Strategic Thinking Starts At the Top…Or It Doesn’t

With a flurry of activity each day, we hope to accomplish the tasks that will enable us to reach our goals. Ideally, that flurry of activity is preceded and then interspersed with strategic thinking. Thinking strategically means carving out time to consider the current context, or situation we’re in, identifying insights that will lead to new value for customers and then executing on those initiatives to deliver value.

However, a recent study reported in the Wall Street Journal article, “Where’s the Boss? Trapped in a Meeting,” shows that even CEOs, the chief strategists, can get swept away in the tide of activity. The study examined how more than 500 CEOs from around the world spend their time during a 55-hour work week. The findings show the average CEO spends only 11% of their time alone, with the potential for thinking strategically about the business.

So if the CEO is only spending potentially 11% of their time thinking about the business in a concentrated way, we can imagine how little time their managers are spending. In my work with managers at the director and vice president level, their time spent in focused thinking about the business is no more than half of that, or roughly 5%.

Great leaders understand the importance of think time. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, says, “Part of the key to time management is carving out time to think, as opposed to constantly reacting. And during that thinking time, you’re not only thinking strategically, thinking proactively, thinking long-term, but you’re literally thinking about what is urgent versus important.”

How much time do you intentionally carve out to think about your business each week? Busyness does not equal business. If you don’t have the discipline to create think time, then it simply won’t happen. And your more strategic competitors will pass you by…like you were a statue sitting still.

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