Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is ‘Agile’ Strategy on the Way

Agility is the ability of an organization to sense opportunity or threat, prioritize its potential responses, and act efficiently and effectively.  While Agile as software project development methodology intends to enforce iterative communication, increase customer satisfaction and expedite project delivery, to scale Agile effect, can such Agile philosophy also retool business strategy planning, as the rate of change is accelerated, and strategy needs to be more dynamic than you think.  An agile strategy embraces three “C”s: Context, Cascade and Creativity

1.    Strategy Planning is a “Living Process” 

A clear purposeful "North Star" - a vision of what organizations want to be, to achieve, and a good strategy encompass the direction upon how to get there. Organizations must be proactive in keeping short term and long term strategy goals clearly in sight, but strategic planning is a living process, not a static shelf-ware. It has characteristics such as:

  • Cascade: Strategy Planning becomes a "living process" with regular evaluation, scanning, listening, revisiting and potential course correction. There is no "predictable future", but there are many possible ones. Long term planning has its place, but linearity and over prescriptive-ness" don't. If you laid all of the corporate strategists in the world end-to-end you wouldn't reach a consensus 
  • Context: Strategic corporate goals are sacrificed at the expense of reactively adjusting strategy. A proactive strategy has updated context, and accurately established strategy and goals should serve as general "borders" within which businesses utilize problems as opportunities for fine-tuning strategy. 
  • Part of strategy is scenario planning. You never know for sure what is going to happen, but through continuously scanning the market, you should be able to identify different scenarios. After evaluating these factors, you need to use the different scenarios as an input for you strategy. The processes should not be rigid; you always need to be able to adjust. But by considering different scenarios into strategy, you are most likely to be prepared for these changes.

2. A Good Strategy Embraces Creativity 

We are truly entering a new evolution of the discipline, where strategy, innovations and change must converge dynamically...and where we should ALL be looking at any strategy - whether for product, service, or total business through the lens of "sustainable development": 

  • Strategies that are overly prescriptive act as a cork on innovation and creativity. When a company can be quickly disrupted from a competitor from a different industry, businesses need strategy that is resilient enough to enable people to shift and adapt and a good strategy embraces creativity. Companies experiencing paralysis from process and policy will find themselves unable to envision alternatives that fall outside the self-imposed boundaries they function within. 
  • Any movement leads to feedback that allows strategy correction and refinement. A good strategy needs collaboration right from the beginning.  A collaborative approach can help to leverage the existing knowing upon how the organization enables teams grow beyond their limits and thus create solutions that can be implemented. While strategy should be a team effort, sometimes decisions simply have to be made, as being stagnant can be dangerous. No movement - Paralysis by Over-Analysis - will kill a product, project, and corporation faster than anything else. Staff and clients take inaction as fear and lacking a leader with whom the "Buck Stops." 
  • Part of framing a strategy is to have built -in a mechanism to correct the direction if the variables are changing or if there is an innovation that has disrupted the landscape all together -either in a big bang way or in a gradual manner.

3.   Execution is Part of Strategy 

Strategy definition shouldn't be done without thinking about execution at the same time.Coming up with new strategies is easy. Executing them takes tireless effort and daily diligence

  • Communicate Strategy Clearly: A good strategy needs to get feedback from bottom-up of the organization and helps in better communication and execution of the strategy. Strategy is not strategy if it does not take people, management and leadership into account and put it in perspective. In the networked society, strategy and execution are more and more intertwined.  
  • A necessary condition for the implementation of strategies is proper governance and, most critically, ownership by a resilient and empowered executive team that has the implementation of strategy as a "live" objective. This of course requires that the formulation of the strategy is a team effort, based on consensus reached by rational criticism. Effective governance practice streamlines strategy execution seamlessly. 
An Agile strategy embraces three Cs: Context, Cascade and Creativity, it’s shareware, not shelf-ware, a dynamic planning, not a static document, and a good strategy always includes execution as part of strategy. 


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