We talk a lot about “strategy” in our day jobs. There’s certainly plenty of talk about it in the workplace. There’s a workplace strategy, a human capital strategy, an employee relations strategy, a strategy for rolling out an initiative, a change strategy, even perhaps a strategy to end someone’s employment, a negotiation strategy, and an enterprise bargaining strategy…the list goes on.

So, what is “strategy” as it relates to the workplace? Despite the constant references to “strategy”, there’s little by way of commentary on how it can be effectively applied in the workplace. In this series, we are going to do just that.

What is strategy?

Strategy is about making decisions that matter. This is true of the workplace as it is in any domain.

It might be about which roles are the best organisational fit. It might be about how best to service the HR needs of a business. It might be about how to define and improve culture. With a more narrow lens, it might be about how to manage a particular issue such as: workplace bullying; the future of an employee; or an enterprise bargaining campaign.

Classic notions of strategy come from business and the military. Business strategy typically concerns itself with answering questions of significance to the overall business. Are we in the right market? Do we need to pivot our service offering, and if so, how? There is a general acceptance that strategy is distinct from tactics and, in the view of some, a plan is not a strategy but rather a function of the strategy.

It’s easy to get distracted by definitional debate, and if we indulge in this too much, we will lose the opportunity to create the sort of practical insight that we aspire to provide here.

We cannot explore strategy without dealing with risk. More and more, those responsible for the workplace are concerned with risk due to increased regulatory demands and the perceived damage to one’s brand – both personal and business. The call for organisational moral perfection that social media now demands makes this all the more acute.

What is strategic thinking?

Strategic thinking is about problem solving in a particular domain of importance. It’s about defining the problem as a first step. The problem then needs to be analysed from different perspectives and sometimes needs to be broken down. Options are then generated and tested applying one or more frameworks or models to help generate the answer. The result is often a plan, or a series of objectives that then enable a plan to be made. It demands an eye on the “big picture” without missing key details.

How can we improve our strategic thinking?

Like most things, the more focus you give to your strategic thought process, the better your output. So the idea here is to treat strategic thought like a skill or a muscle to flex. The more attention you bring to it, the better you will be.

In this series, we will explore these themes further with insights aimed at helping you become more “strategic”.

As always, we welcome your comments which you can leave below to share your thoughts with us.