by Chris Potts

Spotting a truly agile corporate strategy

Apr 14, 20082 mins
IT Leadership

The best strategies are those that achieve their intended outcome, come what may.  How can you spot an agile corporate strategy, right now, today?

An article by Yves Doz and Mikko Kosonen in the latest edition of Strategy magazine, published by the Strategic Planning Society, explores what makes some companies’ strategies more agile than others. 

It concludes that there are three ‘enabling capabilties’ that strategically agile companies have in common:  strategic sensitivity, leadership unity and resource fluidity.  You must have all three.

To help explain strategic sensitivity (superior information, strong real-time insight and good judgement), the authors make reference to Andy Grove’s 1996 book “Only the Paranoid Survive”, which still has pride of place on my bookshelf. 

In the context of leadership unity, they observed that it’s key for top team members to be deeply dependent on each other.  They act as interdependent contributors to an integrated corporate strategy, yet paradoxically recognise the deeper differences between their personal motives, values and drivers.

Finally, resource fluidity.  Without this, strategic sensitivity and leadership unity are useless.  There’s no point in knowing that the market has just shifted direction and having a leadership team united in adjusting the corporate strategy, if the financial, human and other resources needed to execute strategy are all locked into the version that was going to work yesterday but has now been overtaken by events.

So a revealing way to spot a truly agile strategy is to look at the actual fluidity or inertia in the allocation of resources.  As priorities change, how quickly are investments and people reallocated, in ways that sustain and enhance strategic outcomes?   Is it resource fluidity or inertia that is driving the corporate culture and planning processes?

Which brings me to an observation from my own experiences:  look at a company’s plans for investing in change.  Compare how much of the total planned investment is already allocated to projects, versus held in provisions for allocation later.  In some companies the answer is all, and none, respectively – a strong signal that those companies are not as strategically agile than others.  But they may, of course, not need to be.