As you interact with your managers on a daily basis, their behaviors will often tell you a great deal more than their words. We’ve all been in meetings where a person uses the word “strategic” to preface the majority of their comments: “strategic priorities, strategic objectives, strategic metrics, strategic napkins”–you get the picture. But, how often are they really being strategic?

You can use the Three Disciplines of Strategic Thinking to guide the behavioral assessment of your managers’ strategic ability. The Three Disciplines are:

Acumen: Generating new insights

Allocation: Focusing resources through trade-offs

Action: Effective execution of strategy

Here is a sample of behaviors that can help you determine the level of strategic thinking going on with your people:


Records insights on a regular basis

Reviews their log of insights on a periodic basis

Asks “What’s the insight/learning/ take-away?” after meetings, teleconferences and other events


Doesn’t react with a firefighting mentality to urgent but unimportant issues

Effectively prioritizes the most important activities and delegates or eliminates others

Makes trade-offs and decisions that are in the best interest of the business but aren’t designed to please everyone


Understands and can articulate the difference between goals, objectives, strategies and tactics

Uses strategy to drive their daily activities

Summarizes their insights and strategic action plan in 1-2 pages

“The path to recovery lies first and foremost in returning to sound management practices and rigorous strategic thinking,” offers business author Jim Collins. We know when we’re getting beat. We know when our excuses outnumber our strategies. We know when we’re not reaching our full potential. We know, but what’s more telling, is how we behave.


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