The Case for Strategic Problem-Solving Skills
Research shows that strategic leaders:
- Challenge existing points of view without provoking people
- Act on big and small pictures at the same time
- Rapidly change course if their chosen path is incorrect
- Lead with inquiry and advocacy
Organizations with problemsolving capabilities in the top quartile bring 3.5 times higher total returns to shareholders than those in the bottom quartile.
Sources: PwC 2015, McKinsey
Lack of effective strategic problem-solving is a major gap for leaders and their organizations.
90 percent of organizations fail to meet their strategic goals.
92 percent of top leaders are not seen as effective at strategy.
95 percent of employees don’t understand or are unaware of their organization’s strategy
Sources: Harvard Business Review 2015, ResearchGate, Harvard Business School
Strategic problems are hard to solve
Strategic issues are often the most critical questions an organization has to resolve, but they are difficult: the questions to be resolved may be quite fuzzy, they may cut across multiple functions, there may be very limited time to get an answer, there may be too little data (or too much data), and stakeholders can have very diverse and conflicting agendas and viewpoints.
You need to gain stakeholders’ trust
To drive strategic impact, you need to move from being a functional or technical expert to being a trusted advisor — someone people can turn to for counsel on strategic questions because they view your advice as objective, fact-based, insightful, and practical.
Don’t declare success too early
Success in strategic problem-solving comes not simply from solving a problem, but from gaining stakeholder buy-in and moving people to take the right actions. Ultimately, success hinges on having these actions translate into real impact for your organization. Your problem-solving approach, right from its start, should be guided by this ultimate need to gain stakeholder buy-in, moving people to action, and having real impact, so you are set up for success.
Mentora’s program on Driving Strategic Impact follows a four-step process:
- Problem Definition: What is in scope, and what is not? Who are the key stakeholders? What preconceptions are they likely coming in with, whether about the outcome or any step along the way?
- Problem-Solving Roadmap: What are all the issues we need to address? Which ones are key — the ones that will make the most difference? What unknowns do we need to resolve?
- Data and Insights: Gather the right facts — through interviews with internal and external stakeholders, other forms of research, analysis of customer data, and more — and draw insights and conclusions from it to help resolve the key unknowns.
- Actionable Recommendations: Come up with a robust set of recommendations that are (a) solving the right problem, (b) based on logic and facts, (c) practical for the organization to implement, and (d) have buy-in from key stakeholders.