05 Jun Two Levels Up: How strategic planning is the key to making an impact
When I was a young officer cadet in the Army Reserve, I once heard some advice from a lieutenant colonel: Think two rungs above.
This is what that means.
What are the people thinking about two management levels higher up?
If you’re a young lieutenant, you take orders from a Captain.
They take orders from a Major.
So, if you are a lieutenant, what is the Major worried about?
If you can make that your preoccupation, you understand how to do your own job better.
You can also work in closer partnership with your Captain (so to speak) and help the two of you.
It’s a form of constructive empathy.
Two Levels Up in the Business World
The same ‘two rungs up’ applies in the business world.
As a result, you might find the strategic planning process beneficial. Even if you’re not in a senior managerial position.
Strategic Thinking Rewards the Person Doing it
It earns respect
For a junior person, having a good understanding of the strategic situation and options is a good way to earn the respect of the head honcho.
It gives you a good understanding of the big picture
With some strategic research, you can speak intelligently about broader factors affecting your organisation.
That can also enable you to find gaps in the assumptions of a business.
You can find new potential directions.
There are few things sweeter as an employee than finding a sweet unexplored place where your company could make a lot of money.
It helps you pinpoint exploitable flaws in your competition.
All competition has flaws. Using a methodical approach, you can find the weaknesses, which shows you the opportunity.
For example, a weakness can be used as an angle of attack.
There is a major hardware retailer that targets both trade and everyday consumers.
In the warehouses (which are the stores), the non-handy person will find aisle after aisle of confusing items.
If you need help, there’s no one to be seen.
Small Guy Hardware exploited this and positioned itself on getting real help. Their opportunity lay in the weakness of the big player.
Small Guy’s market became Do-it-yourselfers, not-very-handy people, and budget-conscious people who’d rather self-provide their own service.
McDonald’s was fast and standardised. But they never (until recently) offered any customisations. Too slow. Too many congestion points in the service delivery.
You want a junior burger? You get it with the pickle.
Countless competitors made it a key differentiator ‘made to order’.
Understand your competition and you see the weak points.
Do the opposite, you are stronger on that angle.
You also need to tell people.
The marketing communications for that angle should run as an ongoing campaign.
It demonstrates you are serious about the longevity and health of the company.
Bosses like to trust their people. Looking beyond your small work function can indicate you are in it for the long haul. It demonstrates loyalty.
You can share the vision and passion of the CEO.
Looking at the big picture, and ways of moving on the chessboard indicates a strong work ethic and sense of commitment.
When you see the frustrating blocks and find pockets of opportunity, you get to feel the boss’s spark of energy.
This gives you meaningful things to talk about at the water cooler.
Your passion can energise others.
The thrill of the big picture
Few people step into the heady world of strategy formation, but it’s a thrilling place to be.
In a safe sandpit, you get a feel of the broader market from the perspective of the Chief Operator (the big kahuna).
That helps you make the smaller decisions you need to make each day.
And it shows you are a thinker, committed, and have a knowledgeable opinion that counts.
You might even make a lot of money.
Big Picture Strategy is available as a PDF Manual with downloadable templates for $16