Strategic Thinking Skills For Accountants

As an investment in your long-term career prospects there are some soft skills that an excellent long-term investment – developing your strategic thinking skills is certainly one of them. Being able to see the big picture and think more widely and holistically is a key way to be recognised and promoted to more senior roles – whether now or in the years to come.

What is strategic thinking?

Strategy is about making choices. Choices that have long-lasting consequences. Strategic decision set the direction – and often there is no right strategic choice. Strategic thinking is a particular way of looking at things that transcends your finance role and all your technical training. Instead of the certainties of finance there are the uncertainties of strategic choice. Instead of being down in the weeds and working on a tactical level, working on a strategic level requires you to bring your mind, thinking and perspective to the long term and to the wider view.

What does your Chief Executive want from you?

Typically your Chief Executive is tasked with developing new strategy or reviewing the existing one. To do so they need a team with different ideas and perspectives on the options. As a finance professional you have a uniquely valuable perspective to offer with analytical skills that can be highly valued.

Your CEO may be looking for a thinking partner – someone to bounce ideas around with. Someone who can think strategically and have a meaningful dialogue with but who can then translate that into the practicalities of financial options and choices.

You need to develop the special ability to translate their ideas (and flights of fancy!) into financial language and workable financial models. To assess risk and play back different scenarios so that the senior team can make sound strategic choices and develop an robust strategic plan.

Being Proactive

You also need to be proactive. You will see some things that have a strategic impact before your colleagues. You need to go beyond supporting the CEO or other senior colleagues and see what they can’t, to make suggestions for achieving strategic objectives and suggesting future long term options that are not yet on the table.

Making strategic choices

Your unique perspective gives you a valuable voice in the strategic debate – the financial perspective needs to be heard and assessed when making strategic choices – and you need to make your voice heard in order to make that impact. Developing your strategic thinking skills means that you are involved in the debate from the outset, rather than being brought in to the debate at the end – and maybe presented with a fait accompli.

How will you develop your strategic thinking skills?

What strategic projects could you get involved with now?

What projects could you initiate?

How do your non-finance colleagues discuss strategy – and how to do need to engage with them to meet the strategic thinking needs of the business?