How to Work in Strategy

Most officers are experienced in strategy, but how can you turn this into a corporate career?

We recently ran a webinar with Rachel De Renzy Channer, a former Army officer who helped to transform the corporate strategy of a FTSE 250 company. Rachel shared career advice, industry knowledge and her personal experiences.

What is a strategist?
A strategic planner helps a company to become more efficient, effective and competitive. It can be a highly rewarding role, where you can have real impact in an organisation.

Strategists work with all levels of management – from sales assistants to CEOs – to gain a complete understanding of the company. They also scrutinise corporate policies and procedures; business plans; financial forecasts; market analysis and supply chains.

The role
Being a strategist involves the following:

  • Identifying an organisation’s purpose
  • Analysing how an organisation operates to achieve this purpose
  • Making recommendations on how to increase growth and profitability
  • Implementing the new strategy and gaining buy-in from staff
  • Reviewing the strategy outcomes and suggesting further improvements.

Developing solutions
A strategic planner improves company performance, by focusing on the following areas:

  • Understanding the business – value proposition, market analysis and financial targets
  • Business operations – linking the costs to corporate priorities
  • Investment options – decide how much cash investment is needed to achieve targets
  • Coordination with finance – all plans to be properly costed by the finance department.

Challenges
Introducing major change to a company will always be challenging. In addition to the logistical issues, colleagues can be reluctant to change their way of working. Involve staff at every part of the strategy process so they understand its value, and are invested in its success.

Financial pressures will also be a factor, because every team wants to increase their budget despite there being a finite amount of capital. Reduce the issue, and make sure the budget process comes before planning, so everything agreed is already costed.

Why officers make good strategists
Officers make important decisions everyday so they can be good strategic planners.

Here are the specific transferable skills:

  • Adaptable
  • Communication – written and verbal
  • Coordination
  • Detailed planning
  • IT literate
  • High level thinking
  • Managing change
  • Project management
  • Resilient
  • Risk management
  • Stakeholder management
  • Task focused.

How to become a strong candidate
Despite the skills gained in the military, many officers have the following gaps:

  • Knowledge of finance
  • Navigating corporate politics
  • Understanding business drivers
  • Understanding and using ‘business language’
  • Understanding City and shareholder perspectives
  • Influencing skills.

You can improve your skillset by studying. There are many business management books and free online resources. You can also complete training courses or even an MBA. Alternatively, gain experience through an internship.

Where to apply
Many large companies employ strategic planners. Organisations involved in infrastructure are especially strategy focused, because they have complex arrangements with many stakeholders.

Get job ready
For more information on becoming a strategic planner, book a free career consultation and register with the OA.

Watch the webinar
You can watch the full webinar below for free.