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Corporate renewal and strategic agility


We first researched a dozen leading incumbents in various sectors of the information and communication (ICT) industry. Primary research sites included CISCO, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, Nokia, SAP, supported by interviews at other companies such as Canon, Oracle, STMicro, Sony and many others, and by documentary evidence on further companies. In each company our grounded inductive approach was the same: "How did you respond to major strategic disruptions in the past ten years or so?" (such as the internet, new competition, technological changes, etc...).

For each of these companies we collected extensive background information (annual reports, books, case studies, press coverage, analysts' reports, etc.) and performed between one and twenty interviews (depending on interest and access) for a total of about 150 interviews, each lasting between one and three hours. We also held small group feedback and discussion workshops with several of the most intensely researched companies, and kept an ongoing intellectual exchange with several of their key executives, as sparring partners. We researched in greater depth the more complex companies in our sample (e.g., HP, IBM) and those going through significant strategic agility challenges (e.g., Nokia, SAP), and companies with the most innovative management practices (e.g., Cisco, Intel, and IBM).

We focused our research effort on companies most exposed to the challenge of speed and complexity. Some were relatively diverse companies trying to exploit interdependencies and opportunities for strategic integration, and build an integrated value creation logic at the corporate level, such as HP and IBM. Others were companies that had been relatively unitary, but strove to balance the need for strategic integration across highly independent businesses with the need to exploit the wider strategic scope available to them. Nokia, SAP, or Cisco are examples of this second group.

We also concentrated on companies where strategic agility was embedded in the organization, and did not result from the genius of a single leader (e.g., Steve Jobs at Apple) nor where companies benefited, at least originally from a country of origin advantage. We then focused on specific outcomes of strategic agility, such as business model innovation and renewal and the development of new leadership skills fostering strategic agility. We also engaged in action research in working closely with a few companies on the development of their strategic agility.

We extended this work to a larger sample of companies through a survey Nira Adler and Yves Doz developed, and Nira administered. This survey explored the construct of Strategic Agility and the range of key capabilities and management practices that define it. In this research, Dr. Adler examined the construct of the Strategically Agile Organization by developing and testing a survey based instrument to measure it. The survey was distributed and completed by senior level executives and managers from a wide array of companies across a breadth of industries. Factor analysis methods yielded five distinct, interrelated and internally consistent factors (capabilities) that comprise the Strategic Agility construct.

The main accomplishment of this research was the further development of the Strategic Agility construct to include the newly discovered capabilities of innovation and collective direction. This newly developed instrument for measuring Strategic agility can assist corporate leaders to assess their company's strategic agility. Such an assessment provides them the opportunity to adopt practices to become more agile and adaptive to turbulent and changing markets.

We are currently working on several extensions of the strategic agility research for companies. First, we are exploring the individual leadership implications of strategic agility: what leadership behaviours encourage strategic agility, which stifle agility. Second, we are exploring the induced competitive behaviour, and relative success of firms which exhibit different configurations of strategic agility. Third, we are exploring the link between achieving strategic agility and participating in complex ecosystems.


Strategic Agility - How strategic agility will help you stay ahead of the game