Strategic Thinking Pure and Simple

For CEOs and senior management teams who are struggling too hard and are getting frustrated trying to achieve consensus on their future strategy.

If so, I invite you and your Senior Management Team to get excited again about what is possible and do work that is more meaningful, strategic and useful.  Strategic Thinking uses no smoke and mirrors. No endless surveys. It is a process that enables the management team to sit together and think through the qualitative aspects of its business and the environment it faces.

One important thing I have learned is that if your people are not implementing a strategy it is because they do not understand it or they do not agree with it. Because Strategic Thinking is a process that involves a cross functional group of executives  your people will be able to  quickly develop a strategy they will all believe in, support and implement without resistance.

If you are visiting this site and reading this page you are probably looking for ideas on how to develop a strategy that will truly change the game and tilt the playing field to your advantage.

You are on the right page if these statements are true for you:

  • You are the CEO, President or Senior Executive who is becoming impatient because you do not yet have a consensus around the most effective strategy to grow your organization and neutralize your competition.
  • You recognize you need to change the way you look at your business. You need to do this because of the turmoil you are observing in the marketplace.
  • You know you really can’t outsource your strategy to consultants; it must be generated by the people who you know and trust. People who know the business and run the business now.
  • You are frustrated in trying different approaches to formulating a strategy. You need a proven process that delivers results.

The three greatest challenges facing CEOs today:

1. There is a lot of “turmoil” in the sandbox. CEOs want to “stop the world” for a few days, take stock of the changes happening, and decide how to position their company in view of the dynamics that are occurring.

2. You are having difficulty reconciling with the executive team’s divergent opinions about the strategic direction of your company. You need your management teams to see the world “as you see it”. But it’s hard to get everyone on the same page.

3. Having an outside consultant  tell you what needs to be done or how you should do it. You want your team to become better strategic thinkers and develop good business acumen. You do not want them to rely so much on consultants for answers, insight and guidance.

What would you like to have instead?

What you really want is to transform your strategic management process to be more about inspiration than analysis, less about contentiousness and more about consensus, and more about effective implementation. That is exactly what having a good strategic process can give you.

To be more specific, this is what you want good strategic management to do for you:

  1. People to respond to your strategy with real interest. This is a great first step. When people are engaged they feel a sense of ownership for the success of the strategy
  2. A robust strategy that gets the troops excited. Today your people are expecting proper leadership. You must retain your best people. Your people are your greatest competitive advantage.
  3. Deploy the strategy in a timely manner. Due to globalization and the increased speed of the digital world, speed is a critical component for success.
  4. The internal and external environments you will face must be evaluated. Too many times companies analyze internal historical documents. It is imperative to look outside the window and anticipate what changes will affect your business and your customer’s business.
  5. A meaningful strategic profile must be forged for the future that the company can all agree upon.Without consensus the implementation of the future strategy takes too long or doesn’t happen at all.
  6. To  deploy and build your strategy effectively. You must build a “bullet proof” plan to deploy the strategy in a timely manner.

These objectives are actually quite attainable when you have a simple and rational approach in which a cross-functional group of executives will participate.

I call this process “The Strategic Thinking Process.” It’s a proven process.  Used by hundreds of fortune 1000 companies for over 30 years. It’s a process that accomplishes all of the objectives outlined above.

In this process you and your executive team will:

  1. Explore, discover and develop a future view of the company with a business concept, driving force, key strategic skills, competitive landscape, specific growth opportunities and critical issues identified.  You will discuss, plan, capture and commit to a hard copy your strategic objectives and an implementation plan.
  2. Discover the capabilities and strategic skills that you need in order to change the rules of play in your competitive sandbox. When your strategy changes it may require different skills and capabilities.
  3. You will articulate a strategic profile that serves as a filter for decision-making. This filter will allow you to discriminate between plans that fit and support the profile and those that do not.  A filter that makes evaluating new products, customers, markets, acquisitions, and joint ventures an exercise based on a future vision, not on wishful thinking.

What makes the strategic thinking process work?

The Strategic Thinking Process is built on four key concepts that differentiate it from any type of strategic planning effort you may have attempted to use before.


Driving Force    Driving Force is the component of the business that is unique to that company. It is the key determinant of the choices management makes with regard to future products, future customers, and future markets. Without an understanding of, and consensus upon that Driving Force, management will have a difficult time creating a strategy for the future that will create supremacy over its competitors.


Areas of Excellence Areas of Excellence are two key skills. When the focus or direction of your business changes then these two key skills will have to change. This is important so that you can achieve excellence to a greater degree than any competitor will achieve, or to a greater degree than anything else that the company does.


The Stealth Competitor The Stealth Competitor Model helps you identify the potential competitive disruptor.  This competitor may emerge in the marketplace. You want to be the disruptor to the competitors instead.


Offensive and Defensive  Objectives It is important to distinguish between strategic and operational objectives. A strategic objective is a “position” or “hill” that the strategy must protect or capture. It is also a key element of the strategy to know which ones are more important than the others. They must relate to products, customer groups, market segments or geographic markets.

Implementation Critical Issues are key initiatives that form the basis for new strategy that management must resolve. They are the critical outputs from the strategy session.  The organization must reconcile these in order for the future strategic profile is to become reality.  These critical issues are the bridge between the current profile and final strategic profile. Now that the direction of the organization has been set, is where the management of that direction starts.

Benefits of the strategic thinking process include:

Primarily, you will achieve supremacy over your competition in less time, at less cost, and the long-term effects without the need for armies of consultants or endless “strategy projects”. In addition:

  1. You will change the way you look at the business. You must have supremacy of thinking before you can have supremacy of strategy.
  2. You will have real consensus. When you have common understanding as to why this is the correct strategy it will be easier to allocate resources and choose the correct opportunities. Your team will own the strategy and take responsibility for its implementation.
  3. You will have a strategy by your own management team.  This is not done in a vacuum. A cross-functional group of people will be involved to reach an agreement on the future directions of the enterprise.  We offer solutions, we do not impose solutions.
  4. You will discover the  one strategic concept that is at the root of the strategy of your business.When you find this key item you will have a much easier time making clear and intelligent decisions.
  5. You will have learned and institutionalized  a process of strategic formulation and implementation.  You will always be addressing the real future of the company. With this formal process you will not find yourself back discussing operational issues at your strategy session.
  6. You will have a Strategic Filter to use for decision-making.  It is a simple binary  filter that can be used to screen opportunities through a series of questions that demand a yes or no answer. This simple binary filter lets you know immediately if the opportunity violates your company’s strategy.
  7. You will differentiate yourself in the marketplace. To obtain competitive supremacy in the marketplace a company needs to have a significant and sustainable point of differentiation—one that enables it to add unique value that the competitors will have difficulty duplicating.
  8. You will prioritize the initiatives when you are finished. Many traditional strategic planning sessions leave with a “to do” list. You will have a way to test which of these are the most strategically significant so that they can be pursued first. Furthermore, you will have detailed action steps for the implementation of the strategy.

How the five phase strategic thinking process is structured


There is a rigorous  process  to gather and organize data on markets, competitors, technology and past performance to ensure that the right information is used to facilitate good strategic decision making. Phase One provides an information base for strategic decision-making and an agreed upon set of assumptions about internal and external environments in which an organization will operate during its strategic time frame.


A strategic profile of the organization is developed for guiding day-to-day decision making. This profile defines key strategic elements including:

  • The basis of competitive advantage
  • The scope of the products and services that will and will not be offered, and the markets that will and will not be served
  • The more or less emphasis and financial mix of future product/market scope
  • The source of new business and growth
  • The capabilities needed to implement the strategy
  • The business results that must be achieved
  • The critical issues (barriers to implementation) to be resolved

The establishment of both offensive and defensive objectives are key to the success of the strategy. Strategic Objectives  are hard, tangible micro positions to defend or attack. They are easier for people to relate to because they are more specific, tangible, understandable and doable. Good ones paint a specific picture of what the organization will look like at some point in the future. These can also be used as a filter for resource allocation and opportunity pursuit.


Even the most elegant and robust strategic visions are worthless without effective implementation. It is the implementation phase of the process that yields the tangible results sought by all organizations. During this phase, planned actions are taken, implementation is monitored and the plan is modified as circumstances change and the strategy is revised.

Also during this phase, employees are provided  the necessary skills to participate effectively in the implementation, with particular emphasis on problem-solving and decision-making. Effective communication is at the heart of every successful strategy. The question “What’s in it for me?” must be answered.


Ongoing review of the strategy is essential for keeping it vibrant and relevant as a key tool in the continuous quest for success. Activities include: determining if the assumptions upon which the strategy rests remain valid; assessing if the strategic direction continues to make business sense; and keeping abreast of progress toward implementation.


Bonuses included in the strategic thinking process

  • Complimentary 90-minute Executive Overview Session for your Senior Management Team
  • Written “State of the Company” Report from the session
  • Complimentary copy of the book New Strategic Thinking
  • Article:  The DNA of Strategy
  • Analysis of the Strategic Quotient completed by your management

The strategic thinking process is proven

The Strategic Thinking process has been used by CEOs since 1980 from a cross-section of industries. It has been successful in forging successful strategies that enable them to dominate their competitive sandboxes.

A complete departure from traditional strategic planning methods, the Strategic Thinking process enables management teams to create their own strategies with the help of an expert facilitator.

Is the strategic thinking process right for you? Let’s find out!

I know this is a lot to promise but this is actually what gets accomplished in the program.  If you have read this far in learning about the program you may be interested in taking the next step. If so, let’s schedule a Executive Overview Session.

We provide an executive overview of the strategic thinking process.

In this session we will explore what types of strategic challenges you are facing and give you a hands-on experience of strategic thinking in action. You will leave this conversation clear about the issues facing you and excited about what is possible.

This session will take about 90 minutes and should include several members from your Senior Management Team. Please call our communications center at 941-373-6520 or fill out the form below to book your Executive Overview Session. Mark Thompson

Request your Executive Overview Session

NEXT, learn more about Process Expertise.