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Careers in Strategic Planning
Skill Requirements

Most strategic planners are analytically strong and good with people. There is a broad range of skills required.

Core Required Skills:

Communication Skills Very High
Flexible and Adaptable Very High
Energy Level High
Ability to Synthesize Very High
Work Ethic High
Honesty and Integrity High
Initiative High
Business Judgement High
Self Confidence Very High
Analytical Skills Exceptional
Leadership Ability Very High
Decisiveness Very High
Listening Skills Very High
Research Skills Very High
Writing Ability High
Problem Solving Ability Very High

People, Numbers, and Computers.
Over half of the work in a strategy position is with people either in the form of internal or external clients, teams, and customers. The rest of the time you may be conducting market or competitor research, analyzing data, and building financial models. If you are one of those folks that enjoys variety this is the field for you.

Love to Solve the Puzzle.
You need to demonstrate dedication. And you especially need to be willing to solve the puzzle in a timely manner. Businesses frequently have serious issues that must be faced in a timely manner in order to compete. Therefore, you have to be able to do what ever it takes by real deadlines in order to help managers do their jobs.

Ability to See the Big Picture.
One of the most important skills or abilities needed in a strategic function is to see how decisions and choices affect the long-term viability and the overall effectiveness of the organization. You need to understand the big picture and vision. If you cannot do this you will not be successful in this job.

Willing to Let Others Take the Bows.
Because both strategic planners and strategic consultants serve as advisors in a support role, they usually do not have decision authority either to make or execute strategic choices. Thus these folks require some humility and must be willing to slip into the background. They need to be able to let others take credit for their ideas in order to see them embraced and executed. If you are seen as a threat by the manager that you are helping you will not be effective in your role.

Not only do people in a strategic role need to see the big picture, they must understand the world from multiple functional perspectives. In order to solve strategic problems and effectively pursue strategic opportunities you must understand how each function contributes to the grand plan.

Persuasion and More Persuasion.
Strategic staffers and strategic consultants must spend time convincing strategic managers and other managers in the organization to adopt their ideas. They do not have decision authority to execute their ideas, so they must be able to sell their ideas to others in the organization who can implement those ideas.

Listening and More Listening.
While strategic planners, managers, and consultants sell solutions they must also be able to get to the root problem. Their solutions will only be as good as their understanding of the underlying causes of the problem. Their research efforts will not be complete if they just rely on financial and annual reports. They need to be able to listen to what clients, employees in the firm, and customers are telling them.

Further Information

  • Soft information will be as important if not more important than hard information.
  • Different skills are required by strategic planners, managers, and consultants depending upon the role they are asked to play in the organization.
  • Strategic planners are internal advisors while strategic consultants are external advisors. As advisors their roles are fairly unique relative to other managerial career. Only strategic managers have the authority to make and execute strategic decisions.
  • Strategic Planner -- must be comfortable with numbers, but not obsessed with them, creative, good synthesis and integration skills, excellent communication skills, excellent political savvy, able to dialogue with people from all ranks in the organization.
  • Strategic Manager -- excellent leadership skills, ability to see the big picture, a visionary, ability to see how the parts relate to each other and the big picture, ability to sell the vision.
  • Strategic Consultant -- positive self-image, excellent communication skills--especially presentation skills, ability to work in teams, strong professional interests, independent, and self-motivated, enjoy variety and new challenges, ability to stick with a problem until it is solved, good analysis and computer skills, and humility.

"Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.

Salvador Dali

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