The Many Advantages of Strategic Agility

Jim Highsmith’s recent Adaptive Leadership: Accelerating Enterprise Agility describes how Agile techniques are transcending beyond software development teams and transforming the greater business community. He explains how agility can result in better, cheaper, and faster business strategies, and he emphasizes that an Adaptive Leadership model is key to strategic agility in the enterprise.

Agile strategies are adaptive and responsive. Adaptive in the way they invite and harness change instead of trying to control it. Responsive by listening to feedback and acting on it quickly instead of defending against it. Being Agile is about engaging the enterprise in the strategic process, exploring different strategic vectors and facilitating the evolution of the best strategy for enterprise.

In contrast to strategies that simply plan-then-do, Agile mobile strategies are those that plan to re-plan. Agile strategies are designed to implement quickly and then listen, reflect, and adjust to become more effective. These strategies invite changes—allowing the enterprise to pivot and respond to the employee and business climate.

The top priority for every Agile enterprise mobile strategy should be a better work experience for employees. This is even ranked above goals like productivity gains, compliance improvements, or cost reductions, all of which tend to deliver a greater benefit to the employer. It is imperative to identify the employee (the person using the mobile technologies) as the primary customer and consider the number one Agile principle, which is to “satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery” of valuable mobile technologies.

The customer (or the community of employees and mobile technology users) should be presented every opportunity to provide input and feedback to each mobile initiative. Employee input should begin as early as the start of each initiative (via surveys, contests, etc) and continue throughout the process. Employees should also be given frequent opportunities to experience the technologies (via workshops, pilots, user groups, etc) and offer feedback as these technologies evolve and mature over the series of iterative implementations.

At every engagement with the customer, the implementation team should be asking, “is it ready yet”? The implementation team should aim to roll out each mobile technology as soon as the employee is ready to accept it. With early and continuous roll-outs, employees enjoy a more satisfying work experience because they are getting the help they need, when they need it.

The teams implementing the strategy must collect and respond to feedback quickly. If the feedback is that a mobile technology is not ready, the team should focus exclusively on what it will take to gain that employee’s approval of the mobile technology and strive to achieve that approval as quickly as possible. In other words, a core principle of Agile is this: through every iteration of implement-listen-adjust, make the smallest incremental investment needed to impact employee satisfaction.

It is common to see strategists follow the plan-then-do approach to implementing an enterprise strategy. Agile introduces a few iterative loops to gather feedback and adjust the plan along the path of implementation. The Agile approach affords strategists many opportunities to learn from the successes and failures of smaller, incremental implementations of the strategy. The illustration below depicts the iterative paths of an adapting Agile strategy.


Agile strategies grant the enterprise the ability to quickly implement small yet frequent increments of the most impactful mobile technologies, boosting employee satisfaction and—ultimately—performance. Agile strategies also help enterprises avoid long and costly implementations of technologies that turn out to be either marginally useful, not willingly adopted, or ill-timed. Further, Agile strategies engage the enterprise to learn what works best, ultimately contributing to organizational excellence—the goal of every strategy.

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