Strategic Thinking for Today’s Project Managers

Kris Reynods from The Persimmon Group delivered an outstanding message to motivate PMs to move from leaders to active strategic thinkers. I want to share some key points he stressed during his presentation.


Strategic thinkers (ST) are much different than problem solvers. STs are proactive, fire preventers, forward focused, focus on innovation to improve the way you work and ask the how vs. what questions.


There are several ways we as PMs can grow into STs. Immersion (culture), apprenticeships, simulation of problems, case-based education, cognitive reshaping, setting SMA2R2T goals where the additional A (actionable) and R (relative) make the difference.


How do you think strategically?

  • Anticipate - look for game changing information, build wide external networks

  • Think Critically - reframe problems to get to root causes, uncover hypocrisy, manipulation

  • Interpret - attempt to understand the problem or issue

  • Decide - take a stand with incomplete information

  • Learner - open and honest feedback

  • Align - understand what other’s agendas are


Approach to Uncertainty

1. Depends on how we behave in situation.

2. Different levels of uncertainty require different approaches to forecasting/modeling and strategy.

3. Approach clarifies strategies but not the actions required to finalize a plan.


Risk and Uncertainty pose a threat to some but to the strategic thinker it is a challenge they welcome. Types of risk include:

  • Risk Averse - can’t make decisions

  • Risk Seeking - suffers from managerial labors/not much analysis/JDI attitude


How do we advance Strategic Thinking in our companies?

  • Recognize all creative ideas

  • Hire the right people

  • Incorporate innovation criteria for employee reviews

  • Supply funding for superb proposals

  • Create an internal social network where employees can respond and vote on ideas


Personally, we can do several things to boost our own productivity - such as:

  • Set daily goals

  • Break your day into sections

  • Tackle challenging tasks first

  • Establish mini-milestones

  • Batching - combine like activities, i.e. return correspondence

  • Continuum - setting up and prepare for the next day

  • Establish no communication zones

  • Focus on single tasking as multi-tasking is 47% less efficient    

Chris McReynolds

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