BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 3: Strategic thinking

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:

  • identify and assess multiple external factors,
  • evaluate options and risks, and
  • solve complex financial challenges, both on behalf of clients and for the business.

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:

Strategic Judgement = the tendency to have a balance of traits necessary to discern pertinent information and formulate an effective strategy.

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!

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One thought on “Critical skill shortage 3: Strategic thinking

  1. Jo Muirhead

    Great Article Susan, thank you – I have enjoyed your ability to bring a complex set of activities into a simple and thoughtful skills set .

    Regards

    Jo

    Reply

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