As pressure mounts on organizations to develop and implement socially responsible and inclusive policies, demand is growing for business professionals with a strategic mindset that enables them to identify and analyze problems and develop sustainable solutions to them.
That escalating emphasis on sustainability, KPMG notes, is driven by the simultaneous disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the emergence of social issues such as equity in culturally diverse workplaces and the rising demand to implement climate change imperatives.
Those challenges combined propelled Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting to the forefront of organizations’ regulatory and strategic planning.
“This means that investments have to be repurposed towards something more meaningful than straight returns. Increasingly, institutional as well as individual investors are throwing their weight behind [ESG] — becoming the main drivers for change in financial markets,” it reports.
Meeting the increasing challenges ESG has on investor confidence, market competitiveness and supply-chain visibility requires organizational leaders and managers who can develop policies today that consider the social impact they will have in the future.
What Is a Strategic Mindset?
Harvard Business School (HBS) identifies four skills that enable business professionals to think critically about the team, process and organizational challenges; ideate sustainable, socially responsible and inclusive strategies to overcome them; and articulate methods to implement them. The skills are:
- Analytics: Collecting, organizing and understanding financial, KPI and market data; recognizing market and societal forces as they emerge; and resource allocation and investment are crucial to identifying trends that inform effective long-range planning.
- Problem-solving: Results of the analytics enable the strategic problem-solver to look beyond the problem itself — whether reviewing missed financial targets, inefficient internal processes or new competitors in the market — to discover the root causes and develop a plan to solve them.
- Communication: Implementing a strategic, analytics-driven plan to solve the underlying causes of a problem requires proficiency in explaining complex ideas, collaborating with stakeholders and ensuring alignment on shared goals that support the strategy.
- Planning and management: Implementing a strategy designed to achieve long-range, socially responsible decision-making or ensure workplace equity requires management skills that reduce stress, create energy and support productivity through greater engagement.
“The advantage of having a strategic mindset is learning how to think rather than what to think. Although you might not always have the right answers, strategic thinking skills can empower you to spot new opportunities, address emerging challenges, and plan for future success,” according to HBS.
How Does Strategic Problem-Solving Support Socially Responsible Decision-Making?
An international management education organization, ASQ, defines corporate social responsibility as a business’ recognition of the impact it has on society, the culture and the environment and emphasizes ethical planning to address those issues with sensitivity.
It notes that while financial results, investor confidence and market position continue to drive the private sector, integrating forward-looking, socially responsible decision-making — as reflected in ESG reporting — is now crucial to an organization’s ability to compete successfully.
“Smart business decisions are not just a matter of counting short-term dollars and cents. Wise decision makers consider the future impact of today’s choices on people, on the community, and on customers and their opinions,” ASQ states.
How Are Strategic Problem-Solving Skills Developed and Strengthened?
A Master of Business Administration, Management Specialization, such as the online program offered by La Salle University, prepares students for success by enabling them to understand human resource and organizational management, including strategy and planning.
La Salle’s online program is a part of its internationally recognized School of Business, accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The curriculum supports the development of problem-solving skills through courses in business analytics for decision-making and explorations of ethical and global challenges in managerial accounting topics.
An advanced business degree with a management focus can help professionals learn to consider ESG while making consumer-driven business decisions.