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Turn your team into strategic thinkers

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

To think strategically, you need to pose the right questions. Mobilizing your team to come up with the right answers turns everyone into strategic thinkers.

Steven Gangwish is vice president of CSS Farms, a diversified farming business in Watertown, S.D. For Gangwish, formulating strategy and asking smart questions go hand-in-hand. Examples:

1. Do we have the right people in place? He asks this question whenever CSS embarks on a new project. It’s surprisingly hard to answer, since there’s a delicate balance between recruiting enough employees to handle fresh work while justifying the investment in personnel.

“It’s like the chicken and the egg,” he says. “You can’t take on new projects without the right people, but it’s hard to support the right people without new projects.”

Over time, Gangwish has elected to launch projects, such as a new potato farm, with existing employees—and then plug in the right people as the new experiment proves successful.

2. What’s the essence of our organizational culture? At CSS, Gangwish says a core part of the company’s culture is “if we’re going to do something, we’re going to be the best at it.”

This focus on superior performance drives strategic decision-making at CSS.When evaluating whether to buy a new farm, Gangwish and his team commit to securing the best land and the best equipment. They reject used tractors or rented facilities in favor of investing in brand new, top-of-the-line equipment. This creates what Gangwish calls “a cultural expectation of excellence.”

— Adapted from Execution is the Strategy, Laura Stack, Berrett-Koehler.

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