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This is the second article in my series that explores how managers at every level can use strategic thinking techniques to increase their team’s effectiveness and their impact as a leader. The first article covered the first steps to creating a strategy that is simple, relevant, and achievable and that keeps up with the pace of change in today's business environments.
“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”—Zig Ziglar
A quick internet search of “What makes teams successful?” brings up hundreds of lists and opinions. What’s mentioned most, even more than communication and leadership, are “purpose” and “common goals.”
Purpose and goals are about aspiration. When people believe that their actions will result in something better than today, they will do whatever they can to achieve it.
Strategic thinking helps leaders to turn good teams into high-performing teams by fostering belief in a common purpose. Here are some ways that every manager can use strategic thinking to achieve this, no matter what level they are.
Too many great ideas have been wrecked because they were imposed on a team without taking its members into account. If people don’t believe in an idea, or if it is alien to the way things are today, it will not succeed. People work hard to define their place in a team. They have figured out how to align their personal objectives to the objectives of the team. They are heavily invested in the way things are today—even those who spend a lot of time complaining.
A good leader starts by understanding where the team is today and how it got there. They have a goal in mind, but they get everyone to understand why the current situation is not enough to meet future needs.
If you have not done so already, start with the simple exercise of Look Out, Look In, Look Forward.
Great teams do not always have the most capable players. Stories abound of underdogs who overcame all odds and came out on top. What they have in common is that team members share a dream, and they all work hard to achieve it.
Building a team dream (or “vision,” if you prefer business-speak) is as simple as asking “Where do we want to go?” In new teams, a leader has the vision and hires people who believe in that vision. Existing teams will find it more helpful to go through this exercise in a team offsite. Here are a few guidelines:
A good leader does not try to manage every aspect of the team. If they have the right people in the team, as long as those people all believe in the team dream, they will find ways to achieve it. A good leader does four things:
You have a really good idea of where you are today, what’s likely to change, and why. You’ve created an aspirational team vision. Next, I’ll cover how to help team members create a plan and empower them to achieve it.
David Cannon is known for crafting industry best practices for strategy and IT operations, which he uses to make organizations function more effectively and efficiently. He has led consulting practices in Forrester, Hewlett-Packard, and BMC Software, creating effective operating models that exploit both business and technology capabilities in integrated solutions. David believes that successful digital strategy is an enterprise initiative that integrates technology from multiple internal and external sources to achieve business success. He is the coauthor of the ITIL 2007 Service Operation book and the ITIL 2011 Service Strategy book, and he was awarded two lifetime achievement awards by itSMF. Follow David on Twitter @itilso.
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