Dear Quantum2 Member...
Strategic Thinking and
the Information Professional
Strategic thinking has to do with understanding the big picture. It is about doing the right things, not just doing things right. A more formal definition from the Portable MBA DeskReference (Portable MBA Desk Reference, An Essential Business Companion, Nitin Nohria, editorial director, 2 nd Ed.) specifies that strategic planning "involves actions that lead to the definition of a company's mission, the formulation of its goals, and the development of the specific strategies that will be implemented to meet those goals." It involves "decisions by managers at all levels" and "focuses on the long-term, although these days it increasingly focuses on both the short-term and the long-term." Short-term focus is needed in today's business because of the rapid pace of change. Some executives say that planning as far out as five years is too long in many cases.
The ability to make decisions is key to being involved at the strategic level. There is risk at this level because decision-making necessarily involves taking responsibility for one's decisions. An undervalued capability associated with making decisions is being able to decide and go forward. By the time some have achieved perfection in researching and pondering an issue, the rest of the world has moved on, making the decision irrelevant. "Information professionals are not asked to be decisive," comments Roberta Shaffer, former executive director of the Special Libraries Association and champion of the information professional as a business person. "They are asked to be objective. They tend to be perfectionists, and not risk takers." Acquiring this decision-making ability could affect the perception of the information professional, producing a more businesslike image.
The process of corporate decision-making involves identifying the problem, collecting data and enumerating possible solutions. It involves testing these possible solutions as well, asking can it be done, how much will it cost, who will do the work, what are the risks and is the solution permanent or temporary? (See, the Portable MBA Desk Reference, above, Decision Making).)
To gain credibility in an area of proficiency, it would be useful for the information professional to follow this procedure as precisely as possible, and submit the case in writing to a leader or influencer within the organization. Merely listing symptoms should be avoided. Key business people like to see the process, and like to see decisions "packaged" in this manner. Using the same methodology, in a truncated form, would also be helpful when participating in meetings. It is a good habit never to raise a problem without offering a potential solution. While this involves some advance preparation for which there is often little time, raising or attempting to discuss problems without having thought through potential solutions does not impress upper management. Fortunately, the skills used by modern information professionals when packaging information for their corporate clients can be used as well with stakeholders in the organization. For example, well-crafted memos can demonstrate decision-making ability and show how accepted methodology (problem definition, data gathering, analysis and possible solutions) was used in arriving at the decision. While there is no "one way," adapting the process suggested would be a powerful way to enhance the image of the information professional as a strategic thinker.
(To read the entire paper, download it at quantum.dialog.com/media/pdfs/strategist.pdf)
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