ALBA Business Review
Learning Agility: A Path to Strategic Agility
KOSTAS AXARLOGLOU, DEAN, ALBA GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL, THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF GREECE
In a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world (V.U.C.A.) technology disrupts and globalization magnifies and propagates the dramatic changes in our work, communication, and transactions, and the way companies operate and create value.
In a V.U.C.A. world, knowledge might become quickly and unpredictably irrelevan.t
In such a disruptive business environment, company leaders face a major challenge to focus on their company’s long term strategy and, at the same time, to be flexible, receptive to new data, ready to review different options, learn of new patterns and concepts, change direction in light of new developments, redesign their strategy and reallocate productive resources to new priorities and choices, and overall be adaptable to the new developments of the business environment—all in all, to be strategically agile.
Strategic agility depends on three key organizational capabilities:
- The company’s leadership team maintains an extrovert focus with an open internal dialogue among its members where all issues are challenged and redefined (strategic sensitivity).
- The company leaders take courageous decisions without prejudices and limitations arising from the company’s past and present successes. The unity of the leadership team enables them to make decisions with speed from the moment that new trends in the economy have been analyzed and established. Decisions apply directly with the unreserved support of the leadership team without any delays arising from personal insecurities or priorities (leadership unity).
- However, the immediate mobilization of resources along with the alignment of these resources with the company’s new strategic direction is more than imperative. On one hand, human and monetary resources are reallocated and realigned while the necessary procedures (e.g. evaluation and incentives systems) are redesigned in supporting the restructuring of the company’s business model and its new strategy. On the other hand, the leadership team is committed to implement the new business model and also accept the short term losses, in terms of revenue, costs and profitability, which may result from the above structural changes (organization agility).
Knowledge always powers the company’s strategic agility, but in a V.U.C.A. world, knowledge might become quickly and unpredictably irrelevant. To facilitate the company’s strategic agility, learning within the organization should be dynamic with executives/learners continuously acquiring new knowledge, skills and competencies while at the same time also developing a mindset and attitude for perpetual learning. Within such an organization, executives/learners develop the potential to learn and thus have an open and receptive mindset. They also have a motivation to learn, a willingness to participate in the learning process. Finally, they are also adaptable to learn through reflection on the relevance of the acquired skills and competencies and the need to adjust them and even develop new ones. Within their companies, leaders/learners create and nurture a culture of exploration, exchange and application of cutting-edge and relevant knowledge through which they empower their teams to advance and respond effectively to the challenges of the disruptive world, leveraging also the company’s core values and traditions.
In a V.U.C.A. world, knowledge is always power, but perpetual learning—learning agility—is the condition for developing relevant and impactful knowledge to support and facilitate the company’s strategic agility. But of course, learning agility and strategic agility require a lot of courage to disrupt and transform ourselves and our organizations! And this is indeed very much challenging.