by Al Winseman
Strategic is one of the biggest buzz-words in business today. Leaders and managers want their teams to be “strategic”; employees are urged to think “strategically” instead of “tactically” -- to “play chess” instead of “playing checkers”; and nearly every list of competencies that one encounters in a performance review has a “strategic thinking” category that employees are supposed to master if they have even the slightest hope of being promoted. The word is so overused and overdefined that it has lost almost all its meaning.
Yet in the taxonomy of the Clifton StrengthsFinder themes of talent, Strategic has a very specific definition -- and what’s more, Strategic is the fifth-most commonly identified theme among the over 12 million individuals who have taken the Clifton Strengthsfinder.
In a nutshell, people strong in the Strategic theme spot relevant patterns in any given scenario and can quickly create alternate and multiple ways to proceed. Where most see only complexity, they see patterns and alternatives. Strategic is about considering all the options, selecting the best one, and then moving down that path -- often before anyone else does. It’s a specific way of seeing the world.
In this installment of Compare and Contrast, I look at the similarities and differences between Strategic and Arranger, Adaptability and Connectedness.
Strategic and Arranger:
Both Strategic and Arranger are what I call “flexibility” themes -- each have an inherent flexibility about them that helps individuals with strong talents in either of these themes make changes -- and often make them quickly. But there are subtle, yet important, differences that set them apart. Strategic is a way of thinking; Arranger is a way of doing. While there are many similarities between Strategic and Arranger, here are what I see as the subtle differences: Strategic is more the 30,000-foot view, while Arranger is on the ground. Strategic sees possible future options -- “What can we do?” -- while Arranger tends to see the best configuration of what is in the here and now. Arranger puts all the pieces together for maximum productivity, and Strategic sees all the options and selects the best path for efficient execution. Arranger acts, Strategic thinks. Arranger is a way of moving things forward; Strategic is a way of figuring things out.
Strategic and Adaptability:
The speed of Strategic can often look like Adaptability in action, but the Strategic worldview is fundamentally different from the worldview of Adaptability. At its core, Strategic is anticipatory, while the basic nature of Adaptability is reactive. Adaptability reacts to and considers “what is”; Strategic anticipates and plans for what “could be.” Strategic is about thinking about future options, while Adaptability takes action based on responding to the current situation. Adaptability takes life as it comes; Strategic anticipates alternative plans based on what life may bring. Strategic sees the big picture; Adaptability sees the immediate picture. Adaptability focuses full attention on being “in the moment,” while Strategic considers what paths might be available to take when this moment passes.
Strategic and Connectedness:
Strategic can sometimes be mistaken for -- or look like -- Connectedness (and vice versa) due to the fact that often Strategic sees the chain reactions of events and plans: This leads to that, which leads to this and so on. But even with these similarities, Strategic and Connectedness are not the same. Strategic is about alternative plans; Connectedness is about interlinked relationships. Both Strategic and Connectedness see the big picture, but Strategic sees that big picture in terms of processes, systems and potential options -- while Connectedness sees that big picture in terms of webs, connections, consequences and relationships. Strategic sees processes and alternate paths toward a goal; Connectedness sees the intertwined relationships between events, people or concepts. Connectedness tends to believe that everything happens for a reason and that there are few consequences; Strategic tends to believe that there are alternate paths to the same outcome and that there is a best way to get to that outcome.
Albert L. Winseman, D.Min., is a Senior Learning and Development Consultant at Gallup. Al brings deep expertise in employee and customer engagement, executive leadership and organizational dynamics to his consulting work with Gallup’s clients. He consults with senior leaders, executives and front-line managers to improve employee and customer engagement and to implement strategic initiatives that drive business growth.