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How to enhance both your success and that of your organization.

By Sorin Dumitrascu

Strategic Thinking: Developing a Clear Vision — abstract illustration.

Thinking strategically can result in better long-term decisions and enhance both your success and that of your organization. But before you can think strategically, you should develop a clear vision of the future.

The vision you develop should support your organization’s overall strategic vision, so begin by understanding what your organization’s vision is. If you don’t know it already, go find it on the company web site, or read statements from you company’s CEO. It might help you develop and refine your own vision about your department or work.

Another part of developing a clear vision is to determine your priorities and be willing to make trade-offs if necessary. Priorities sometimes conflict, so you’ll need to understand and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each possible trade-off.

Let’s say a product development manager works for an organization that strives to provide high-quality products, a vision that she also has for her department. However, she’s been asked to launch a new product six weeks ahead of schedule to meet quarterly sales targets.

She knows that introducing the product earlier could result in poorer quality. So she thinks about her priorities and her vision, as well as possible trade-offs, and decides to forfeit being ahead of schedule for maintaining quality. She speaks to senior managers and assures them that, although she’s sticking to the original release date, this will ensure quality isn’t compromised.

To determine priorities and acceptable trade-offs, you must understand the impact of your decisions on others. The development manager realized that if she introduced the new product ahead of schedule, other departments — such as those involved in purchase and manufacturing — would also be affected.

To further develop your vision for the future, collaborate with people from other groups and functional areas. Leaders in other departments might have different views about your organization. You’ll need to understand their viewpoints and priorities to have a better idea of how your decisions may affect them. You’ll also be more likely to gain their support for any initiatives you implement.

The development manager is eager to understand how delaying the product launch will affect sales and marketing campaigns, so she sets up meetings with departmental managers. They are initially frustrated with her sudden decision, but after explaining her priorities to them they understand how her decision aligns with the company’s vision.

Beyond collaboration, you should develop a shared understanding of situations with senior management and your team. You want everyone to know what they’re working toward and how their efforts are interconnected. Sharing a common understanding will also help to avoid unnecessary confusion, which is particularly important when challenges arise.

Consider the development manager again. She meets her team members to advise them of the new launch date. Outlining the various problems still affecting the product, she explains how delaying the release date was the only way they could ensure its quality.

To enhance your strategic thinking, remember it all starts with developing your vision.