This is the fourth of six articles based on data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, collected in the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study. See our blog for previous articles in this series.
In the Kelly study, strategic thinking was identified by study participants as a key skill that is in critical shortage among managers in the financial services industry. It has been argued that this skill gap contributed to the GFC.
According to the survey results, an ‘aptitude’ for strategic thinking is important, as well as the capacity to:
Thinking strategically is a valuable skill in any position. For those in charge of setting direction, strategic thinking is essential.
Strategy, strategic and related terms are among the most over-used and abused words in business. Researchers have spent years dissecting and defining what is and isn’t strategic. For a fascinating discussion of the differences between strategic thinking and strategic planning, see this brief Wikipedia entry.
Interestingly, in a business dictionary dating from the 1970’s, none of the terms above were included!
What do we expect from strategic thinkers?
Despite the difficulties of defining the characteristics of strategic thinking, there is general concensus that the outcome is to bring the organisation’s vision to reality.
Whether we believe strategic thinkers are born or made, it is possible for us to identify people who have the potential to think strategically.
However, strategic judgement is a complex set of competencies as this definition and list of relevant traits from Harrison Assessments demonstrates:
This competency is made up of essential traits: Analytical, Analyses Pitfalls, Research/Learning, Intuitive, Collaborative, Self-Improvement, Systematic; desirable traits: Experimenting, Persistent, Certain, Pressure Tolerance, Optimistic, Planning, Self-Acceptance, Relaxed, Open/Reflective; and traits to avoid: Blindly Optimistic, Impulsive, Skeptical, Defensive, Dogmatic, Easily Influenced, Fast but Imprecise, Precise but Slow.
Although we think we know what we mean when we talk about strategic thinking or judgement, we should be careful about jumping to conclusions about someone’s ability until we have seen the evidence!
"Coaching with Ben gave me a great opportunity to reflect and explore strategies, tips, and tools to improve ways of working and to work through opportunities & challenges. I really valued the focused discussion on specific areas to support my growth and development. I highly recommend working with Ben."
- Manager, National NFP
"In a challenging role in a new organisation, coaching with Paula was the ideal time to reflect, problem-solve, brainstorm options and arm me with next steps in all areas - from staffing, internal politics and relationships to tackling key initiatives. The sessions were by video and face to face, both equally effective. Using video allowed for easy integration of sessions into my busy workdays without any hassle. Paula’s style of coaching quickly built trust so I felt safe being vulnerable, quickly getting to the heart of a number of issues and propelling me and my performance forward significantly!"
- Executive GM, People and Culture
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
Jessica Hill - Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
Chris Bulmer - National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead employee and team development sessions."
Shaun Stanfield - Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet