In the realm of personal development, it is widely accepted that people have emotional intelligence, which is defined as a balance between self-awareness and social awareness. Companies have an "intelligence" too. And the definition of emotional intelligence that we use with individuals is an apt metaphor for what helps an organization be strategically intelligent.
Self Awareness + Social Awareness = Emotional Intelligence
Company Self Awareness + Marketplace Awareness = Strategic Intelligence
Strategic intelligence within an organization is the company's ability to understand both itself and environment in which it "lives" so that the company can connect with others to achieve goals of common interest.
Unfortunately, many company leaders say, "We did strategic planning three years ago. We don't see the need to do that again." These people are thinking about creating a notebook. They aren't thinking about maintaining this strategic intelligence about who they are and how they fit into their environment. They lack a framework for understanding and developing strategic intelligence.
Company Self Awareness
"Company self awareness" is about understanding your company's vision, mission, values, strengths, limitations, goals and plans for future success. It is having these so well defined that each employee is connected and motivated to do their best work for the organization.
However, this is only half of true strategic intelligence. The other piece is matching your company self-awareness with marketplace awareness that is in-depth, accurate and timely. Strategically intelligent companies know their customers, competitors, industry trends, future technologies, and a whole host of other factors that are critical to their continued success. It is the depth, accuracy and timeliness of this information that allows these companies to connect effectively and profitably with the world in which they "live."
If you want to develop this kind of strategic intelligence in your organization, consider the following suggestions:
- Deliberately identify and discuss the issues that are going to have the greatest impact on your future business performance.
You need to understand the organization at many different levels. Ask yourself, "Why do we exist as a company? What are we good at? What are we not good at? What matters most to us in our vision, values, and goals? What are we doing well? Where we can continue to improve? What specific issues do we need to address? What are the parts (people, core competencies, resources) that make up our whole? How can we re-arrange or leverage these parts for greater results?"
Then, consciously and deliberately work to understand the world in which your business exists. This includes understanding trends, such as demographic, economic, environmental, technological, and regulatory trends. You also need to be aware of what's happening with your customers and their businesses. Don't just think about the trends that impact your business; also think about the trends that impact your customers' businesses. The same is true with competitors-what can you learn about their focus, direction and probably future? To develop strategic intelligence, you need to constantly be thinking about these factors, testing and either re-affirming or altering past assumptions.
- Have the right people involved.
In most organizations, developing strategic intelligence requires that you have everybody involved at some level. Sometimes, because of the vision and the charisma of the leader, the process of developing strategic intelligence will be more top down. With other organizations, because of their diversity, their various areas of expertise, or for other reasons that may play more to the organization's culture, it is more important for that strategic intelligence process to be driven bottom up, where the front line people are collecting data and pushing it up the organization. There isn't one right way to do it, but there is a cultural way to do it based on the individual organization and what's going to help them develop their highest level of internal and external awareness.
In all of this, it's important to have the right people involved, and that means the people who have the responsibility to execute on a plan. You also want to involve the people who reflect the values that are most important to the company. Political accommodation is never a good reason to include somebody in the development of strategic intelligence.
- Determine the right planning cycles for your business.
Different businesses have different planning cycles. There are times to dream and plan intuitively, then times to think more analytically and, finally, times to plan with specificity and pragmatism about what to do next. Each of these has its own rhythm, and it's important for the organization to develop a sense of rhythm for each kind of planning.
It is also important to have a system in place to track the implementation, execution, and relevance of your plans. Just as if you had your own stock exchange that you're watching daily, there should be a system of tracking your performance that helps you maintain a current and relevant strategic intelligence.
Your Strategic Intelligence Determines Your Future
Ultimately, strategic intelligence is maintaining a dynamic awareness between understanding your business and its relation to everything in the world that impacts it. It is a constant cycle of learning, thinking about what you've learned, and then creating or revising plans. You can no longer think about it once a year and call it "strategic planning." If you're not developing your strategic intelligence all the time, things are probably changing beyond the scope of your awareness. So start developing your company's strategic intelligence today - it's one great way to ensure your company survives in the future.
Ron Price is the founder and CEO of Price Associates, a company dedicated to helping business leaders and entrepreneurs solve problems, identify solutions and implement change in strategy and performance. Price is also the author of "Finding Hidden Treasures," a series of essays with action steps to aid readers in mining their own inner talents. As the former president of the AIM Companies, Price directed the strategic, marketing, compensation and incentive planning, as well as field training and operations. For more information, click here or call (866) 442-0556.