We are often told to be more strategic; however, what does that even mean? Telling us to think about bigger picture is certainly not helpful; we want tangible advice.

Strategic thinking has many definitions but one of them states it is a process that defines the manner in which people think about, assess, view and create the future. You may be asking yourself “so what?”

Strategic thinking is important because it allows a person to recognise opportunities and take advantage of them at a quicker rate. We all have different degrees of strategic thinking that come naturally to us.

Despite the fact that there are hundreds of resources with different ways to become more strategic – our experience has shown that people very seldom “become” more strategic.

Leadership often displays concern over certain individuals, saying “I need them to be more strategic”. But ask yourself – have you seen anyone just become more strategic? There are, of course, people who are able to think strategically but, due to being in an operational role, believe strategic thinking is not required of them.

It is obviously important to give people a chance to develop and provide them with the necessary support but, what we stress is that, if after a year there is no change, recognise and admit that the individual is not going to be more strategic.

Some individuals are naturally more strategic than others, and this is fine. There is a place for everyone in an organisation. Often, people who are highly strategic struggle to be operational. If the entire organisation were strategic, who would execute on the strategy?

It is a fallacy to say that being strategic is superior to being operational.

What leadership needs to do is:

  1. Make an honest assessment:
  1. What roles do I need to drive the transformation or growth that the business requires?
  2. Do I have all the right roles defined?
  3. Do I have the right people in them?
  1. Then, decide if you are going to act:
    1. If your desired outcome is to grow the business, then you need to get the right people in the right jobs and address the people who are not meeting the requirements.
    2. If your desired outcome is to help people keep their jobs, you can move them to different roles and free up strategic roles to be filled by more strategically inclined people.

Ensure that there is alignment between people’s skills, abilities and aspirations, and the requirements and expected outputs of each role.


Azzarello, P. (2015). People Just Don’t Become More Strategic. Talent Management & HR. Retrieved from https://www.tlnt.com/people-just-dont-become-more-strategic/

Bowman, N. (2016). 4 Ways to Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/12/4-ways-to-improve-your-strategic-thinking-skills

Ebersole, G. (2017). Strategic Thinking: 11 Critical Skills Needed. Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.cssp.com/CD0808b/CriticalStrategicThinkingSkills/

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