Reader Q&A: Fostering strategic thinking in your organization

How can we create a strategic thinking organization in which everyone understands the strategic position (the all-out pursuit of cost leadership or differentiation) and how to contribute towards it?

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See more reader questions and answers from Executive Coach Susan Cramm.

Those at the top must lead by example by demonstrating strategic thinking skills and creating opportunities for others to get involved and learn through experience. Relevant skills include visioning, creating new opportunities by reframing challenges or ideas, and translating concepts so they can be heard by others. A collaborative, ongoing strategy making and objectives setting/monitoring process, one that starts at the top and cascades down, can go a long way in creating an organization where everyone understands the strategy position and how they can support it.

My CIO asked me to take on strategic planning with our business unit managers but they do not take me seriously in this role. Several have declined my planning meetings. How can I talk to my CIO about laying the groundwork with his peers so that I am able to move this process forward?

Assuming you are in a staff role, it sounds like your CIO is trying to get you to do the work that he and the rest of his line IT leaders should be doing. Instead of focusing externally to the business partners, focus internally and facilitate agreement with the CIO and other IT leaders regarding how strategy should be made and their involvement in the process. Part of this process will call for business partners to make strategy with the IT leaders they already know and trust, due to past, productive working relationships.

It's impossible for anybody, including the CIO, to confer this credibility to you. Be cautioned that if your IT organization has trouble delivering tactically, business partners will be reluctant to participate in strategy making. If this is the case, drop the word, "strategy," and get the CIO and IT leaders engaged to define the issues and get busy building credibility by addressing business partner concerns.

Susan Cramm is founder and president of Valuedance, an executive coaching firm in San Clemente, Calif. You can e-mail feedback to susan@valuedance.com.

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