What is Strategic Agility?

The definition of strategic agility is the ability for organizations to see shifts inside the business as well as externally in the business environment in which they operate. Strategic agility is about staying competitive by recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities as well as identifying potential threats and mitigating or preventing them from materializing in the first place. The development of strategic agility will give leaders the competency to recognize market changes that could be good or bad for business and quickly implement or act on new ideas.

What Does Strategic Agility Look Like?

Being strategically agile means being the first mover or fast follower when it comes to creating new services, products, and offerings to external or internal customers and clients. Leaders with strategic agility can see and respond to changes faster than rivals or new players. This enables them to sustain growth and profitability performance for the business. Agile leaders anticipate and deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Likewise, they are courageous and willing to take calculated risks, make big bets procuring opportunities, and actively shaping the future. It is important for agile leaders to watch for and identify emerging opportunities as well as proactively develop and create opportunities.

Every organization goes through cycles when they are agile, quick, and smart about leveraging their strengths and their vulnerabilities. However, when leaders or market conditions change, some companies get caught off guard and end up giving up market share, experiencing margin shrinkage, and sometimes becoming extinct. For example, G.E. was an industry leader for decades and then encountered challenging times. Microsoft dominated the technology industry and faced several challenges from industry players like Google. Turn to the latest financial market news and you will see organizations and industries that are experiencing a shifting environment.

How Can I Improve My Strategic Agility?

To improve your strategic agility, embrace and work to incorporate behaviors related to these four top components of agility that matter most in the business world and develop a strategic agility framework based on these components.


  • Shift your focus and begin looking beyond the immediate state of the business.
  • Consistently monitor or review the needs of your internal and external customers, what they might need in the future.


  • Keep a pulse on market conditions and industry changes and forces that can affect your business or customer needs.
  • Be observant of trends and anomalies that you see in your workplace, with your customers, and within the industry.
  • Call out patterns that show up in data and objectively analyze the information that you are receiving.


  • Respond to customer needs (internal or external) faster than your competitors.
  • Make decisions quickly and efficiently.
  • Anticipate possible scenarios and determine if contingency plans are needed.


  • Be flexible and open to reworking business processes and procedures as new market demands arise or as business changes.
  • Improve your organizational agility. Be in a position to adjust your organizational structure or environment to handle the evolution of the market you serve.

Personal Strategic Agility Competencies

Competencies consist of the skills, attributes, and knowledge that enable you to respond or act effectively. Leaders with strategic agility competencies will have the ability to anticipate and respond to changes or issues that arise. Below are three competencies that, when developed and strengthened will support your personal strategic agility.

Competency 1: Navigating change

Change can cause disruption, difficulty and new or unexpected challenges. Those individuals and leaders who can successfully assimilate and navigate change are able to capitalize on the benefits and opportunities that arise when change is needed. To be more strategically agile,

  • Be willing to adopt and support change.
  • Be a change agent.
  • See the end goal or desired outcome that change facilitates.

Competency 2: Thinking Strategically

Thinking strategically is about having a broader perspective about your work, being conscientious of what is shaping it and figuring out how you can amplify your results. You can improve your strategic agility by

  • Getting out of an operations mindset and stepping back from day-to-day action.
  • Using the power of observation to pick up on emerging trends that will allow you to contribute unique meaningful value.
  • Determining what forces are at play that might enable or hinder your progress.
  • Planning a course of action and executing on it.
  • Aligning your own plans and strategies with the broader organizational strategy.

Competency 3: Getting Comfortable with Risk

Risk can evoke a lot of emotions, but risk also represents an unseized opportunity. If you want to develop your strategic agility, you need to incorporate the ability to see risk, calculate risk, and decide what appropriate action to take as it relates to risk. Risk should be managed, not feared.

  • Take the emotion out of the risk to see things more clearly.
  • Understand the risk for what it is.
  • Look at risk as another calculated, go or no-go decision point.
  • Understand your own view of risk and how that plays into your decisions. Are you risk averse, risk neutral, or are you a risk seeker? This will help you to manage knowing when to embrace or contain risk and will boost your strategic agility.

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