How business owners can improve their strategic thinking process

strategic thinking

When you start a business and you focus on making it work, there is a bigger question lurking behind you, tapping your shoulder for attention. How do you make your business last?

The success factor starts in the mind of the business owner, according to Singaporean expert Sun Yee Ho of Decision Process International (DPI) who came to Cebu to share his thoughts on strategic thinking during a general membership meeting of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Even when you manage to sustain your business, there is another daunting question. How can you make your business survive during tough times, like the Great Recession of 2008 or the Stock Market Crash in the 1930s?

The answer sounds so simple: strategic thinking.

Sun Yee noted that while many companies continue to operate, only a few of them can successfully perform strategic thinking, which is seen to produce extraordinary results and ultimately lead the company to outperform competition.

Ho Sun Yee

Ho Sun Yee

Different from strategic planning

What business owners often forget is they need to constantly improve their thought process amid time limits, work stress and family demands, if they wish for their company to toe the line of evolving global realities.

Sun Yee believed that strategic thinking answers business owners who are always asking on how to out-think the competition. However, he pointed out that strategic thinking, while there are no rigid processes involved, is not the easiest thing to do, as manifested by leaders and managers of international companies that DPI has worked with, because it entails time and focus.

Sun Yee, who has lived and worked in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Singapore, has more than 33 years of direct line management, staff functions and leadership development in the Singapore Armed Forced, private healthcare and non-profit sector.

Based on his bio, “he made a successful transition during the financial crisis in late 1990s to the non-profit sector as the CEO of a non-government organization (NGO) where he successfully applied the DPI strategic thinking process to reposition and strengthen it into a leading NGO in its sector.”

In his recent visit to Cebu, Sun Yee presented some tips to business owners and start-up founders, starting with understanding the meaning of strategic thinking.

Sun Yee explained that strategic thinking is different from strategic planning. The latter is accomplished by using internal or company data. It is about performing quantitative analysis in order to get a smaller picture of the business.

Strategic thinking, meanwhile, uses qualitative analysis to have a much deeper, bigger perspective, as well as a sharper and clearer vision, of the business.

Five Cs of strategic thinking

Sun Yee also recommended business owners to work on transformative leadership. It means that since strategic thinking creates leaders, the processes involved must be replicated across company levels until such time a culture of critical thinking is nurtured and sustained. This is because the best strategies are implemented in the long-term.strategic thinking

He also asked business owners to apply the five Cs of strategic thinking—clarity, cohesion, creativity, consensus, and collaboration.

Clarity means having the right understanding about strategic thinking and why it should be done.

Cohesion refers to seeking commonality. An example is deciding on the universal business model. Should it be about profit, distributorship, technology, product, or target market, among others?

Just because a business sells goods does not have to mean it derives its uniqueness and profit from products. The universal business model, for instance, of Johnson & Johnson, a multinational three-sector health care company, is its target market, which explains the variety of its product lines. Car companies like Toyota are product-based.

Another important part of strategic thinking is creativity since some of the best ideas are those borne out of the box.

Take the case of Lee Kum Kee, one of the most popular sauce brands in the market, which started with oyster sauce. But for it to stay in the market and compete, it needs to be more creative. Thus, it expanded its offering to other Chinese sauces and then to Asian-based ones.

Consensus, on the other hand, means everyone should agree with the strategic thinking plan especially for companies with a universal business model. For strategic thinking to work, Sun Yee added, you need to take full ownership of it.

Collaboration is about working together toward innovation and ingenuity keeping all the other Cs in mind. One example is this website,, a product of strategic thinking and collaboration between digital marketing agency Third Team Media and writing services provider The Memoriter Writing Service.

strategic thinking

Heart of the process

What companies need to remember is that right at the heart of the strategic thinking process is its DNA called “driving force”. It is the engine that makes a business model completely different from all the rest.

Determining what your company’s driving force is crucial since it dictates the amount of resources to be allocated and the opportunities that have to be taken by the business.

The challenge lies in choosing the right driving force. This is because every person tends to have his or her own perception about the business’s driving force. This explains

  • why strategic thinking should be limited to a core group carefully chosen based on the role they portray in the company,
  • why the core group has to be trained by a strategic thinking expert over a period of few months and
  • why companies should not allocate only a few days for strategic thinking.

Sun Yee recommended to the audience to take a look at the business model of Johnson & Johnson. Its driving force is its customers. It allocates resources and builds opportunities based on what it considers to be its audience.

This explains why Johnson & Johnson has a wide range of products intended for babies and mothers. Recently, it has launched products dedicated for men, seeing how modern males tend to be more conscious about how they look.

Although identifying the company’s driving force takes time, here are some questions that can serve as a guide:

  • Looking back in your company’s history and performance, are there certain components that tend to receive the most favor in terms of resources and opportunities?
  • Which of these components drives your present strategy and decisions for your current products and customers?
  • Which of these components will likely drive success in the future? (UPS started as a distribution company but later changed its driving force to logistics services.)
  • What type of impact will the driving force have in how you choose products and markets?

Take the time to take in all of Sun Yee’s tips and you might find the question about sustaining your business not as intimidating as before.

(with Milafel Hope Awe-Dacanay)

All images, except Ho Sun Yee’s, are from

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Nancy Cudis-Ucag

Learn. Then write.

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Hi Nancy,

    thank you for the good job in describing the essence of DPI process. Just a small correction – Strategic Thinking requires qualitative synthesis (not analysis).

    Thanks again and have a blessed weekend.

    God bless,


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