Last week I was invited by a friend to be part of an interview panel for a position of general manager. He told me one of the key requirements of the person he was looking for is a strategic thinker with good administrative skills. The phrase that caught my attention is ‘strategic thinker.’

The word strategy has become very common in the business world that hardly any business discussion ends without it being mentioned a couple of times.

So, what is strategic thinking and why does it matter in business success?

Basically, we are all faced with complex problems, situations, dilemmas and a need to make decisions that have great impact not only today but in future. This happens whether you are a manager, business owner or an employee.

The major challenge is mainly due to the fact that we lack adequate information about not only the future, but also what is happening around us. We are affected and influenced by things that happen outside our organisation, environment and the world at large.

Strategic thinking essentially helps you to overcome those limitations by analysing situations and anticipating what is likely to happen, and planning appropriately. In other words, it is about analysing situations to get a better glimpse of opportunities and threats.

A strategic thinker should be able to understand the position of their organisation from a broad perspective and understand the potential impact their actions might have on future prospects.

When you think strategically, you don’t make decisions based on present pressures or demands. You logically anticipate the future and prepare for it. You ask questions and challenge assumptions that guide how things are done in your organisation and industry at large and test new models.

Every few years most of the products in the market become obsolete and are replaced by new ones. Remarkably, the human needs and problems that those products address remain the same. However, the products will need to be presented and marketed in a different way to address the same problem.

The need for transport, hotel bookings, shopping for various items has always been there. However, in recent years customers have been consuming them in different packages. Technology has brought about new experiences and ways of engaging with customers, thus conservative players had to shape up or ship out.

As an employee you have to think strategically as well. You may be sitting on a job that will not be there in the next few years, yet you are dreaming of retiring in ten or so years.

The chief role of a strategic manager is to ensure all resources, activities and resources are aligned in a way that caters for a sustainable future.

A strategic thinker must have certain traits. They include curiosity, consistency, openness and focus.

You must be curious about what is happening around you and be consistent in your search for answers. You must be open to new ideas and ways of doing things from different quarters. Finally, you must be focused on your business vision and mission.

This article was first published in The Business Daily on January 14, 2020.

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