Leaders are faced with all sorts of decisions, some more critical than others, but all important nonetheless. From a strategic standpoint, decisions that affect the long term direction of an organization – its vision and values – require thorough consideration because they directly influence the ultimate success of an organization. Here are some tips for making effective strategic decisions that can help position your organization ahead of the competition. SWOT Analysis For Comprehensive Understanding With strategic decisions, the best way to ensure the most effective option is to immerse yourself in learning continuously about your industry’s playing field. Take an objective look in the mirror at not only who you are, but also, who your business is. Think about what it is specifically that differentiates your business, and what is holding you back. What are your competitors doing and what industry developments could have a positive or a negative impact on your goals and long term vision? Essentially, conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to more clearly assess each and every decision. It’s critical that leaders assess all related internal and external factors for them to understand what is going on within their world, before making choices that will shape strategy. Be Hands On Equally important as understanding your competition is understanding the ins and outs of your business. Being the type of leader who gets out of the office and on the front lines to visit regularly with not only customers, but also sales reps, folks in operations, your financial team, and other employees will help you more clearly understand your business in preparation for making those tough decisions. Tom Peters calls it “managing by walking around”, but regardless of how it’s defined, being out where the rubber meets the road is simply the best way to learn what is really going on with your business. Whether it’s manufacturing, distribution, customer service or one of your financial areas, a hands-on approach provides insights you can’t get elsewhere. Embrace an “Intense Curiosity” Interaction and active involvement with your customers and the world outside of your business can help you fill in the gaps to help you prosper. Carefully examine your business’s Why. What are your beliefs, your driving energy, and your passions that will cause someone to emotionally connect with your firm and its products and services, not just as a customer but as future team members in your organization. People do business and work for organizations that share their values and beliefs with whom they can relate not just on a product or service level, but also personally. Of course, it is paramount to fully understand key features and benefits to your products that your customers would like to see offered that you are not currently offering. What are your competitors doing that you should be aware of and how can you do that same thing just a little better? How does your pricing compare to the competition? Are there other services that would fit within the verticals you are serving or are there other industries that could use your product? All of these answers come from an intense curiosity, wanting to know why and what’s going on at all times. The more you know, and the more you engage others to provide you with information and data, the easier it is to develop a resonated and well thought out plan leading to effective and powerful strategic decisions. The right strategic decisions come from knowing more about the competition than the competition knows about itself. By immersing yourself into how competitors are good and maybe not so good, you can learn how to position your organization more effectively. Remember, the best laid plan is never intended to be the final end all. Strategy is never an unchanging, static document, rather, it’s a living process that improves and evolves with more data all the time.