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Selection Criteria – how to respond to “Contribute to strategic thinking”

Contribute to Strategic ThinkingAustralian Public Service and many state government position have the selection criterion, “Contribute to strategic thinking” or something very similar.

Wikipedia quotes David Hussey, “There is no generally accepted definition for strategic thinking, no common agreement as to its role or importance, and no standardised list of key competencies of strategic thinkers.”

This is not very helpful to us.

For most public servants it does not mean that you have to initiate, write or amend strategies. Specialist people do that. It usually means you have to accept and follow the strategies that your business or agency sets down.

An agency has a strategic goal – an overarching principle that guides decision-making. They also have objectives – more specific and measurable steps to reach that goal. They also have different strategies to meet each of those objectives. Action plans arise from these strategies. It is these strategies that you must follow in all your actions.
Following the strategies is “contributing” to them, for most employees.


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To respond to this criterion you have to give an example of something you did, (a task, a project, an exercise) where you contributed to the strategy and objective and eventually the goal. In fact almost every duty you perform should make a contribution. What you did and the way you did it is probably specified in some procedural manual, set of instructions or guidelines that were formulated on the strategies.

For some jobs this criterion has a wider meaning.
It could require you to show that you were aware of the bigger picture not just your small part of the process; to see how it fits in with other strategies that have the same goal and to contribute to them and not to oppose or disrupt them.

In other criteria it might ask you to consider bigger questions about the future; what will be our future challenges, what change will be necessary, what training will be required, will we be ready for that change, why are we holding on to these practices, what are the better evidence-based practices?
Providing advice to higher authorities on such matters will be contributing to the strategic thinking.

In general, strategic thinking involves:

• Having an awareness of the implications of issues for own work and work area
• Thinking about the future and the longer-term implications of own work
• Considering and advising on future requirements and how to meet anticipated needs
• Anticipating problems and identifying solutions
• Identifying trends in your area, technical, political and social issues and using these to contribute to the development of strategies
• Being innovative, proactive, thinking laterally and suggesting better ways of doing things

Your response is a description of some action you took, in the usual Situation, Action and Result format (or STAR format) and it should make it clear that you understood how your task fitted into the overall strategies and your actions were deliberately in accordance with them. The actions you took must be clearly described and in the result you state that not only did your actions result in the task being completed successfully, but also, that it contributed to the strategic plan and to the attainment of the overall objective.


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By Lloyd White