Skip to content

What´s up with water: Pouring water in your corporate strategy (XXVIII). Adding strategic agility and water to our corporate strategy.

With my appreciation to all our dear readers, it is friday and we are moving ahead to finish “What´s up with water: Pouring water in your corporate strategy”. So let´s begin.

Connecting the dots of the water cycle with our companies. What is that? Since strategic agility is the skillfulness of dexterity to think properly to make the right decisions. We have already covered all the main aspects (from the point of view of a corporate strategist). When we land on the theory, the fundamental notion of strategic agility is with the purpose to help us to think correctly.
During the first 17 sessions of this Spring-Summer saga, we also spent several weeks showing you the basics about the water cycle, and its integration with other 6 circular sequences of life on our earth. These biogeochemical cycles are all connected to H20, with exception of the last one (above the atmosphere) that I have no idea how to connect it to water yet.

  1. Carbon cycle,
  2. Nitrogen Cycle,
  3. Oxygen cycle,
  4. Upper earth crust sedimentary cycles of iron, sulfur, phosphorus, etc.;
  5. Inner earth core layers cycles are associated with the earth’s internal heat, geothermic energy, plate tectonic/rock movement cycles, earthquakes, distribution of oceans and continents, and volcanic activities.
  6. Finally, the cycle above our atmosphere: The galactic space one, in which the solar radiation, the earth´s spin, tilt, and orbit, star storms, meteorites, or comet impacts may affect our planet from space. This is the cycle that might be affected by the internet satellites that are being sent by telecommunication companies or internet investors.

We all live in union with our mother earth. It is like if our planet kisses us always, and we do not kiss our planet in return. We can´t live in a bubble doing business as usual if we live in this place that is called Earth. This planet loves us providing oxygen, water, and resources. But we are not loving it back. So we are required to learn about our planet. We are obliged to understand the premises that we see in our climate, water, nature, the air, and all we have forgotten after we finish high school, before entering to play into our business endeavors. That is why is so important to retake these concepts when we teach strategic management.

From Sun Tzu´s armies to a business war organization. Strategic management has always been part of human endeavors. Strategic management was linked to military strategy until the time when the business started to be seen as a science at universities. So, this is very recent, maybe 100 years ago, approximately. Before WWI,  and even in times of Hitler, the different territory leaders conquered many victories on the battlefield by applying warfare. For thousands of years, warfare was the way to win resources in the history of humankind. And these combats to prevail included winning the businesses of those lands. According to Donald Krause (1), Sun Tzu was considered in China, one of the most relevant experts in military strategy. This happened just 2,550 years ago.

To switch from the military strategy of conquering success through wars (something we are watching right now between Russia and Ukraine) to healthy competition through collaboration between businesses is not easy. Not even Michael Porter was able to shake the dust of the military legacy of strategy, and he built a theory using the same terms: competitive forces, sources of competitive advantage. It is as if we were reading “The art of war” from the times of Sun Tzu, but now applied to executives using a value chain and a Porter´s forces, that requires to be cheap or efficient. Everything that is taught in strategy now (including strategic agility) is founded all on the same thought of military competition. Through a superior strategy that comes from the leadership of the organization.

So, during the last 100 years, we have been busy building leadership frameworks, principles of success, and mental models to participate and gain competitive advantage. Little time has been dedicated to include our love for earth, or the surroundings on the planet, or at least some aspects of caring for the place in which we live, as a key success principle or philosophy in our business endeavors. That is why all your books on strategic management (including the chapters on corporate strategy) are established in these terms.

It is comprehensible. We have discussed these ideas previously in other sagas too. To evolve from the Sun Tzu´s times of competition that is still reflected in our corporate and business strategy frameworks, to models of collaboration and sustainability for planet earth will take a while.

Being dexterous in the planet and in business.  Loving water means the decision and actions (at the corporate level – business owners or board of directors’ members) of appreciating the water cycle inside the company´s endeavors. By devoting our care and affection to water, we are immediately keen and solving the rest of the 6 cycles that are affected by the water cycle that we have studied in this saga.

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

To be dexterous about the water cycle requires somehow some aspects of the meta-capabilities for strategic agility as a source of sustained growth and high performance. Let´s see this phrase with a basic example:

A company that sells sneakers. There are several companies dedicated to the manufacturing of sports shoes. The competitive main players are Nike, Reebok, Brooks, New Balance, FILA, SICS, Adidas, Saucony, Under Armour, Salomon, Puma, etc.(2) Most of these enterprises have built a global supply chain in which all the segments of it are in different countries, mainly in China and some countries of Asia. Their corporate strategy is clearly defined: their core business is sports shoes (some of them have grown in adjacencies of the sector of sports apparel). If we see their corporate strategy matter, which is how to grow for the future demand, these corporations have begun to use the technology of materials for tailor-made needs and wants of their clients. They know that each sport requires a different design and sole, a certain kind of cushion, breathing, comfort, and protection to avoid damage to our feet muscles when we move. The diversification of the shoes per segment of sports discipline has been a trend that started around 30 years ago. In addition, the materials used today are not leather anymore, but rubber, plastic, and multiple petrochemical-derived materials.

Some of these shoe producers have begun to include recycled fabrics and recycled soles in their manufacturing processes, but it is not the standard yet for the whole industry.

Where is the sneakers´ sector going? According to some shoe material researchers (3), experts predict refinements of current designs and manufacturing processes rather than radical breakthroughs. “Within the next ten years, athletic shoe sizing should become standard worldwide. Designers will continue to seek lighter-weight materials that provide better support and stability with further use of gels and air systems. Electronic components will also be built into the running shoe, so that information about physical characteristics and developments can be measured with a microchip and later downloaded into a computer. Another feature that is already beginning to appear is the battery-operated lighting systems to accommodate the evening jogger. As consumers continue to spend millions for the comfort of running shoes, manufacturers of the ordinary shoe will continue to compete for these dollars by applying running shoe design principles to everyday shoes”.

Where is water in this corporate strategy? To include water in the corporate strategy requires setting aside innovation that makes them cheaper or technologically “trendy”. It requires making a comprehensive analysis of each phase of the value chain of this sports shoe enterprise, including all its suppliers. Companies must care beyond the costs, even beyond their own value chain, but their suppliers, What is each material supplier doing that affect the water cycle? The water utilized for the fabrics, the synthetic materials, the soles or the laces, etc. These assembling manufacturing enterprises can request their suppliers to care for water. Can you see the difference in how water can be included at the corporate level? And this is just one tiny piece, now imagine if we pour water into all the phases of corporate strategic decision-making. It is not only to recycle the materials to produce more shoes, or to search for new materials not coming from petroleum, or ensure that water is being treated before returning it back to the rivers, but to care about the water that is used by suppliers, clients, and all stakeholders and act accordingly.

Do you know that all your shoes can be made from recycling other used shoes?

The blessing of strategic agility for the purpose of water. Strategic agility means learning to foster the following brain skills: anticipate experiment, distance to gain perspective, abstract, reframe, dialogue, reveal, integrate, align, care, decouple, disassemble, dissociate, switch, graft, and dissent. All these leadership attributes can help at the board of directors level, to guide the directors and managers, to care for water. For example, in the case of sneakers, if a contract will be given to a particular sole supplier in Asia, this will be given only to those producers that care for water in their plants. The same applies to recycled fibers used in the fabrics. Even the place where the plant has been built has a relation with water systems, etc. There are so many ways in which the corporate board of directors’ members can indirectly help to save the water on the planet. They just need to make a list. And begin. Of course, the notion of strategic agility helps us in this moment of chaotic “Tower of Babylon” assimilation at the academic level, but it is not sufficient. We require to see things differently when we truly desire to include the protection of water in our corporate strategy agenda.

Is strategic agility a notion that might be utilized to solve the issues of the water cycle in corporate strategy?  If business owners and board of directors members do not care for water in all its segments of decision-making for the elaboration of their products and service, this will not permeate to the procurement and operational departments. If this is not included at the corporate strategy level, our strategic agility will continue to be dumb towards the water cycle, and we will consent to the destruction of the environment, without knowing.

Our next subject: Strategic Agility Research Agenda for the next 15 years.

Strategic Music Section:

Why did we choose Kyong Wha Chung? Ms. Chung was the first South Korean female virtuoso that arrived at the top leagues of the violinists during the last century. Her biography is here . She was able to be seen as an equal master who settled in the Julliard School of Music and has recorded numerous award-winning albums, awards, and Gramophone honors, holding an extensive discography and repertoire. But her life has not been a steady one either. According to Reuters (4), in the year 2005, when she was rehearsing for a concert, suddenly her left index finger collapsed. For many, the high-flying, globe-trotting career of this lady was over. For a violinist to lose the power of a left finger would have represented a spiral of despair. Instead, Ms. Chung, entered a phase in her life where she continued around the violin (mainly teaching and researching), and 10 years later, she played in London, as if nothing would have ever happened. Ms. Chung is now 74 years old, and she still plays despite that injury. Ms. Chung is worthy of all our respect, not just for coming back to delight us again, but because she was talented and strong to wait to do it.

In corporate strategy, we also can fail, because of a mishap or because someone hurt us. But it is up to us to make the recovery process a stage for reinvention, using what we can, meanwhile, the good opportunity moments repay. Life is full of ups and downs. Everything we do, after a fatal accident or injury, to keep ourselves buzzing, sums up a better result later. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28.

Songs of today are interpreted by Jascha Heifetz. We can’t close this saga without Mr. Heifetz, who has been considered one of the most outstanding violinists on earth from the last century. Two pieces interpreted by him are included here: The first one is a piece of Debussy’s “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” from his album “Heifetz On Television in 1971”. The second one comes from a 1939 movie, in which he plays Tchaikovsky and a Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor. . Enjoy these two historical pieces!

See you next Tuesday 23rd, with the penultimate episode of our summer saga “What´s up with water: Pouring water in your corporate strategy: Strategic Agility Research agenda for the next 15 years?”. Next week is the last hebdomad time for this epic. Then, we will enter into relaxation and calm time for 15 days, for resting/maintenance. We have to upload all the watercolors that we have not shared with you yet.  Our Autumn-Winter 2022 (AW-2022) saga of the year will begin on September 9th. We have baptized it as: “Loving to read as a strategist”.

A new saga is coming as of September 9th: “Loving to read as a strategist” Stay tuned!

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. 

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