Monthly Archives: November 2012

Strategic Thinking – What Does The Customer Want?

Of the three elements of strategic leadership, strategic thinking is probably the most nebulous to most of us. One of my colleagues shared a good article at on characteristics of tools that enable strategic thinking, and through further links, the tools themselves.

This all boils down to one thing: the key to strategic thinking is to get yourself out of thinking about what you currently do, and get yourself into thinking about the bigger need. You can always come back and compare the bigger need against what you currently do later in the process.

I spent 15 years in Product Management (and related positions) where there was a need to think about strategy and which new products should / should not be developed. I worked with people with MBAs and PhDs in Marketing (neither of which I have), but I concluded that everything in strategic marketing boiled down to being able to answer the following three questions:

  1. What does the customer want?
  2. What does the customer want?
  3. What does the customer want?

WARNING: Never, ever, ever confuse what the customer says that they want with what they actually want. Steve Jobs proved this point when he repeatedly refused to accept customer feedback on his products (what the customer says that they want), but still delivered incredible ideas that hit at what the customer really wanted.

The upshot of this is that there can never be too much time in strategic leadership devoted to understanding the people you are trying to serve. My experience is that this can be achieved through a combination of both secondary research and primary research with the people being served.

The principle here for strategic thinking is to get your mind away from what you do, and focus on the core need of the people you want to serve. This principle applies everywhere, from technology products to services provided in Christian ministry.

So, when it comes to strategic thinking a question for you to ask yourself is: How far am I from the people I am trying to serve, and how well do I know what they really want? The biggest influence on good strategic thinking is to spend time with your customer. When you understand their real need then you can start to figure out how the capabilities that you have can best be used to meet that need.

Visible Symptoms of Strategic Leadership

Ok, so we hear the words “strategic leadership“, and it all sounds like a good theory. However, for the pragmatists amongst us, what does it look like when it happens? My colleagues reviewed some examples of what we thought looked like strategic leadership. Common threads that appeared across these examples included:

  • There was a realization that something is not working or effective – not getting to mission/vision.
  • There was a desire & decision to do something different.
  • The change agent listened to the people with whom they worked.
  • The grass-roots implementation teams used new resources locally developed or locally appropriate.
  • The team leaders focused on results through the changes.
  • There was exposure/training/evaluation that led to change in thinking & action.
  • New pathways were established for fruitfulness.

If you see these things happening near you, then the chances are that the people overseeing them are leading strategically.

If you have other ideas of symptoms of Strategic Leadership, then please leave them in a reply for us to see.

Doing the Right Thing Or Doing Something Right?

How many times have you done something incredibly well only to discover that it was the wrong thing to have done in the first place?

Strategic Leadership is about causing an organization to do the right thing, rather than tactical leadership, which focusses on doing whatever you are doing the best way.

The engineers with whom I worked at Pirelli were collectively the brightest engineers with whom I worked anywhere. They all had doctoral degrees, and worked hand in hand with the primary researchers at Milan’s prestigious technical university. However, they sometimes invented products that used the most incredible technology, but that no-one was ever going to buy for other reasons. When this happens, millions of dollars of R & D expense can be wasted. This happened even though the accountants made sure that no-one overspent their budgets and the quality controllers ensured that the product always worked perfectly even though no-one would ever buy it.

Strategic leadership would have caused them to never have wasted their effort in the first place.

Do you know what the Vision and Mission of your organization are?

Given that Mission, are you doing the right thing to achieve the Vision, or are you just doing the wrong thing incredibly well?

Responding to Major Trends in the Environment

To most effectively accomplish a vision it is necessary to understand the environment in which that vision will exist. The Vision of CCCI is that there will be spiritual movements everywhere so that everyone knows someone who truly follow Jesus. This presentation (in PDF here) summarizes the key trends in the spiritual environment in which we hope movements will be started.

Key points that spring to mind when reviewing this data include:

  • Will strategies be appropriately balanced after the Chinese population growth flattens?
  • Do our strategies address urban populations sufficiently?
  • Are we positioning city strategies for the mega-cities of 2050, or the large cities of today?
  • There is an unprecedented period of political freedom now. Are we capitalizing on it?
  • Are we giving the appropriate emphasis to the mobile phone as a communications medium?
  • The non-religious demographic is the only “religion” with growth increasing. Are we positioned to address that growing demographic?
  • The biggest job is not reaching the unreached but witnessing to people who have already heard the gospel at least once.
  • China, India and Africa will be have the most evangelical populations in 2050: are we prepared for them to send the greatest number of missionaries in 2050?