Strategic agility means that strategic planning is busting out of the annual retreat. Strategic planning has been refined by the historic disruptions of the past two years. Forward-thinking organizations are trading in their three-year plans for ongoing reviews—with their eyes fixed on an ever-changing future.
The rise of strategic agility
According to Innovation Management, strategic agility is a key leadership survival skill. Leaders who adopt strategic agility have the following characteristics:
- Clear, decisive vision with an eye on future trends
- Capacity to see opportunities amid crises and improvise as needed
- Ability to encourage agility in others
But agility is not new to strategy. The classic strategy tome, Blue Ocean Strategy, first published in 2005, compared strategic agility to operational agility. Operational agility is about making existing products better, faster, and cheaper for existing customers. Many organizations were operationally agile by switching from in-person to remote work overnight in March of 2020. Strategic agility is about creating new markets with new products that reach new customers. Such innovation cannot happen every three years. It must be an ongoing, iterative organizational process.
How to become an agile planner
Ongoing strategy doesn’t mean unstructured strategy. Brighter Strategies recommends a three-phased strategic planning process that includes plan development, plan execution, and plan review. Below we describe practical ways to incorporate agility within the development portion of this step-by-step roadmap.
Lay the groundwork by establishing a team and examining the organization’s current situation.
An agile mindset implies that the strategy team never disbands. It remains intact and meets regularly. A core group of individuals drives meeting agendas and invites new members to provide specialized expertise as needed.
Determine the organization’s mission, vision, and values statements.
With a more agile process this step might be formally addressed on an annual basis. The strategy team gathers data from all stakeholders to confirm these statements remain true. For organizations continually auditing and improving culture as part of strategic planning, revisiting mission, vision, and values is especially important.
Identify the organization’s strengths, problems, opportunities, and threats through a SPOT analysis.
Adjusting the SPOT analysis from an in-depth annual process to a quarterly review ensures greater organizational agility. Last year Gartner identified seven key trend areas organizations must consider for an effective process in this new world of work: technological, political, economic, social/cultural, trust/ethics, regulatory/legal, and environmental.
Set strategic organizational goals and determine strategic measures using a balanced scorecard.
Annual and even three-year goals still make sense for long-term planning. An agile strategy incorporates short-term goals that can be revisited at least quarterly, to match the cadence of the SPOT analyses. Balanced scorecards—which remain many nonprofit boards’ preferred reporting tool—become even more effective when updated frequently to show progress against metrics.
Communicate the strategic plan.
Agile communications are concise, yet comprehensive. They take on various forms throughout the year including charts depicting data, email summaries to stakeholders, and even videos for mass distribution. The more frequently organizations share strategy, the stickier it becomes. Such communication also invites feedback; it goes beyond telling to asking for more.
How to build strategic agility
This Harvard Business Review article shares six principles that help organizations develop strategic agility. These are important as you make strategy an ongoing conversation.
- Speed over perfection
- Flexibility over planning
- Diversification over optimization
- Empowerment over hierarchy
- Learning over blaming
- Resource mobility over lock-in
At Brighter Strategies we are eager to partner with you as you incorporate greater agility within your strategic planning process. Our Strategic Planning guide is one tool to help get you started. We welcome the opportunity to work with you on a comprehensive and tailored plan that equips your organization’s leaders and employees with a map forward. Contact us today to learn more.