Skip to content

What´s up with water: Pouring water in your corporate strategy (XIV). Agility has insane drawbacks.

Have a lovely first week of August 2022. In El Salvador, we are celebrating again the saint patron of San Salvador festivities to honor the Divine Saviour of the World (Divino Salvador del Mundo). The public and education sectors are on vacation since last Friday, and the private sector kick off its holiday week tomorrow at the latest.  We are broadcasting today as usual, and will come back next Tuesday 9th to publish again. Look at the calendar included below.

Strategic agility is not the tech agile methodology. As we already informed in past episodes, strategic agility is beyond supply chain management, but as a result of that confusion, we also perceive that the term agility is nowadays the “plusquamperfect” recipe used for everything. Since it has been privileged in manufacturing (and many industries), through the utilization of agile software, then we believe that by being agile, then we are being strategically correct. The agile “concept” core in managing is operationally technological, but it is not strategic at the corporate level. The agile software development approach is a set of general project management toolkits that contain methods and practices related to operational effectiveness. These toolkits (1) have implications for project choices, task management configurations, modes of team collaboration, metrics, and reporting.  So if you consider that “Agile approaches” are “strategic agility”, you are wrong. Agile buzzwords such as backlogs, scrum boards, workflows, sprints, stand-up meetings, velocity charts, and any scrum method that you can think of, are not strategic agility. But if you believe it, then we are not speaking about the same, in consequence, we are not on the same page.

Strategic agility as we have already painted it in this saga is not at all related to the agile settings of your agile methods for attaining operational effectiveness.

Agility has insane drawbacks. Now that we have set the boundaries of our notion of “strategic agility”, let´s continue analyzing the mess in which “agility” is being applied wrongly at the corporate strategy level. For example, during the pandemic, the majority of enterprises were forced to use internet platforms, because they couldn´t move physically. This motivation was the cause to apply “agility” wrongly. What people think of being agile, is what you can read on the Internet as follows (2): . Agile in the popular view is “an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches”. But, the pursuit of operational efficiency with Agile Scrum practices has harmed individual learning, and it has landed in six pitfalls (2):

  1. Learning and ideation behaviors are not legitimized by the team
  2. Organizational structure drifting toward the prioritization of urgent issues, above learning and innovation
  3. Reduced knowledge accumulation
  4. Reduced knowledge integration
  5. Loss of know-who knowledge
  6. Lack of individual self-efficacy.

Conceptually, we have shown you above what people think is “agile” on a popular basis. So it is insane to use an “agility” term approach as a corporate strategy philosophy. In the corporate strategy, we do not get into scrum debates, we don´t meet on Board of Director’s occasions to speak about large-scale software development that procures flexibility in the face of rapid change. That is not the domain of corporate strategy. Go to slide number 4 of our material above. The term agility is confused with strategic agility, and this occurs because there is a big chunk of people who use the term “agile” as a synonym for the application of the agile software development approach in team collaboration. But you can also observe in the same slide, that agility is used to refer to at least 6 different empirical phenomena (3), and it is used by different groups of scientists, under completely different contexts.  Some use agility at the organizational level, others use agility at the supply chain management level, and others use it to speak about a specific set of methods such as scrum, extreme programming, and even artificial intelligence applied to those methods. Cluster number 4 of our slide refers to agility as a set of software methods, meanwhile, cluster 5 refers to organizational agility. In the same slide, the term “strategic agility”, doesn´t even show up.

Agility is like the tower of Babylon with multiple confusing languages. When the Babylonians started to build a pagan religious tower, God confused their language and scattered them to the ends of the earth. So that is what is happening with the term “agility”. And this situation can only be observed by taking distance from the status quo by not even showing you what is “agile” in popular terms, and by assuming a position of outsiders. Those who are using it in their teams’ collaboration methods, or their manufacturing plants, or in their technological development improvements, aren´t able to see what we are speaking about.

When the plain word “agility” is used under multiple confusing contexts, by different groups of studious researchers, and under different clusters, then it is simply a notion of confusion. The situation is telling us that we are being irrational to apply it, and we have to be aware of this mess for “corporate strategy” domain decisions.  

Keeping strategic agility at the human pace, not under machine tempo. In our quest to dignify productivity, operational effectiveness, quick responsiveness, and implement strategic agility (under absurd terms), we have forgotten humans’ needs and wants. From the point of view of business owners and board of directors representatives, to become strategically agile means pure learning: to build capabilities and processes, in which we are able to develop an acumen for discernment. Without discernment, we can´t take good decisions about what products and services we will offer, and/or how are we going to grow with those products/services.

We decided to stick to the notion of strategic agility under Doz-Kosonen because the only way in which we can boost the brains of decision makers to renew its business model is by learning and or relearning. By learning, we mean to develop a strategic agility set of capabilities. Our decision-making is in our brains. Without learning strategic agility, we are not capable to apply it in our actions, day by day, particularly when we have to decide at our human pace, not under machine strides. Refresh again the conceptual notion of strategic agility as learning capabilities (by Doz-Kosonen) on slide number 4 above.

Water is all around us. In everything we do. Illustrative and non-commercial image. Photo Source: Microsoft Office Library

The era of qubits is coming if no one does anything about it. Far from our times is the calculus ruler or the times in which we calculated vectorial algebra by hand estimations, not using scientific calculators. The machine tempo is nowadays pursuing the quantum supremacy goal. We have designed machines with algorithms to make decisions under binary digits (bits), but we are not stopping here. The quantum era is coming if no one stops it.

According to an article in MIT Technology Review (2019) (4), quantum supremacy is “the point at which a quantum computer can complete a mathematical calculation that is demonstrably beyond the reach of even the most powerful supercomputer”. “Today’s computers use bits—a stream of electrical or optical pulses representing 1s or 0s. Everything from your tweets and e-mails to your iTunes songs and YouTube videos is essentially long strings of these binary digits. Quantum computers, on the other hand, use qubits, which are typically subatomic particles such as electrons or photons. Generating and managing qubits is a scientific and engineering challenge. Some companies, such as IBM, Google, Rigetti Computing, Airbus, Volkswagen, Daimler Benz, Alibaba, and some materials science and pharmaceuticals research divisions of companies are experimenting with it; and it might be possible that we still don´t know what else is already in place under quantum terms coming out from Silicon Valley next.

Meanwhile, decision-makers at important organizations are trying to reach new products and services using quantum supremacy, we wonder, how are we going to learn “strategic agility” if we are not distinguishing between machines’ tempo and human pace?

Is strategic agility a notion that might be utilized to solve the issues of the water cycle in corporate strategy? We also reply to this question with another one.  If strategic agility has insane drawbacks, do you think this notion will help us to solve the water cycle problems? Are machines quantum software development going to rule our decision-making for the rescue of the water cycle?

Our next subject: Understanding and applying strategic agility well.

Strategic Music Section:

Why did we choose Lisa Batiashvili? We selected Elisabeth (Lisa) because she appears to be one of the most repetitive figures named by the violinist sector, because of her virtuosity, impeccable sensitiveness, and diffusion of candid expression of emotions by playing her Guarneri del Gesu 1739 cords. We also have confirmed it by listening to several of her interpretations. Today´s reflection goes to understanding the importance of participating in premium international contests, particularly we wish to encourage this significance for those from developing economies. Lisa is from Georgia, and she moved to Germany to learn to play the violin with her greatest masters when she was a child. She is the youngest violinist that has ever won a prize at the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition in Finland. This competition occurs every 5 years, and since 1965, it has been open to all violinists in the world. The contest pre-selects through a preliminary audition round in which all the applicants must play a Bach, a Paganini, and a Sibelius oeuvre.  From there, only 40 participants are accepted to the first round.  The first round implies several pieces of Bach, Sibelius, or Ernst for 35 minutes on stage. The second round requires solo violin or violin-piano accompaniment, playing specific oeuvres selected by the jury. Only 18 participants play in this phase. Finally, for the final round, in which only 6 contestants arrive; the requirements are incredibly high, with concertos from Bartok, Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Britten, Korngold, Mendelssohn, Nielsen Paganini, Prokofiev, Shostakovich or Tchaikovsky. The participants receive hotel accommodation free of charge for the whole duration of their stay in Helsinki. The winner (first prize) receives €30,000 euros; the second prize is €20,000 euros and the last one is €15,000. On top of that, the Sibelius  family offers a series of other benefits that you may read here:

The reason why we have described the Sibelius challenge for you is that all these participants must show strategic agility to win (defined as Doz-Kosonen and related authors). And this strategic agility is regulated by a series of rules. When rules don´t exist (as has happened with agility roll-out with disruptive technologies) humans self-destroy themselves, and can´t play well. The prominence in disruptive technologies (quantum supremacy included) can´t continue without rules and a lack of boundaries. Practically, the danger of quantum supremacy is as terrible as artificial intelligence, and I only can compare it with nuclear destruction. In the case of music, its application will destroy all the music that we perform on instruments. We need to relearn to put humans at the core of God´s mission on earth. We need to teach Generation Z and beyond, not to act faster without thinking, but to enjoy slow agility for a quality of life in which all of us have something to do with our hands and minds, as a hope to live well, and not under the future of tyranny of techno-authoritarian regimes that will displace human beings for the sake of the machines, in everything we do.

Songs of today are interpreted by Maxim Vengerov. We have chosen the piece Alessandro Marcello´s Adagio, played during the past pandemic lockdown in April 2020, in a lovely duet with his daughter Lisa Vengerova. The second oeuvre is the Kreisler’s Schön Rosmarin, with Martha Argerich playing the piano. Enjoy Vengerov´s lovely music.

See you next Tuesday 9th, with the 25th episode of “What´s up with water: Pouring water in your corporate strategy: Understanding and applying strategic agility well”. For the Salvadorans who are reading me, we wish you a fantastic vacation time, please always be safe. 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:

(1) Annosi, M.; Foss, N.; Martini, A.; When agile harms learning and innovation, California Management Review 2020 Vol. 63, 61-80 2020


(3) Rinzi, B.; Mahringer, C.;  Rost, M.: and Scheible, L. Organizational Agility: Current Challenges and Future Opportunities. Journal of Competences, Strategy & Management. Volume 11, pages 1-10, 2021


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. 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s