As FM’s it is easy to step into the trap labeled “tactical success.” It’s easy because our job is about providing and sustaining work places that support the success of our organizations. We are doing our job when we take care of the details and make sure everything is as it should be. But that isn’t our only job. As FM increases in importance and visibility then we are challenged to become more strategic. And that requires a different way of thinking.

In my experience, questions make all the difference. When I am engaged in tactical problem-solving I ask myself and others tactical questions that deal with details and nuance. My guess is that most of you would say you do the same. This is where FM’s live and breathe – in the detail. There are project schedules, contracts, move – add – changes, systems operation, and a host of other requirements that make living in the “now” and the tactical easy and natural. For many it is the comfort zone.

But “now” only works if it has been properly envisioned, thought about, decided and enabled. In other words, “now” only works if the strategy that led to it was well conceived and executed. Strategy. There’s that word again. So how can FM’s shift their mindset from tactical to strategic?

It’s all in the questions you ask.

Think of the strategic planning process as a funnel. When you start at the top the questions are open ended and broad in scope. Each hypothesis or conclusion then leads to a new set of questions, gradually increasing in detail as you work your way through the process. Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, you have very tightly constructed questions leading to very specific answers.

Strategic questions are big questions. They may focus on supporting corporate strategy, goals and objectives (alignment) or they may deal with the unknown (risk/opportunity). What if revenue fell or increased significantly?  What is FM likely to be required to do in response? What could we do instead that would be more beneficial, given the chance? How would we recognize the situation in advance and begin to prepare ourselves? How could we most effectively communicate these options? How would this situation affect critical alliances?  What do I need to do at each phase of a crisis? How will I recognize one phase from another?

Timing is important also. Being strategic is about being ahead of the curve, anticipating possible events or trends and thinking in advance how to take best advantage of the opportunities they present.

There are a number of tools available of course, and you should expect to use many of them. Decision trees, risk analyses, SWOT analysis and a host of others will become your friends, and good friends they are. They bring clarity amid ambiguity and lead you to the bottom of the funnel. And they all start with the questions you ask.

Think strategic. Think big picture. Anticipate, question, analyze. Then communicate – share the process and wisdom.  In short … lead.