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The Key to Strategic Agility

Strategic agility is the muscle organizations use to jump into action and capitalize on opportunities even with incomplete information and time pressure. Organizations have strategic agility when they can take risks and grab opportunities when circumstances are extremely uncertain. Organizations rely on strategic agility in order to achieve long term goals by recognizing that unique and great opportunities can’t be planned or predicted. In order to enhance strategic agility senior leaders must understand the value in aggressively exploring opportunities in a world of uncertainty.

Organizations that have strategic agility don’t necessarily over commit to only one vision. They know that sometimes the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. They have the ability to stay on their toes, grow, change direction, or do a complete 180. Similarly, strategic agility gives organizations the ability to work around obstacles instead of having to bear down and spend resources and time getting over every hurdle. Strategic agility is the art of muddling though, climbing the tree one limb at a time, testing the branches as you go up, and knowing sometimes you have to go in a different direction, take a different step.

Strategic agility, according to my boxing friend, is all about bobbing and weaving, ducking and dodging–the skill to know what to do when you’re caught in the corner and how to avoid getting knocked out. It’s becoming essential that businesses of all sizes have this capacity of moving around the ring. Strategic agility is now a vital component in every organization’s business plan, from Morgan Stanley to Toyota and local school districts and the Main Street hardware store.

The challenge in enhancing strategic agility is not really on the macro level—it’s not really on the level of job descriptions, organizational structures, or even technological overhauls. The challenge is in the capacity of the senior and middle staff to lead proactively. Specifically, this means leaders must understand their environment  and know how to quickly shift agendas. It also means, more importantly, that leaders need to able to execute.

Strategic agility demands that your leadership team understands the basic skills of proactive execution, understands not simply how to adopt new ideas, but also how to mobilize people around ideas and create strong, active coalitions. They need to develop the internal political common sense that allows them to understand allies and resistors and finally to adhere to some basic fundamental principles of employee engagement that will give them the capacity to sustain momentum and move forward. The key, therefore, to strategic agility is in the enhancement of the proactive leadership capacity of your key players. It is in the enhancement of the capacity of a proactive, take-charge leadership culture.

Strategic agility demands proactive leadership. It demands that leaders throughout the organization are cognizant of both hazards and opportunities and within the context of this understanding are capable of executing quickly. The age of long-term planning, the age of complacent reflection, is well behind us. The age of strategic agility and it’s here to stay. You need a proactive leadership team.

Picture Credit: Library of Congress



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