There's a level above strategic thinking which makes our strategyzing more effective than focusing entirely on strategies and tactics. Because this higher level is more vast and inclusive, there are many ways to give it a name. Here are five characterizations that I use to describe this level:
- Meta-level strategic thinking - When we simply consider the relative position of this higher level, it is meta to the level of strategic thinking
- Ocean-level outlook - Within the analogy of dolphins teaching us strategic thinking, the ocean also has a more inclusive point of view that looks after the surviving and thriving of the carp, shark and dolphin species, much like the Commissioner of a professional or Olympic sport cares for every win/lose game, not for which team wins one contest or the entire tournament.
- Panoramic vista - When we can see the forest of all the trees or the terrain with all the roads visible, we are on a mountain top or flying over the landscape, much like our outlook when considering different intentions, forecasts and assumptions.
- Keeping the mission in mind - When we know why we're pursuing a strategy, we've not lost sight of our mission, guiding purpose or meaning for our dedication to results.
- Providing visionary leadership - When our foresight shows us where we're headed, we can take an enterprise into the future with great aim, priorities and purpose which provides a framework for strategy formulation and implementation.
Over the years, I've researched this level extensively. This morning I made a pass at capturing what all goes into this level above strategic thinking. I came up with four vast spaces to be throughly grasped, mapped and factored into strategies:
- Systems in play: What things are out there (and in here) which are connected, networked, looped and inter-dependent? How are they interacting, effecting each other and depending on each other? What else can become a factor in sustaining or breaking connections such as repercussions, side effects, fallout and blow back? What outcomes can emerge from this complexity, fall out from the interactions or synergize from the mutual benefits?
- Processes unfolding: What pairs are keeping things in balance while oscillating between extremes? What changes are coming about through phases of growth, refinement or developmental progressions? What could emerge as a discontinuous change, disruption of the status quo or unexpected invasion? What processes show signs of self organization, having lives of their own and defying the law of entropy?
- Futures over the horizon: What's coming that we cannot see yet, but can anticipate? What could be taking shape, judging from these early indications, warning signs or bell weather changes? What could catch most off guard, defy their predictions or show up like a black swan?
- Functionality in use: What's already working, yielding benefits or producing results? What improvements are feasible in view of this functionality? What possibilities become evident by considering how the current arrangements are effective, viable and useful? What solutions beyond the current ones could evolve by pragmatic efforts?
As we cultivate this level above strategic thinking, our outlook has evolved dramatically. We see clearly which intentions to embrace that call for reformulated strategies to realize them. We see what's coming to prepare for it and act as if it's imminent. We see what processes can be aligned with and better utilized. We see so much which proves essential for formulating effective strategies.