3 Strategic Thinking Behaviors to Better See the Big Picture

Projection on a screen of the words "See the Big Picture" for strategic clarity

Over and over we hear leaders asking their teams to better “see the big picture” as they strive to create more strategic clarity to grow faster.

But what really does the big picture mean and what do you need to do to “see” it?

Strategically, the big picture involves lateral thinking.  It is simply the entire perspective of an issue or situation. It is broad like the wide screen picture above, not narrow. It is comprehensive and overarching, not focused on irrelevant details. It includes the most important facts about a matter and the effects on other things. It is the whole, not the part.

In general, organizations count on company executives to have the big picture view. Because they operate at a high level, executives are often better positioned to see things that are more applicable to the entire company rather than to a specific functional area or project. Executive leaders are typically the ones who have the responsibility for making plans for the whole organization, and, therefore, tend to focus on the overall direction rather than the step-by-step tactics designed to get them where they want to go.

If you aspire to create strategic clarity and, in so doing, move on up in your organization, here are three behaviors you need to develop:

  1. Look beyond the day-to-day decisions
    Most of us make multiple decisions every day. Some have big consequences; others small. Big picture thinkers automatically consider the wide-ranging consequences of each decision they make. They understand that they don’t operate in a vacuum and that one move leads to another. If you want to improve your strategic thinking, look beyond your decisions to the effect they will have on others and into the future.
  2. Learn more about what’s happening both in and beyond your own company
    Strategic thinkers tune into what other companies in their marketplace are doing and what trends might affect their business. What’s going on in the industry? What are customers saying about what they want and need? What adjustments might make sense in your business to stay ahead of the competition?And educate yourself about your own company’s situation. Read the annual report. Know what products and services are in development. Understand what the numbers really mean…both the financial terms and the metrics, like turnover and employee engagement, that HR puts out.
  3. Be thoroughly versed on your organization’s purpose, vision and culture
    The better you understand why your company exists (its purpose), what shapes its culture, what makes it unique and how it plans to grow, the better you are able to align your thinking and behavior with what matters most. When you have a clear understanding of how you directly contribute to the overall picture, it is far easier to prioritize your actions in a way that promotes the company strategy and aligns with how success is measured.

To be more strategic in your approach, step back from the busy-ness of each day and give yourself some time to reflect on lessons from the past, what is currently happening and, most important, how you envision the future.

To learn more about strategic thinking, download How to Ensure Your Strategy is Clear Enough to Act

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