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podcast

Episode 1: Lean Business Coffee

Agility matters (E1) – episode one

Guests today:
Michael, Agility Coach
Inderdip, ScrumMaster
Ammar, Enterprise Agile Coach
David, Head of Value Management & Delivery

Lean Coffee has an agenda with no pre topics, everyone commits to coming up with topics to discuss, promoting them and then having up to 8 minutes discussing. This is a cut version of the 60-minute discussion.

Topics today:
1. How do we feel about breaking the f2f principle
2. How to get the teams to appreciate the “fluffy” side of connecting as a human when remote – when they don’t believe in it
3. How to address Managers nervousness around remote working teams
4. Look after well being of an agile team

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Strategic Agility

This section will be critically analysing current strategic planning benefits, understanding the qualities that have a positive correlation with a financial return and then trying to map those qualities to the current understood definition of strategic agility. Secondly, this section will critically analyse what customer value is and what the current literature says about how the qualities of strategic agility impact customer value. 

Mintzberg in 1994 declared the death of strategic planning (Mintzberg, 1994). However, strategic planning has continued to evolve and is still in high demand (cite). Strategic planning is used by management to increase performance (Pearce, Freeman & Robinson, 1987). 

Strategic Planning. Pearce, Freeman & Robinson in the late 80s evaluated the eighteen relevant studies on financial performance at that time. Pearce et al. found inconsistencies in the methodologies created to prove financial performance and even went as far as to imply the cost of planning is greater than the reward of planning itself (Pearce et al., 1987). 

Pearce et al., findings align with other studies of the era (cite), showing how financial performance was not a factor of strategic planning. However, for this study, Pearce et al. are limited in its research due to the period, and our current business enterprise is more complicated than the late 80s; with the uptake of globalisation, technology changes and cultural adaptations brought on from the internet, Pearce et al., may be outdated. 

A recent meta-analysis of strategic planning by George, Walker and  Monster in 2019 had a more extensive data range of 31 studies over twenty years. What is relevant about this study is how, in the time it was created, private strategic planning was still deemed a success. Their findings found a moderate to the strong correlation of 0.41 to operational performance through strategic planning; it is worth noting that this is a moderate correlation, not a moderate to strong (cite). It also showed that there was little difference between public or private companies, this meta-analysis helps us to understand that strategic planning may help towards operational performance, specifically a strong correlation between strategic planning and effectiveness (George, Walker & Monster, 2019). 

Effective performance of an organisation does not show that the organisation is delivering financial performance. George et al. shows us there is a -0.141 correlation to financial performance using effectiveness as a base, bringing the relationship to 0.269; a weak correlation. While evaluating George et al., it can be seen that since Pearce et al.; organisations have moved from financial models of success to key performance indicators that are not financially focused. This could be due to ’performance effectiveness’ allows management to appear victorious in their strategy even though the organisation’s outcomes (0.218), efficiency (0.06) and financial correlations (0.269) are a weak correlation with strategic planning. If management was to focus on effectiveness, then strategic planning is advantageous. It is worth noting that George et al. also found greater efficiency with strategic alignment, the ability for all to have one single vision. 

When expanding correlation to innovation and flexibility, Dibrell, Clay, Justin, Craig and Neubaum study in 2014 shows weak correlation between the firm’s performance and formal strategic planning (0.23) but also weak correlations between flexibility in strategic planning and innovation and performance. However, flexibility has a similar correlation with innovation, as did formal strategic planning (0.24). The study does not help us identify the type of firm performance. Still, it does show a positive correlation between flexibility and flexibility in a formal strategic planning session (0.25) (Dibrell, Clay, Craig & Neubaum, 2014). 

The previous three meta-analysis help to focus on positive vs negative capabilities. Strategic Planning in the eighties does not link to financial performance, and a meta-analysis completed in 2019 shows that strategic planning has a moderate ability to predict obtaining active goals, but weak ability to predict success in achieving outcomes or financial performance. 

Dibrell et al. confirms the weak correlation between performance and strategy planning and thus allows this study to ascertain that there is not a link between the desired vital results and the outcomes, financial and efficiency of an organisation. Although Strategy planning may have a weak correlation with performance, the organisations that had consistent strategic alignment benefited the most. 

Strategic Capabilities. Strategic planning is made up of many qualities. It is found that flexibility of a company and how often that company adapts to the external information has a positive correlation on performance (Dibrell et al, 2014)(George et al, 2019). There is no data on how often an organisation must adapt their strategy to ensure the highest financial reward. There will be an optimal duration of planning, to benefit from the cost of planning itself and the benefit of pivoting. If there is no optimal number, it is worth considering that external factors change too quickly or the price of planning is also high on an organisation. 

When considering the ability to align to organisations strategy Yousaf and Majid analysed 757 small to medium enterprises (SME). SME studies are relevant as they will show higher flux between aligned strategy and misaligned organisational strategy (Yousaf & Majid, 2016). 

Yousaf and Majid found that strategic performance was more significant when the organisation was aligned. For the ability to align, organisations required relationship skills, trust, cooperation and coordination as a team (cite). Yousaf and Majid found that the network can not lead to a performance by itself, this gives an opposite viewpoint to Mintzberg’s emergent strategy, as where the teams naturally create a vision where it lacks (cite)(Yousaf & Majid, 2016). 

The ability for an organisation to have a single vision set by management, allows teams working together to align and deliver strategic performance (cite). The limitations of this study are in the way it was performed; only single respondents from each company may pull results to a bias that is not the results delivered. 

In 2018, Yousaf and Majid studied the impact of flexibility on organisations strategic performance. 737 CEOs and/or managing directors were interviewed. The measurements that are relevant to this study are the correlation between the network, flexibility and performance. A moderate correlation between network and flexibility of 0.507, flexibility was a moderate positive correlation with the strategic performance of 0.432, of which is more than the network alone to strategic performance of 0.302 (Yousaf & Majid, 2018). Yousaf and Majid have shown moderate evidence that strong networks in organisations help flexibility, which in turns increases strategic performance. Additional data to this study found that entrepreneurial orientation positively impacted strategic performance by 0.457. This result aligns to Dibrell et, al. around innovation having a positive correlation with performance. 

It is worth considering that this study had a good sample size but only small to medium enterprises (SME). However, there are similar findings on larger global organisations around dynamic capabilities (Gelhard et al., 2016). 

Diagram 7

Although Yousaf & Majid has positive correlations with coordination, cooperation and trust with strategic performance, they were only weak. However, a moderate positive correlation between strategic alignment and strategic performance and coordination, cooperation and trust had a weak correlation with Strategic Alignment. Strategic performance is a closer measure than business performance as it has measurements for the long term success of an organisation (cite). 

When evaluating qualities against strategic planning, there is sufficient evidence to show strong organisational networks, strategic alignment and flexibility are required for strategic performance over strategic planning and innovation. 

Although there is no registered intellectual property to the term strategic agility, there is a common understanding that it is the ability to pivot quickly with the market instead of using long term forecasts (Weber, 2014). This definition would allow a set of qualities instead of processes to be used to measure strategic agility. 

Weber discusses that strategic agility is essential in a complex world. Organisations that adapt quickly to complex problems use rapid learning processes, changing how they deliver based on external factors (Kane et al. 2016). Agile organisations are flexible with their strategy, awaiting new information from external factors (cite). 

Morton, Stacey and Mohn discuss strategic agility from an IT leaders point of view. Essential qualities found that clear visions that empower teams to be flexible on how they are delivered are more successful. (Morton, Stacey & Mohn, 2018). Morton et al. focussed on 20 semi-structured interviews with IT leaders that had successfully implemented strategic agility. Interviewees reported not only flexibility and adaptation as crucial skills but also being the change leader and changing the culture to trial and error while maintaining strategic alignment with the CEO. (Morton et al., 2018).

Strategic Agility QualitiesImpacts to organisation
FlexibleTo allow the organisation to pivot with new information from the market 
Visionary Organisations with one clear vision allows greater strategic alignment and network
RapidRapid testing of an hypothesis leads to greater innovation and re-planning

Table 1

This academic literature review for strategic agility shows how diagram seven can be simplified (see table 1). Creating a vision for constant change in a complex environment, leaders can create strong networks in their organisation, which leads to more significant innovation and strategic alignment. Diagram eight allows Strategic Agility to be linked directly to Strategic Performance. Because strategic planning may or may not be part of strategic agility, this review has kept it separate. I am leaving a moderate correlation between strategic agility and strategic performance.

Diagram 8

What is missing from studies previously is the relationship between what impacts strategic performance and how that impacts customer value. Customer value can be described as ambiguous, and that could be a reason why there are little relationships. Different areas look to define customer value based on their bias. 

Pricing can define value, i.e. the price that a customer is willing to pay (Anderson & Wynstra, 2010). In Marketing, customer value should be the value the customer obtains through the value chain (cite). The strategy, however, looks at customer value as the value obtained by the shareholders (Porter, 1998). Lastly, from a management point of view, the customer value created is measured against strategic performance (Aspara & Tikkanen, 2013), which creates further profit. 

Strategic agility allows an organisation to rapidly change direction based on new information against a single vision for success (cite). There are no studies showing how strategic agility impacts customer value directly. 

Strategic agility enables strategic planning to be flexible and regularly revisited, a clear organisational vision is leveraged by all and the organisation adapts based on customer needs. (agile leadership). 

Diagram 9

As Diagram nine shows, there is academic literature to support that a strategic agility mindset based on three core qualities can lead to constrained strategic planning which has a much greater correlation with strategic performance outcomes and financial performance. However, there are limitations to exactly why this is the case. This study will evaluate the link between strategic planning using a strategic agility mindset within the delivery of customer value.

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using ‘Content here, content here’, making it look like readable English.

Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for ‘lorem ipsum’ will uncover many web sites still in their infancy. Various versions have evolved over the years, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (injected humour and the like).

There are many variations of passages of Lorem Ipsum available, but the majority have suffered alteration in some form, by injected humour, or randomised words which don’t look even slightly believable.

If you are going to use a passage of Lorem Ipsum, you need to be sure there isn’t anything embarrassing hidden in the middle of text. All the Lorem Ipsum generators on the Internet tend to repeat predefined chunks as necessary, making this the first true generator on the Internet.

It uses a dictionary of over 200 Latin words, combined with a handful of model sentence structures, to generate Lorem Ipsum which looks reasonable. The generated Lorem Ipsum is therefore always free from repetition, injected humour, or non-characteristic words etc.

The standard chunk of Lorem Ipsum used since the 1500s is reproduced below for those interested. Sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 from “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” by Cicero are also reproduced in their exact original form, accompanied by English versions from the 1914 translation by H. Rackham.

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using ‘Content here, content here’, making it look like readable English.

Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for ‘lorem ipsum’ will uncover many web sites still in their infancy. Various versions have evolved over the years, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (injected humour and the like).

There are many variations of passages of Lorem Ipsum available, but the majority have suffered alteration in some form, by injected humour, or randomised words which don’t look even slightly believable.

If you are going to use a passage of Lorem Ipsum, you need to be sure there isn’t anything embarrassing hidden in the middle of text. All the Lorem Ipsum generators on the Internet tend to repeat predefined chunks as necessary, making this the first true generator on the Internet.

It uses a dictionary of over 200 Latin words, combined with a handful of model sentence structures, to generate Lorem Ipsum which looks reasonable. The generated Lorem Ipsum is therefore always free from repetition, injected humour, or non-characteristic words etc.

The standard chunk of Lorem Ipsum used since the 1500s is reproduced below for those interested. Sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 from “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” by Cicero are also reproduced in their exact original form, accompanied by English versions from the 1914 translation by H. Rackham.