understanding one's business inside and out.  Enough said.
If you don't know where your going, you'll have a hard time getting there unless HR plays a key role in strategic execution.  
  1. By being involved in the strategic planning process HR can lead the communication efforts on what the strategy means and WHY it is important to the business.
  2. HR has a perfect tool for setting strategic goals and cascading those down to the front line.  It's all about performance management.
  3. Because strategy fails most of the time at execution, HR can use its change management and communication skills to make sure the strategy is understood and executed.  
I guess the question is can you learn how to think strategically?  I have my opinion what's yours?