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What is Strategic Thinking? Learn to Think and Act Strategically with OCCAM’s Strategy Razor

Updated: Jan 3

Do you have a cohesive view of what strategic thinking really is? Personally, I didn’t, so I decided to map it out. The OCCAM Strategy Framework we’ll look at illustrates the tools, traits, and behaviors I’ve identified as critical, all on one page. You can download the slides here.

Cultivating a strategic mindset

Getting to the heart of strategy without “faking it” is a tall order. It’s more about a strategic thinking process vs. memorizing definitions.

The “S” word (Strategy, in case you’re not following) is often misused and abused. Before we get into OCCAM, you need to be able to define, or at least conceptualize, strategy in some capacity. It’s not so simple. Ask ten different people and you’ll get ten different answers.

Check out this blog post “What the Heck is Business Strategy? 95% of Employees Don’t Know” for some definitions of strategy. The ultimate conclusion of this post is that strategy is a mindset.

How do you develop strategic thinking?

Let’s find out.

In a similar fashion to the O-O-D-A framework used in aviation, the O-C-C-A-M Strategy Razor seeks to create an orientation of where you are, what’s happening, and how you need to make choices and act.

The five-letter acronym spells out Open, Compress, Coordinate, Activate, and Measure.

Here's the OCCAM framework put together in a way that shows you the components of strategic thinking and how strategic leadership and strategic planning fit it

Strategic Thinking Example:  The OCCAM strategic thinking framework with the components of strategic thinking and how strategic leadership and planning fit in

Notice that each letter of O-C-C-A-M is accompanied by a strategic question:

- Open: What’s happening?

- Compress What are the critical success factors?

- Coordinate: What are the Synergies?

- Activate: Will my plan deliver my objectives?

- Measure: How can we improve?

Asking questions is the number one behavior you need to habituate in order become strategic.


Hopefully now you have a sense of what strategic thinking looks like, and are able to define it by internalizing this framework. Being strategic is about having the right mindset. You can build this mindset by asking the right questions and applying the OCCAM Strategy Razor.

The OCCAM Strategy Razor puts strategic thinking on a page, but at the end of the day, strategic thinking is less about following guidelines and more about adjusting your mentality.

- Can you pause the day-to-day grind to connect the dots and think bigger picture?

- Can you see the forest for the trees?

- Once you gain the perspective you need, do you know how to actually do.

something about it?

- Strategy is not linear. You can use OCCAM to identify critical factors, but you

expansive thinking to figure out how to choose the right actions and develop a

winning strategy. Keep asking questions to develop your mental strategic. muscle.

- Asking 5 Whys sounds cliché, but it remains perhaps the greatest approach to

see what others don’t and uncovering strategic insight.


Has this post provided any value to help you grow strategic thinking skills?

Do you have any strategic thinking examples or skills you would like to share?



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