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Strategy and Transformation

Embrace Strategic Thinking: 3 Smart Ways to Escape Admin Chaos and Innovate Boldly

Do you ever wish you had more time to focus on strategic thinking, to wrap your arms around a long-term vision, instead of spending your days drowning in administrative tasks? Digging deep into your idea factory takes time and energy, and a never-ending cycle of burn reports, meetings, and timecard approvals can drain both – pushing innovation to the back burner. Recently, I watched a colleague receive glowing praise from a client for his track record of providing stellar strategic insights. This made me reflect on how often I get too busy with the nitty-gritty to focus on the bigger picture that clients value most. If you can relate, keep reading for 3 smart ways to reclaim your time, ditch the admin chaos, and get back to thinking big!

1. Recognizing The Problem

Recognizing the need for strategic thinking is the key to breaking free from the daily grind; as they say, the first step is admitting there is a problem! Lacking strategic thinking means failing to proactively identify risks and address root causes, leading to a cycle that can feel like a real-life Groundhog Day. If you find yourself constantly putting out fires or focusing only on immediate deadlines, it’s a clear sign you’re stuck in reactive mode! Inconsistent project outcomes, overwhelming task lists, and the absence of a clear roadmap are also red flags that you may have lost sight of your clients ultimate goals. By identifying these signs, you can acknowledge the need for change and begin shifting your focus from merely surviving each day to driving long-term success and value for your clients. 

2. Mastering Prioritization

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To reclaim time for strategic thinking, mastering prioritization is essential. Patrick Lencioni (author of The Advantagewisely noted, “If everything is important, then nothing is.” Start by prioritizing tasks using Eisenhower’s Principle, which categorizes your to-do list based on urgency and importance, ensuring you “reduce the unnecessary” and focus on what truly matters first. 

Where possible, leverage project management software to streamline admin work, and delegate the less critical tasks to your capable teams. (An additional benefit of delegation is that it empowers your team to make decisions and grow themselves as well.) If you’re anything like me, delegation can be HARD! But part of being a leader is learning to trust your teams; if you feel that you can’t for some reason, then your most urgent task should be whatever coaching is needed to get them to that place. Being able to delegate is a crucial part of freeing up more of your brainpower for big-picture planning. 

Next up? Carve out specific time blocks for strategic thinking – and guard this time like it’s the last cookie in the break room! Habits are built through repetition, so schedule these blocks on a recurring basis; preferably daily, but certainly at least once a week. Decline any meetings during this time and shut down Outlook / Teams! Whether you prefer to sit in silence or need music to boost your creativity, use this time to let go of the chaos and prioritize bold innovation.

3. Learning Continuously

Finally, cultivating a strategic mindset goes beyond just managing your time in the day-to-day – it also requires continuous learning and fostering a culture of innovation across your teams. It involves a complete mind reset and refocus, especially if you’ve spent months or even years stuck in reactive mode. Be your own champion! Invest in your professional development by attending industry conferences, taking relevant courses, and keeping up with the latest trends. Regular self-assessment and seeking feedback from client stakeholders can provide valuable insights into how well you’re aligning with their strategic goals, a key measure of success. 

Encourage your teams to think creatively and challenge the status quo; consider creating regular opportunities for virtual “coffee chats” or idea-sharing meetings. Conduct regular retrospectives so you can reflect on your most recent wins and challenges, and identify improvements for future sprints. By embedding strategic thinking into your daily routine, you’ll drive long-term success and inspire your team to do the same. You may even see a boost in team morale and cohesion, as everyone works together towards common long-term goals.

Balancing daily project administrative tasks with strategic thinking is no easy feat, but it’s essential for delivering real value to your clients. By recognizing the signs of a lack of strategic focus, implementing effective prioritization techniques, and fostering a culture of continuous learning, we can reclaim our time and energy for big-picture planning. Remember, it’s not just about getting through the daily grind and escaping the Groundhog Day cycle it’s about steering our projects towards sustained achievement and wowing our clients with forward-thinking solutions. You’ve got this!

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Melissa Page

Melissa is a Lead Business Consultant at Perficient, with over 10 years of experience in digital project management. Her passions include accessibility, DEI, and ensuring fair access for all at the table.

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