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Strategic planning made easy

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Many middle managers top out because they lack the ability to think like a CEO. For Constantinos C. Markides, author of All the Right Moves (Harvard Business School Press; $27.50), the key to moving up is to develop your strategic thinking.

Markides, a professor at the London Business School, argues that sound strategy flows from consistent decisionmaking. To call the right shots, you need to discipline yourself to ask smart questions and avoid assumptions.

To demystify the art of crafting a breakthrough strategy, Markides offers a four-step process:

Step back. Rather than accept your company as is, ask your peers and employees, “What business are we really in?” This forces everyone to look beyond everyday tasks and ponder bigger issues that include the firm’s purpose, direction and ability to anticipate and handle change.

Know your customers. Once you identify what business you’re in, ask, “Who are our customers?” By reassessing who actually buys your company’s products or services—and how their needs are changing—you can uncover ways to satisfy them better.

Isolate what sets you apart. Differentiate your company from the competition. Markides calls it “redefining the what,” or pinpointing the unique products or services your firm offers.

Sharpen your execution. The final step shifts from “what” to “how:” how you turn ideas into actions that will result in concrete improvements.

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