Strategic Agility as a Way Of Life

By Nira Adler

At its simplest level, strategy deals with how to manage the future — one of the oldest and most important questions humanity faces. Many religions show how we can live in the present as a way to prepare for, and manage, our future.

Strategic Agility is a key concept innovated by INSEAD Prof. Yves Doz and his co-author Mikko Kosonen, in their book Fast Strategy: How Strategic Agility Will Help You Stay Ahead of the Game (Pearson, 2008).  They describe strategy as a way of life, a way of being, for companies. They define three key elements of the ability to rapidly adapt strategy to change: Strategic sensitivity; Collective commitment; and; Resource fluidity.

strategyMy dissertation project was inspired by their outstanding approach to strategy. Furthermore, I had the honor of developing, together with Professor Doz, an online survey for assessing strategic agility capabilities in organizations. In my years of experience in working with senior management teams, I found Doz & Kosonen’s study of strategy to be one of those most strongly grounded in reality. Strategically agile organizations, according to the authors, lead the market because their day-to-day way of operating  is strategic. In other words, long-range strategies are an integral part of daily operations and adapt accordingly.

These strategic organizations don’t wait for a management off-site to make strategic decisions; their existential essence is strategic. Strategically agile organizations manage the future as a way of life. They think and plan ahead using all possible internal and external resources to expand their wisdom (“Strategic Sensitivity”). For this purpose they track unfolding trends with a high sense of alertness. As the game-makers in their industry, the companies in their study (such as IBM, SAP and others) consciously manage the “Collective Commitment” in their organizations, from the top management team cascading down to the entire organization’s internal collaborations. And to strengthen the ability to move and respond fast to changes in the market, they maintain the organization’s high capability for “Resource Fluidity” (the ability to quickly resource new opportunities).

Managing the future in this sense can be used as a formula for strategic management. At its essence it means that while no one can predict the future, the best approach is to make strategic assumptions, listen with high awareness to trends and build competency in making quick decisions to act before the competition. In short: First to imagine, first to move.