Five Ways to Build Your Strategic Muscles

Posted 04.16.2024

One of the constants in my more than two decades of executive coaching is the desire and need to build the muscles required to develop and execute competitive and innovative strategies. It came up with a client again as recently as this month. With a few modifications, here’s the quick outline I offered him on five ways to build your strategic muscles.

Have a long-term vision: Think in years and decades, not quarters and years. What is your point of view on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to both your industry and your company? How does that analysis inform what your vision of the future is and what your organization needs to do to skate to where the puck will be?

Spend time learning from key customers: Conduct a series of listening tour visits and conversations with key customers. What are their goals, concerns, opportunities, and threats? What can your company do to help them leverage their goals and opportunities, and mitigate their concerns and threats? Look for the threads and patterns in those conversations. How do they influence and inform your long-term vision?

Test and learn: As you develop your strategic point of view, test it with your team, your peers, customers, industry colleagues, and smart colleagues outside of your industry. Refine your point of view based on these test and learn conversations. Extend the test and learn approach to small, contained experiments your team can run with key customers and other stakeholders. How do the results and lessons learned from these experiments support or challenge your long-term vision?

Engage your team: Bring your team along on the strategic ride. They’ll learn, grow, and contribute at a higher level by partnering with you on developing and acting on strategic insights.

Feed the beast: Feed your mind and strategic muscles by reading broadly on topics and issues inside and outside of your industry. Talk with experts on what they’re seeing, reading, recommending, and doing. Look for and read current case studies on how relevant companies inside and outside of your industry are leveraging opportunities and addressing challenges that have adjacency to your own. Listen to podcast interviews with CEOs and other senior executives and thought leaders inside and outside of your industry.

What did I miss? What do you agree or disagree with? If you’re reading this via LinkedIn, leave a comment. If you’re reading via my newsletter, send me a note.

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