Strategy is probably one of the most important things a consultant has to learn on the job. Each firm is slightly different in their approach but the overall aim is the same – have a great strategy and the project will be great.
But getting a strategic mindset requires time and practice. Get ahead of the game and start to learn some strategic thinking before that interview. Read one of these articles/watch one of these videos each day and within a month you’ll go from novice to pro!
1) Firstly, let’s start with this good animated video on how to create a strategic business plan. Focuses on three questions to ask when creating the plan. Consultants often need to give this sort of advice to help the company realise it’s vision.
2) http://www.britishcouncil.org/professionals-work-strategic-thinking-1.htm The British Council offers this little tutorial on what strategic thinking is. As a government organisation they are used to using strategic planning all the time so useful advice to heed.
3) http://blogs.hbr.org/2007/04/how-to-think-strategically-1/ The Harvard Business Review gives a rundown on different ways in which to expand your strategic thinking
4) http://www.wobi.com/blog/strategic-thinking/six-key-elements-strategic-thinking Wondering what the key skills are to train your brain to be strategic? Well here they are!
5) http://www.effectivegovernance.com.au/what-is-strategic-thinking/ A really great forum post here about how to be a good strategic thinker. Includes a table outlining the differences between a strategic and non-strategic thinker and the Wootton and Horne 3 strategic activities
6) http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newSTR_91.htm Aspiring to be a McKinsey consultant? This article explains the 7S Framework used by McKinsey to address problems.
7) http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/strategy/thinking_strategically McKinsey’s own detailed article here on thinking strategically is obviously a must read. It’s mainly a run down of how strategic thinking has developed over the years but all of this should be understood to gain a better understanding of how strategic thinking is developing.
8) http://www.inc.com/paul-schoemaker/6-habits-of-strategic-thinkers.html Are you a strategic leader rather than a lackey? 6 habits of strategic leaders. Includes a video
9) http://www.bia.ca/articles/TheRoleofStrategicThinkinginBusinessPlanning.htm A good article including a flow chart of a strategic planning model, explaining the role that strategic thinking plays in business.
10) http://www.tdan.com/view-articles/5018 Written by a consultant, this excellent list shows how projects work and the fact that ‘the soft skills are the hard skills’ a lot of the time.
11) http://www.experience-on-demand.com/downloads/How_to_Be_a_Strategic_Thinker.pdf A pdf version of an extensive powerpoint presentation on being a strategic thinker. A definite good thing to read through as includes useful flow charts and bullet point questions to show you how to think like a strategist.
12) Rich Howarth, CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute, gives an 10 minute presentation at a conference on how to develop your strategic thinking skills. He has worked with some of the largest companies in the US so he knows his stuff…!
13) Here is an interview with Rich Howarth too!
14) http://smallbusiness.chron.com/strategic-management-needed-61313.html This article succinctly explains why strategic management is needed – that’s where consultants come in!
15) http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2012/12/05/the-best-strategic-thinkers-5-sure-characteristics/ Five characteristics of great strategic thinkers – make sure you fit this model!
16) http://smallbusiness.chron.com/definition-successful-strategic-business-plan-2717.html A quick rundown of what a successful business plan should include
17) http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/02/develop-strategic-thinkers-throughout-your-organization/ Harvard Business Review article explaining how to develop strategic thinkers within an organisation – again advice that a consultant would probably give on a project.
18) http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/strengthen-your-strategic-thinking-muscles/ Another Harvard Business Review short article on how to strengthen those strategic thinking muscles!
19) http://www.fastcompany.com/3026646/leadership-now/nine-ways-to-share-your-strategic-thinking-skills-with-your-team CEOs often have trouble implementing their strategic plans, or making them clear to their team. Here is a list of nine improvement suggestions that a consultant would typically make.
20) http://www.skillsyouneed.com/lead/strategic-thinking.html Seeking to demystify the art of strategic thinking by explaining how to make a causal diagram and follow the logical progression of a project.
21) http://www.forbes.com/2010/11/09/strategic-thinking-innovation-creativity-leadership-managing-rein.html A short Forbes article on how to improve strategic thinking
22) http://www.ppssuccess.com/PPSMentoringServices/MentorArticles/MentorFullArticleDisplayPage/tabid/521/smid/2512/ArticleID/72/reftab/520/Default.aspx This page goes through how to conduct SWOT analysis in order to understand where a business is at and to develop a business strategy from the results.
23) http://www.evancarmichael.com/Business-Coach/223/Strategic-Actions-For-Learning-How-To-Think-Strategically-According-To-Your-Strategic-Thinking-Business-Coach.html A good set of steps on putting strategic thought into action – transcript along with video.
24) http://www.strategyskills.com/Articles_Samples/What_is_Strategic_Thinking.pdf A pdf on strategic thinking and a useful set of pitfalls to avoid
25) http://www.ceffect.com/blog/strategic-thinking/five-elements-of-thinking-strategically/ A really good set of five elements of strategic thinking that are essential to think about
26) http://humanresources.about.com/od/strategicplanning1/a/implement_plan.htm There are a selection of articles on Strategic planning on about.com and here is one on how to implement a strategy across a business
27) http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/strategy/becoming_more_strategic_three_tips_for_any_executive An excellent article from McKinsey again on how executives can think more strategically.
28) http://simplysuccessful-llc.com/think-strategically-and-act-tactically A really useful detailed tutorial here on how to develop strategic thinking. Includes plenty of models and diagrams to visually represent the thought process
29) http://www.intelligenthq.com/resources/50-models-for-strategic-thinking-or-how-to-start-think-strategically-on-a-daily-basis/ An interesting list here of the blog writer’s top four strategy models. It is in reference to the book ‘The Decision Book: 50 models on strategic thinking’ by M. Krogerus and R. Tschappeler
30) Finally this is a short clip from the Capture Your Flag series on Youtube – an excellent channel which gives inspirational messages via interviews with people at the top of their professions. Here, consultant Audrey Parker says that being a listener rather than a talker is a much better strategy for being a consultant.
If you’re looking for a book to supplement this list, take a look at
– Thinking Strategically, the Pocket Mentor guide from the Harvard Business School Press (2010) – the HBS is always a good source of business info and developments
– Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics and Everyday Life by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff (1993) – voted into the Top Ten Financial Times Bestsellers list. It is more of a guide in how to beat rivals but businesses obviously have to understand these tenets to outdo their competitors
– The Boston Consulting Group on Strategy: Classic concepts and New Perspectives (2006) – BCG has been at the top of its game for 40 years and this new edition of their strategic techniques brings together new ideas, insights and lessons. It is set out in the form of articles that were published in the Harvard Business Review or for clients so can be quite dense and challenging but is meant to expand your knowledge.
– The McKinsey Mind: Understanding and Implementing the Problem-Solving Tools and Management Techniques of the World’s Top Strategic Consulting Firm by Ethan Raisel and Paul Friga (2001) – This book is part of a trilogy of books printed by McKinsey that outline the way in which consultants work within their company. With real-life examples of strategic thinking in action within a consulting company, this is a definite must read!
– Be Your Own Strategy Consultant: Demystifying Strategic Thinking by Tony Grundy and Laura Brown (2001) – recommended for MBA courses, aimed at company chiefs trying to use strategic thinking for their businesses without having to use outside management consultants…but as an aspiring consultant you can take all the tips for the advice you would give on your projects!