Strategic management skills refer to the set of skills necessary to visualize and plan for a company's future. These skills are critical to the growth and development of a company, particularly in periods of transition or uncertainty. The term encompasses a broad range of skills that may vary slightly based on industry and geography. Core skills, however, include analysis, visualization, planning and leadership. It is also important for strategic management professionals to be objective and to have strong critical thinking skills.
Outstanding strategic managers have the unique ability to see not only the big picture and the details, but also to understand how all of the details work together to create the big picture. This allows them to alter the details in such a way as to create the particular big picture they want. This correlation between detail and pattern is at the heart of important strategic management skills.
Analysis also is one of the most critical strategic management skills. Good strategy requires the ability to accurately assess existing conditions honestly and objectively. This includes analyzing the company's current place in the market, its capabilities, the strengths and weaknesses of competitors, the opinions buyers hold of the company and the abilities of the people working for the company. It also includes evaluating market trends and buyer habits to determine what the marketplace is likely to look like in the future.
Visualization is the ability to look at the analysis results and determine all the things the company could do and all the ways the company's future could look. Combining the strategic management skills of analysis and visualization results in an ability not only to see the options, but also to determine which is right for the company based on its goals and opportunities. This allows the strategist to set a specific goal or set of goals.
Planning is the skill that allows a strategist to figure out how to get to the goal she has set. It involves figuring out what labor and capital needs will arise, what changes in process and procedure are necessary and what each labor unit needs to do to move the company forward. This stage of strategy often results in a written plan that can be shared with stakeholders.
Leadership is often overlooked when discussing important strategic management skills. Leadership allows the strategist to think about how she will communicate the company's vision, goals and plans to employees, vendors and customers. This strength allows her to take into account people's natural fear of change and find ways to motivate stakeholders to buy in to the corporate strategy.
How To Improve Strategic Management Skills
Strategic management at its core is a combination of analysis, visualization, planning, and leadership skills. This means that improving strategic management abilities first requires having a solid foundation in these core skills. Once the basics are developed, consider each skill, evaluate current deficiencies, and then choose a single skill to focus upon and improve at a time.
Objectivity, specifically the ability to assess and consider opposing views, is an invaluable analytical skill to develop. Lacking objectivity in strategic management can lead to bias in decisions, which may lead to poor recommendations or missed opportunities for the company. Consider instances in the past when an opposing view might have been discounted or ignored, create a framework that would have allowed for less bias to be applied in the situation, and then begin applying that framework to future situations.
The ability to improve visualization largely depends on the strength of an individual's analytical skills and the ability to understand the results of assessments and evaluations. Visualization in many ways requires creativity to be applied to the objective results gathered through analysis, which is what allows for effective goal-setting and company forecasting. Developing greater visualization skills calls for having well-researched and innovative answers to questions such as:
- Based on the analysis, what goals serve the company in the short and long term?
- What current opportunities are available to the company that could support these goals?
- What future opportunities could be created as a result of accomplishing these goals?
- Do the chosen goals and opportunities show alignment with the company's long-term vision?
Consider what is needed to answer these questions thoroughly as part of strategic management. Also, learn to create more possible options through deeper correlation and fusion of analytical data. Over time, visualization skills are likely to improve along with analytical skills, which allows for making more accurate forecasts for the company.
Planning skills are dependent on holding an accurate big-picture view. This equates to the ability to understand the company, its current situation, the trends and shifts in its market, the available resources, insights gathered from data analysis, and the reasons behind why the current decision being made is necessary. Honing the ability to quickly assess and gather the necessary information to understand these aspects improves planning skills and the effectiveness of those plans.
Committing to a continuous learning practice as a leader is an effective way to improve leadership skills. What an individual learns at a leadership development or management course can not only inform her leadership decisions but also prepare her for future challenges. A leader committed to learning can also master varying her leadership style when necessary to encourage followers and more effectively achieve company goals. Adjusting management techniques to suit individual team members boosts productivity and motivation for the whole team.
Is Capacity Building an Organizational or Strategic Management Skill?
Capacity building refers to a company's specific efforts to develop its management, systems and processes to intentionally improve its performance and mission accomplishment. While organizational management is involved in all aspects of capacity building, strategic management also has a pivotal role in company planning and facilitating its growth and development during a transition. This makes capacity building a kind of organizational management as well as a strategic management skill.
Strategic management focuses on resource allocation and its alignment with the company mission to ensure that goals are continuing to be achieved. During a transition, such as with capacity building, the application of strategic management is important in ensuring the company's future. The skills encompassed in strategic management keep the company moving forward while the organization is being restructured.