Challenging the impact of habit and ritual: Skill 5 – Strategic Thinking
Author: Dan Vucic, Project Manager at IComm
With the current business climate dictating that productivity continues to increase while resources decrease, now more than ever before we must think strategically about every decision. But developing critical strategic thinking is difficult amidst a schedule that involves balancing multiple projects and many other competing priorities. To find ways to develop strategic thinking, project managers must look at practicing real scenario based examples, which are generally scenarios considered low-risk. Additionally, finding a strategic thinking mentor to discuss and learn from is a great way to gain insights into how thinking differently can impact a project.
One of the first ways project managers begin to think strategically is by asking a simple question, ‘why?’. By asking why, project managers can begin to find the most important tasks and filter out the less important tasks. Asking why allows project managers to take control of poorly aligned or disorganised projects.
As project managers are close to the implementation of business strategy, there will be ample opportunity to identify and diagnose the challenges that will obstruct progress. Also, project managers will be close to the opportunities and technology that can help expedite the resolution of issues encountered along the way. By paying close attention to the business environment surrounding your project, project managers, can start to see the overall strategy being employed by the organisations involved.
As a project manager in a project-driven environment, thought needs to be structured around outcomes. This is in part because the demographics of modern workforces are changing from on-site, long-term employees to remote teams, project-driven employees who are looking for higher degrees of balance in their lives. This makes outcome-based objectives a key component of delivering on the strategic promise of the organisation. And it means project managers need to give up the idea that it is possible to control every activity in the project.
One of the reasons strategic thinking is so powerful is that it challenges the impact of habit and ritual. People tend to create habits and operate on autopilot, it’s human nature. But this type of thinking in business and project management is very dangerous. Breaking down a culture of ‘because that’s the way it’s always been done’ can be difficult, and constantly asking ‘why’ will be seen as challenging to many. Two methods for achieving this are the Balcony Method and the Architect method. The Balcony Method involves taking a step away from the issue and put distance between yourself and the task in order to gain a different perspective. The Architect Method involves looking at an existing space or concept as if it were a blank canvas, and asking ‘if we were building this from scratch what would we do?’. By applying a more strategic outlook to a project, project managers can improve the deliverable outcomes for the customer.