When it’s time to pause the strategic plan and start the strategic thinking

Of course you have a strategic plan. If you’re like me, you and your best people went to task and came up with something solid and actionable, with subtle flashes of brilliance. But if John Lennon is right and, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans,” then every once in a while we’ve got to respond to opportunities by tabling the strategic plan and shifting into strategic thinking.

You’re at the C-suite level, your apprenticeship has been well-executed and the completion of your journeyman days has brought you into the master’s circle. Experience is the DNA of strategic thinking and brings with it:

■ 360 perspective: A full understanding of organizational history, current status and future goals blend together to bring about the kind of well-rounded perspective that moves things forward. You avoid repeating old mistakes, leverage the organization’s strengths and direct resources in a way that secures great outcomes.

Focus: In addition to being singularly determined, you’re less distracted. What the competition is doing simply becomes a data point to be utilized by you and your team toward excellence.

■ Risk assured: Yes, assured … not adverse. At this point you know reward doesn’t exist without risk. You also know that from time-to-time, things will go wrong. Here, your perspective and focus bring the ability to take the hit and course-correct in real time with tactics that can transform a challenge into an opportunity.

You likely already possess strong leadership qualities. Being a solid leader is important, but being a leader with confidence in yourself and your team is where it all comes together. Confidence enables strategic thinking to be:

■ Proactive: Sizing-up the landscape and creating a plan to achieve the positive outcome you want … and being wise enough to balance risk by developing a “plan B” while you’re at it.

■ Reactive: Everything. Will. Change. And that’s OK because change can provide the perfect springboard for your efforts and resources to take advantage of opportunities.

■ Motivating: Where’s the lightning rod? My team already works hard, so I have to look for ways to propel them ever-forward. Ugly meetings, poor results, tough conversations all bring new energy, fresh thinking and a heightened level of engagement.

■ Collaborative: There are countless times that my team has worked in a direction that I would have never gone to attain a result I would have never achieved. I watch their actions, reactions, inactions and learn from the people around me every single day. My wins are theirs and their wins are mine.

Strategic thinking isn’t something that happens in an ivory tower. It’s a boots-on-the-ground effort that utilizes every bit of the expertise and talent you and your team has amassed over time. Essentially creative, once strategic thinking has evaluated and innovated, it goes on to re-evaluate and re-innovate — constantly responding to an ever-changing environment. It’s the master’s circle, and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Terry Davis is president and CEO of Our Lady of the Wayside, a regional leader in residential, respite, transportation and adult day care programming for children and adults with developmental disabilities.