Strategic Agility is Fundamentally About Three Things

The world has changed, and changed again in the last 12 months.  

Some companies have done well, many via sheer luck.  Business portfolios exposed to areas of the market that have been boosted by Covid (e.g., hygiene, personal health, pantry grocery items, home entertainment) have performed well.  Other models, caught in the cross-hairs of the other side of the coin (e.g., restaurants, retailers, travel and hospitality), have done poorly.  This is not a comment on the capability of their management teams, but perhaps an example of the benefits of diversified portfolios.  

The companies that impress me the most are the ones that have pivoted in light of significant tailwinds in their core markets, and pivoted fast.  The successful in this group are described as "agile", and indeed it seems this management terminology has been given a boost over the last 12 months.  But what is "agility" fundamentally about - it seems a desire-able destination, but I have yet to find an article or thought piece that describes it's fundamental ingredients in a really simple way. Much has been written about "swat teams" and "design labs", but is that really the answer?  

The quoted piece has some interesting points, which I try to build on below:

Agility is fundamentally about three things:  

1) "Institutional Finger on the Pulse"  

Finger on the pulse refers to ensuring your organisation actually understands what is happening in it's markets and how fast things are changing, on an ongoing basis.   The business has it's finger on the pulse.  It can be fed by good information and analysis, but it is also fed by the instincts and day to day experiences of your market-facing people.    

2)  "Constant Collaboration" 

Constant collaboration in this context means regular, practical, discussions between all business and functional leaders to arrive at a common view of what's happening out there, what actions to take.  It requires humility, less hierarchy, transparent information flows, an ability to step outside of functional silos and to really work as a team.  

3)  "Acting with Scale"

"Acting with Scale" refers to deciding to resource those actions to ensure they are delivered at scale and fast.   This ingredient involves tough decisions, risks, and trade-offs.

Sounds simple, and yet, some have been very "agile" in the last 12 months, and others have not.