The Project Notebook

Product/Project Management and Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is about analyzing complex situations or making critical decisions involving large quantities of information. It includes a focus on “finding and developing unique opportunities to create value by enabling a provocative and creative dialogue among people who can affect…direction” (Center for Applied Research). The situations often require you to take a more high level look at your product or project to find a solution.

First off, this isn’t very easy when you are swamped with day-to-day firefighting. You will need to take some time out to think through the situations more clearly. Here are a 10 tips for developing capacity for this type of “out of the box” thinking and analysis:

1. Ask “What if?” Look at your ideas and decisions with a longer term view in mind. Think through multiple steps or stages of the solution to explore all the consequences and impacts.
2. Ask “why?” And keep asking. The 5 whys will help you drill down deep enough to get the full details or determine a “root cause”.
3. Seek counsel, not opinion. Everyone has an opinion, but you want to focus on those with proven experience and expertise. Be willing to accept criticism and look at the perspectives of others.
4. Get multiple perspectives. Our relatives and friends are more likely to tell us what we want to hear. Rather than ask one friend or current customer, show your product to 10 perspective customers that have never seen it before and get their feedback. This is the feedback you need to hear.
5. Challenge assumptions. Ask questions and examine things in more depth.
6. Find new ways to look at data. On top of that, gather new data. I recently expended a lot of effort of my own and others to build a more definitive client list. It allowed me to see the existing client base in a new way. This also helped to shape some ideas about how the client base has changed over time.
7. Think systems and processes. Observe how things work. In general, planning and systematic approaches add value through efficiency improvements.
8. Watch the competition. What are they doing differently? How are they structured and organized? How are their products different or better?
9. Volunteer. Use this to learn more about your organization or work with others to see their challenges and needs. My volunteer work with PMI always seems to afford me new ways of looking at myself and my profession.
10. Become a life long learner. Stay up to date on company and industry developments. Read books and magazines. Attend courses and seminars. Talk and interact with experts.

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP