A strategic thinking story

March 14, 2023
A personal story about strategic thinking from James Allen, Creative Huddle’s founder

How much do you know about your company’s strategy?

I’ve seen a few reports and posts recently that examine the proportion of people in companies who understand the corporate strategy.

The number is pretty low, usually around 30%.

Strategic thinking is for managers

It reminds me of a team I worked with a few years ago. I was working with a group of managers over a period of a few months, to help them collaborate more effectively and take a more active role in the company.

One of their problems was that they didn’t understand the company strategy. They were frustrated with the CEO who had never explained it to them.

Apparently they had been trying to get clarity on this for years.

I challenged them on this. If they had all been working for the company for several years, could they not work it out for themselves?

Working out your strategy

We got out some post its and started mapping things out. Who were the main customers and what did they buy? Which ones did they prioritise? How did they decide what stock to hold in the warehouse, and how did they use the showroom? Who were the key competitors and how did they win business?

We discussed these points and more for a couple of hours, and in the end we had a pretty clear picture. They were pleased with their work and were clearly energised by the outcome.

I suggested they write it up and present it to the CEO, to check it was correct.

His response?

“I’ve been telling you all this for years!”

I wasn’t at the meeting but I wish I could have been a fly on the wall. Apparently he made a few small corrections but they were 90% right.

Strategic thinking is for everyone

What can we learn from this? My thought is that clearly leaders can get better at communicating their strategy and rationale, but others in the company can do their part too. If you’re not clear on the strategy, think it through and sense check it with your boss.

Another thought is that we should support some leaders who find it difficult to clearly articulate their strategy and thinking, as I think was the case with this CEO.

He ran a multi-million pound business but wasn’t a visionary leader who could put together the complete picture that the team needed. I believe the group of managers really helped him in thinking things through for themselves and presenting it to him.


Photo by Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash

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