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What´s up with water: Pouring water into your corporate strategy. The concept of agility in corporate strategy (XX)

July 12th. A new post is being uploaded today. Today we will change our substance approach. During the last 9 weeks, we dedicated all our efforts to showing you the way to water. We expect that at least we have provoked in you the desire to find out what is the notion of water, the water cycle, and how this is connected or linked with the rest of the earth’s cycle systems. We hope that we created in you the desire to continue learning about the marvelous findings that our scientists and water/climate experts, including those who have devoted time to observing the geology, the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the philosophy of metaphysics, the archaeology remnants, the sun rotations, the inner heat of the earth, the paleontology domains, etc. Be certain that there are many discoveries to come once the new generation of water scientists will begin to connect the dots between all these cycles. Water is not an issue of hydrologists only, it requires an effort to conceive water as a pivotal theme in everything we do, including business, cooperation programs, and government plans in our lives.

As a corporate strategy state-of-the-art theorist, we are not behind schedule or outdated. I was a cutting-edge pro-Internet techie until the year 2018. That was the year of my heartfelt breakthrough, to open my eyes to reality and I began to see the huge damage that the combo of disruptive new technologies was and is doing to our societies. That was the year in which I decided to commit to preserving the traditional academic literary production, in between other hand-made creative activities. And I have stuck to it since then. That doesn´t mean we are obsolete or using archaic tools. Not at all, we are pioneering with our sagas, in such a way that no course in business schools has been previously done before using our material. So as forerunners in our endeavors, we utilize what we can, and we rely on collective findings from peers of us who have been writing and analyzing the concept of strategic agility, the theme that we will begin to analyze today. In advance, I express to all of them my gratitude. The following weeks will be a journey toward a full discovery. Our goal will be to provide a personal verdict on “strategic agility” when it comes to answering the following question: Is strategic agility a notion that might be utilized to solve the issues of the water cycle in corporate strategy? We will begin to explore the possible answers to this question. From the origins of the concept of strategic agility, up to this day. We pray to don´t get lost in the intent. We are trying to be agile enough to don’t fail. We will try to offer you what is all this buzzword about “strategic agility”. And we will also ponder and balance if this framework (if it is right) is the correct way to go in our galloping future with corporate strategy.  So let´s begin.

What is the meaning of agility? We always begin by enunciating the most basic concept involved. Agility is a state or quality of being agile.  Agile is a word that comes from agilitas, a Latin word related to the following nouns: “activity, alert, bright, quickness (mind/body), nimbleness, ease of movement, sprightliness or dexterity”. The word agile at its source is nothing related to speedy or high velocity. If you are extremely keen enough to understand “agility”, that means a mix of several characteristics all together integrated. To be agile is not associated with “quick” in the context of being fast or rapid. It is related to being light and ready to act with dexterity. 

I would like to remark again on the word agility in the context of an integral meaning. Please do not confuse it with fast, but with an acuity skillfulness dexterity. Let me show you an example of someone showing agility: how to trespass a laser security field in a hall? The movie Entrapment (2004) reveals to us the agility expressed in delicacy, cautiousness, and gentleness slowly motion under high pressure; when the actress Catherine Z.Jones is trained by Sean Connery in the video below. She is showing us the meaning of the word “agile”, even though she was under forced blindness and stressed to finish.

Now that we have understood the term “agility” from its roots; let´s proceed with the next step, in our road to begin to comprehend the term “strategic agility”.

The concept of strategic agility was coined gradually. According to our research, the term “agility” applied to business appeared for the first time a long time ago, in the 1990s decade. In 1999, Rick Dove, wrote the paper “Knowledge management, response-ability, and the agile enterprise”. For Dove, an agile enterprise is “the one that shows the ability to thrive in a continuously changing, unpredictable business environment”. This definition then landed on “the ability to manage and apply knowledge effectively”.  Then the term “business agility” was used mainly in relation to Information Technology (IT) Strategy. It was highlighted that strategic agility was tied to IT infrastructure as the mechanism in which the companies could be responsive to the market demands, to be more effective and efficient. From all the authors that have cited the term “strategic agility” it wasn´t until the year 2008, that professor Yves Doz, a Professor of Global Technology and Innovation at INSEAD; and Mikko Kosonen, former NOKIA CIO and EVP of SITRA, the Finnish Innovation Fund; who wrote a paper called “The Dynamics of Strategic Agility: Nokia´s Rollercoaster experience”(1).  This document is the base in which the term “strategic agility”, began its journey into our corporate strategy domains of today. For Doz-Kosonen, the notion of “strategic agility” came right at a moment in time in which the first iPhone was released in California. The new theoretical foundations of “strategic agility” were the result of a journey experience of 20 years in which the Finnish mobile communications and technology company NOKIA reinvented itself from 1988 to 2008. But what is exactly strategic agility?

Let me share several definitions (2, 3) of strategic agility, gathered by a team of researchers in the following table:

Strategic Agility
“The ability for companies to stay competitive in their business by adjusting and adapting to new innovative ideas.”Roth (1996)
“Strategic agility is a conundrum, and the consequence from the combination over time of three major meta-capabilities: strategic sensitivity, leadership unity, and resource fluidity”.Doz & Kosonen, (2008)
“Strategic agility is the cause for successful business model renewal and transformation. So this term is basically a  “repertoire” of concrete leadership priorities and actions under each of the three meta-capability segments: strategic sensitivity, leadership unity, and resource fluidity”. Note: we will explain this concept in a further episode.Doz & Kosonen (2010)
“Strategic Agility is described as flexibility and speed that gives organizations the ability to change the business to respond to changes in their markets and face substantial risks.”Arbussa et al. (2017)
“Strategic agility as an acknowledgment of the ever-increasing complexity and turbulence of their environments by developing requisite capabilities of flexibility and responsiveness”Ekman and Angwin (2007)
“Strategic agility is the ability to remain flexible in facing new developments, in continuously adjusting the company’s strategic direction, and to develop innovative ways to create value”;Weber and Tarba (2014)
“Strategic agility is a firm´s ability to renew itself continuously and to maintain flexibility without compromising efficiency”.Clauss et al.(2020)

Analyzing the concepts. For the time being, we will try to find a common ground with the last general concepts. Indeed if you read each of them we can observe the repetition of the following words: ability, change, adjust, adapt, responding to external business environments, new products, and services, and innovation. Then, we also can perceive that the definitions are not the same, even though have similar buzzwords. The pattern that seems to be shared in all these definitions is related to the abilities, capabilities, or characteristics of organizations that can adjust their direction to confront external environmental changes; with the main purpose to innovate and continue thriving in their competitive landscape.

For the purpose of our saga, we will stick our ordnances to the “strategic agility” conceptual research of Doz-Kosonen. And we will continue offering you more elements to understand them in our following episodes. For today, we will stop here with our reflections and analysis.

Is strategic agility a notion that might be utilized to solve the issues of the water cycle in corporate strategy? We will begin to reply to this question with another question. We wonder if the notion of strategic agility can be used to solve our troubles with water? From what we wrote above, we also have realized that there is not one unique definition of strategic agility. So, are we facing another struggle in our quest to find what is the notion of “strategic agility”?

We will continue exploring the theory to address this question in our next episodes. At the end of this saga, we envision giving you our final verdict. Stay tuned.

Our next subject: Strategic agility has been misunderstood

Strategic Music Section:

Why did we choose Viktoria Mullova? Viktoria Mullova plays on the Stradivarius ‘Jules Falk’ 1723 or with the Guadagnini violin from 1750. She is of Russian origin, and “she captured international attention when she won the first prize at the 1980 Sibelius Competition in Helsinki and the Gold Medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1982 which was followed, in 1983, by her dramatic and much-publicized defection to the West”. Read more about her at . Many violinists I have shared with you here came under the radar because they won international prizes of high recognition worldwide. Mullova is another of them, but she has a very interesting aspect that may have not been perceived by all of us. She left her country under “defection” (4). At the age of 23, Viktoria left her Stradivarius at her hotel bed, during a tour in Finland, and flagged a taxi to freedom, driving across the Finnish border to Stockholm, where she requested asylum at the American Embassy”. That was before Gorbachev´s epoch. Regardless of the reasons that she had to leave Russia, once she arrived in the US, she continued playing in concerts and settle to live a new life. She left it all as an asylum seeker, starting from zero in the USA. But she was blessed again later. Since 1983, Mullova has played the violin as many times as she could under a new roof in America.  A new Stradivarius, which replaced the one she left behind was also given to her. In corporate strategy, we can´t stop to review our theories, constantly. The case of strategic agility is very new, but we need to review it now and don´t wait for 50 years to find out if we were wrong. To review means to have the sincere desire to scrutinize with detail, in order to fix what needs to be repaired, or if not, admit it is not good enough and leave it behind. We need to create new integral corporate strategy notions for the well-being of our societies. As Mullova did it for her.

Songs of today are interpreted by Simon Blendis. We have chosen two new videos for you today. The first one is Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – performed live in conjunction with the London Mozart Players. The second one is “Love Is Like A Violin”, by Miarka Laparcerie, performed with his wife Saoko Blendis at the Milton Court Concert Hall, in London.

See you next Friday, with the 21st episode of “What´s up with water: Pouring water into your corporate strategy: Strategic agility has been misunderstood”. Thank you for reading to me.

“Violin Maya”. An aquarelle exercise by Eleonora Escalante 2019. I started to paint this artwork in Starbucks Los Proceres, San Salvador. Size: 48 cm x 68 cm

Sources of Reference utilized to prepare the slides and the material above:





Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, most of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated. 

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