Two equally important and complementary competencies to Mastering the Mechanics of Planning are analytical thinking and critical thinking skills. As you continue planning for the upcoming year, the more honed these skills are, the better your results will be.
Although there is some overlap in definition, analytical and critical thinking are not the same! You use analytical thinking to break problems down into manageable bits. Afterwards, it’s possible to draw conclusions based on identified trends, patterns, and cause and effect. Critical thinking uses rationale and reasoning to draw conclusions. It’s a holistic approach that allows you to combine pre-existing and newly acquired knowledge to make a sound judgement. When you have solid analytics, you’ll be able to paint a clear picture. Lastly, use critical thinking to make a good business decision as part of the planning process.
In practice, analytical and critical thinking are not mutually exclusive. They’re seamlessly intertwined in our thought processes. Now, there can be times when we should use only one, so it’s worth noting specific ways in which each is used:
- To focus on facts/evidence
- Analyze data, systems, and trends
- Break down information into smaller or simpler bits
- To produce a judgment based on logical coherent thinking
- To determine whether obtained information is enough
- Check for bias and assumptions
- Weigh opinion against logical data
- To make inferences/fill in gaps in information
Let’s say your goal for the upcoming year is to increase profitability and market share. To begin, use analytical thinking. You should have a deep understanding of the mechanisms (internal and external) that affect those areas. Next, take into consideration things such as customer base (current and future), competitors, suppliers, industry trends, and human resources. This should allow you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and areas where making changes will help you meet your goals. Follow that up with critical thinking. It will help you perfect the results of brainstorming sessions and use tools like risk and impact analyses properly. Finally, after ensuring your ideas are congruent with your company’s vision, mission, and values, you can choose the best way to proceed.
One of the keys to a successful business planning is good decision-making using analytical and critical thinking skills. If you’re interested in improving the quality of these skills in your business, contact me.