For Assistants, it has become more apparent that the way forward in our profession is to work as a strategic business partner with our Executive. We have written about this a lot over here on Practically Perfect PA and something I have advocated for many years. The role of the Assistant isn’t going anywhere, despite the developments in AI, but it is changing and will continue to change at a rapid pace. The changes have mostly come in the way that we work and the skills we have developed and must continue to grow. We are much more aligned with our organisation’s goals, and our work adds to the bottom-line. What does all this mean practically? Well, we should work more strategically and make decisions based on the strategy of the organisation. But, strategy is such an overarching word and means different things to different people, so how do we get to grips with our organisation’s strategy and think more strategically.

Getting to grips with your organisation’s strategy

There are a lot of resources available to Assistants on how to think and work as a strategic business partner, and I would push you in the direction of Melba Duncan and her work on this topic, starting with her incredible and ground-breaking article in the Harvard Business Review – The Case for the Executive Assistant. I have written and presented before on how you begin to think about strategy and being strategic with two articles I’d like to bring to your attention, The Road to Strategic Thinking and Developing business acumen on a shoestring budget.

Understanding your organisation’s strategy 

There will be a lot of documents that you can read to help you understand your organisation’s strategy. They should be on your intranet or knowledge database but if not, ask your Executive for a copy (or look through their emails). For starters, try to read the following:

  • Vision / Mission statements
  • Growth strategies
  • Goals and objectives
  • Executive summaries
  • SWOT analysis
  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Customer profiles
  • Industry analysis
  • Marketing plans
  • Organisational charts and structures

Try also to gain an understanding of how your organisation makes money, and as an Assistant, you have access to a lot of information that will show you how your organisation makes money.

Understanding your organisation’s financials 

I always say that Assistants should read everything that passes their desk, but specifically, you should read:

  • Financial Statements (the Annual Report is generally made available to staff). What do the leaders say is vital to your business? What metrics do they use to measure success? Where does the company make and spend money?
  • Client proposals
  • Project charters (that your Executive is involved in)
  • Internal newsletters and updates
  • The Organisation’s website – specifically the press releases, company structure and value statements.

Once you start to understand how your organisation makes money, you will begin to know how your business fits into the overall industry and the bigger picture.

Getting to the top of the industry will be the ultimate strategy for your organisation, so it is essential to understand how they plan to do that and if they are already at the top, how they plan to stay there!

Improving your strategic thinking

Along with understanding the business that you work in, Assistants need to think more strategically and make decision-based on the organisation’s strategy. How do you go about doing this? Like your Executive, you have to have the time to think strategically. For Assistants, it is so standard that we dive into work, get things done and shift through tons of work. We are the go-to person. When you need to think strategically, you need to slow down, find the time and think through your options. Here are just a few resources that can help you to think more strategically:

Four ways to improve your strategic thinking

The Manager’s Guide to Understanding Strategy: Getting Started

How to Master Strategic Thinking 

Starting out as a New Assistant

The eBook is designed to help you navigate the first few months of your new role. Here you will find everything you need for the initial first meeting with your Executive. You will also find articles on how to navigate the tricky world of working with the Executive Team, building rapport with your new Executive and advice on how you can work effectively with a boss who has never had an Assistant before. Download the free eBook now.

What is business acumen and how do you get it?

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