In the first of a series of blog posts that Ralph Jacobson and I wrote for the ASTD Workforce Development Blog, we argue that strategic leaders need strategic tools. However, we have found in our work that many organizational leaders are reluctant to use tools, such as: assessment instruments to observe current organizational performance; worksheets to facilitate decision-making; and structured processes to do long-range planning. (Examples of these kinds of tools, including Jacobson’s “The Leader’s Map”, can be found at .)

We write:

It seems that the higher one travels up the organization chart, the less likely it is that leaders MP900314121 use structured methods to help them address the critical issues before them. Instead, senior leaders are more likely to be influenced by broad ideas of strategy and general concepts rather than structured thinking and best practices to attack the challenges before them.

Unfortunately, it is here that the greatest value could be wrought from using structured methods. The issues higher up the hierarchy have larger ramifications, and they are less likely to have clear answers, require greater cooperation across internal silos and between external entities, and are fraught with greater risk. It is here that issues require input from many sources—and available information is scant and must be teased out. Ironically, it is here that the use of strategic leadership tools can provide the greatest power.

Yet leaders tend to refrain from applying structured, facilitated interventions to solve problems and plan for the future. We have some theories about why this is so. It might be an unwillingness of executives to admit that they don’t have the answers. It might be the human tendency, in Daniel Kahneman’s parlance, of “thinking fast”. Or it might be an organizational leader’s need to control the situation and not take the risk that is required when using strategic tools.

What are your ideas about this? Why do you think leaders are reluctant to use tools in their strategic problem-solving, decision-making, and planning? What do you think can be done to get over the psychological barrier they have to using strategic tools? 

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