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Are You A Strategic Thinker?

Have ever been told you are not a strategic thinker? Is strategic thinking a competency required for your next career step? Are you wanting to align your team’s activities to organisational goals? Are you wanting long-term business or career success? Then it’s probably in your interests to understand how to have, what I call, ‘strategical savvy’.

Although there are a range of models for use in strategic planning, being strategically savvy is more about strategic thinking and conversations. A difficulty with strategic thinking is a lack of consensus of what it actually is. There does seem to be general agreement amongst researchers that:
· Strategic thinking is more important than ever in our increasingly interdependent and global world
· Strategic thinking improves operational decisions and planning
· Strategic thinking involves creative thinking
· Strategic thinking involves systems thinking
· Most people are not strategic thinkers, even if their position title indicates they are, or they think they are.

It’s probably pretty safe to say that strategic thinking in a planning context involves creating a vision and developing a plan to get to the vision. While this may be relevant for high level executives and strategic planners it is not highly useful for professionals and operational managers within organisations. They need a different model because they are rarely responsible for developing the vision or strategic plan, but are often required to contribute to it, comment on initiatives and policies being developed by others, implement strategy they have not been involved in creating or devise policies or processes that have strategic fit. Most of these involve some level of interaction or relationship with strategic thinkers and planners.

When strategic issues are being discussed it easy for operational or professional experts to quickly judge ideas from an implementation perspective. Often these people can quickly and accurately judge operational impacts of strategic ideas but their questions and comments frustrate the strategists who can perceive them as negative and too low level. ‘Strategical savvy’ is about asking the right questions at the right time in order to understand where strategic ideas are coming from and to indicate to others that you have heard and understood the strategic implications before considering the operational impacts. Handling these conversations effectively can avoid others perceiving you as ‘not strategic’.

Just as strategic thinking can be learnt, so can ‘strategical savvy’. Even highly detailed and operational experts can learn to relate to strategic ideas and concepts in ways that allow them to contribute from their area of expertise and still present themselves to others as positive and strategic.

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