What Is Strategic Agility & Why Is It Important To Your Company?

Posted by Michael Lindberg on Nov 4, 2016 9:22:19 AM

what is strategic agility

Strategic Agility & Your Window Of Opportunity

In a fast changing world, please understand that there is no single moment that is “the best”. Rather you should keep your options open – within your window of opportunity – and strike at the very best moment. That’s what strategic ability is all about. As opposed to stringent strategy plans cut in stone that are often made because “it’s this time of the year”.


According to Donald Sull "Strategic agility is the ability to constantly spot changes in the surroundings and to take advantage of them to create value.” How can you do that? By considering each and every change an opportunity to jump at – because your competitors will see it too. That is why overly detailed strategy plans make no sense; they will often be a hindrance rather than a help because they prevent you from taking advantage of sudden openings.


Of course, as an organization, you must be clear about what direction to take in order to exploit the opportunities that make sense, but don’t plan too carefully. Too rigid planning will result in only one thing: Your competitors outdistancing you as they dash down all-new roads towards success because they are more agile.

Is Your Organization Agile?

Is your organization agile? Are you? How do you promote and foster agility? One of the key requirements is that you need a horizontal organizational structure where your employees can act independently and make decisions themselves. You should also remember that consensus may be a good thing in some situations, but not when you need to adjust your strategy or take advantage of sudden opportunities. Insisting on consensus very often means that it takes you a long time to make decisions – and when they are finally made, such decisions are often weak, watered-down compromises. I don’t think that many companies can afford that.


What – or rather who – drags you down, preventing you from taking advantage of your window of opportunity? There is one very fitting expression for these persons: Idea-killers. Do you know anyone in your organization who think – and even talk – like this:

  • "We have always done it this way and it works just fine, thank you!"
  • "We have tried - it does not work in our company!"
  • "I do not think you quite understand the problem!"
  • "If it really worked, don’t you think we'd already done it?"
  • "It all sounds fine in theory, but what about in the real world?"


These idea-killers are annoying and counterproductive, but at least they are honest: This is really how they feel. Often it’s down to lack of imagination and/or fear of not being able to cope in a new situation. Fair enough.


There is a group of persons who are even worse than the idea-killers: The devil’s advocates. I’m sure you’ve heard these words before: “Let me play the devil’s advocate for a minute…” Play? Hide behind a role? Not good. If you have something to say that opposes a proposal then do so openly instead of – when you have either been overruled or have admitted that the idea was actually quite good – be a coward and say: “I was just playing the devil’s advocate. It was a role, it wasn’t really me.”

Do You Suffer From Myopia?

There is one more thing preventing you from being agile: That you don’t even recognize your window of opportunity. This happens if you don’t really see what’s going on with your customers, competitors and markets and unfortunately this is the case for many companies. Yes, they know a thing or two, but because they don’t constantly follow what is going on, then it’s like suffering from myopia. You see something in the distance, but it’s not really clear to you what it is so you can’t act upon it.


So, to conclude, you are always facing changes so do your best to benefit from them. You do so by seeing the changes before or better than your competitors – and act upon them. And this is only possible if you constantly watch out for changes and have an organization with the mindset of "change is great".


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Topics: Marketing, Sales