What Can a Strategic Thinker Bring to a Construction, Engineering or Environmental Firm?

What is a Strategic Thinker?

A strategic thinker is someone who possess a distinct set of skills that can keep a company moving forward in growth. They can anticipate, think critically, interpret, decide, align, and learn. But what does this mean? Strategic thinkers can anticipate the needs of the company and problem solve and getting to the bottom of a situation by analyzing every aspect of it. They can interpret the meaning behind data pertaining to their success as well as make executive decisions that will steer them even closer to success. Furthermore, they can get everyone on the same page by presenting the facts and keeping those around them informed and at ease.

The Importance of a Strategic Thinker

Having at least one strategic thinker on every work team is essential for the smoothest running job sites. As the name implies, strategic thinkers can take in the information around them and turn it into a detailed plan, addressing the needs of the company in every way possible. Engineers and construction workers who have the ability to think critically possess one of the most valuable traits of a strategic thinker. In fact, it is difficult to even become an engineer without being a strategic thinker. Most people are only able to assess a situation at face-value while someone who can think critically is able to run through the what-if scenarios, thus addressing problems with the best fitting solution. Strategic thinking engineers are able to more effectively troubleshoot their equipment and come up with new, more efficient ways for their company to run. They do this by being able to interpret data from past experiences and scenarios and learning from past resolutions, combined with anticipating the current and future needs of the company.

Strategic thinkers do very well in management positions. With their critical thinking and anticipation qualities, they can discern with stunning accuracy how well an interview candidate will perform for the company. Their ability to make decisions is unparalleled. A project manager at a construction site who possesses the ability to mentally weigh the pros and cons of every potential outcome, is an asset any construction company would love to have. They can make educated, informed decisions about potential employees or project proposals. A construction site manager who is a strategic thinker will be able to deduce any potential problems with a blueprint or budget spreadsheet and deduce the best way to solve those specific problems. The construction site manager will then be able to address his concerns and solutions with the company, customers, and his own coworkers and employees to ensure everything runs smoothly with everyone on the same page.

Identifying a Strategic Thinker in a Job Interview

I am sure by now you are thinking, “Where can I find one of these people?” Using a few specific tools in your interviewing process can be crucial in identifying the strategic thinkers from the “looks good on paper” employees.

First, you can give each candidate a problem to solve. Describe the problem to the potential employee and give them a few minutes to think about it. For example, you ask an environmental engineer how they would correct an excessive amount of waste at the local landfill. Ask them to describe the steps they would take to solve the problem. If they are a strategic thinker they should have compiled a list of potential problems and a strategic plan, are looking forward to future company forecasts and identifying outside economic or environmental factors, and are figuring out how to consult with company stakeholders or customers. You are looking for an omission of any of these steps such as not addressing how customers may perceive this solution. For example, if their solution is greatly increasing the cost of garbage services, they may not be thinking of the customer. Also, be on the lookout for a solution that does not have enough strategic focus. They may state that merely hiring more landfill employees to attempt to get the situation under control is all it would take, neglecting the fact that it will then cost more money to pay new workers which could increase the cost to the customer and reduce profit for the stakeholders.

Ask them questions and pay attention to the questions they ask you. A true strategic thinker will be excited about the potential of a strategic challenge and will ask many questions regarding it. The environmental engineer will want to know how long the landfill problem has been prevailing, if it has ever happened in the past, and if it is projected to continue to worsen. Finally, if you are still not sure, consider presenting them a flawed solution to a company problem and see how they strategically alter it to be more profitable. Present to your potential construction site managers a project site that has been rezoned and no longer matches the initial building plan. They will weigh the changes needed to be made by thinking about costs to customers and company, as well as any environmental impacts. With enough questioning, a strategic thinker will all but identify themselves. Remember, how they respond to your specific questions is how they will respond to situations in the work environment.

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