The Building Blocks of Strategic Agility

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To become strategically agile on all three levels, there are four essential building blocks.

  • External focus
  • Unifying leadership
  • Flexible people and culture
  • Flexible processes and IT

External focus

Increase your external focus by continuously monitoring your environment and by gathering insights. This enables you to identify trends, developments, opportunities and threats in time. This makes you more ‘strategically alert’.

To become more alert, you can use well-known methods like market research and trend watching. But it is equally important to work closely with customers, suppliers, stakeholders, knowledge institutes, academic institutions, branch organizations, customer organizations and entrepreneurial networks at an international, national and local level.

The larger your external focus, the greater the chance of discovering new market opportunities or threatening developments on time and thus having the opportunity to respond quickly.

Unifying leadership

The top of the organization needs to ensure that internally everyone is ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’.  It is therefore essential that you set priorities that transcend business units and departments. Because being able to move flexibly with the environment sometimes means you need to redistribute processes, systems, people, resources and budgets.

Unifying leadership also means managers and external parties are involved in drawing up strategy. By sharing ideas widely and asking the opinion of others at an early stage, the chance of success increases and tunnel vision is avoided. This approach also contributes to a strong organizational identity and shared values, which are, after all, the ingredients for the organization’s resilience.

Flexible people and culture

Strategic agility means the end of hierarchical, bureaucratic and top-down organizations. Duties, responsibilities and authority need to be placed as low as possible in the organization, in order to be able to make quick decisions, directly when the need arises.

Important factors are close cooperation, freely sharing knowledge and information, and a culture of daring to take risks and being allowed to make mistakes. Employees and teams are mobile and can get to work quickly in other business units and departments, if the company’s strategic priorities change. By using the flexible outer layer, you align the knowledge and capacity of your organization real-time with market demand.

Flexible processes and IT

Rigid company processes and inflexible IT systems are often major obstacles for organizations wanting to implement rapid change and seize market opportunities. Increasing the flexibility of processes and IT should be high on the management agenda.

You can increase the flexibility of processes and IT by applying new concepts and tools, like process and IT frameworks, standardization, modularization, software configuration and software as a service (SAAS). This allows you to rapidly adjust processes and IT systems. Digital technologies are not only deployed for new products and services, but also to restructure management, develop new business models or optimize value chains.

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