What is strategic agility? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Bettina Büchel, IMD Professor of Strategy & Author of Strategic Agility, on Quora:

The implementation of strategic initiatives is at the heart of strategy execution. Strategic initiatives can be business process initiatives, such as implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) or a central ERP system such as Nestlé's Globe initiative or alternatively, it can involve growth initiatives such as Ooredoo's mobile banking service.

As strategic initiatives often commit substantial resources over extended periods of time, early learning is essential to reduce uncertainty. While business efficiency initiatives are often associated with developing a plan and then delivering this well thought out forecast, the reality of the implementation is often different as the complexity of process changes is often underestimated. This is even more often the case for growth initiatives. When you start a new initiative do you know exactly the customer segment for this new product or service and what they will expect two or three years down the road? The answer is, to a large extent, no.

Like I mention in my new book, Strategic Agility: The Art of Piloting Initiatives, by strategic agility, we mean the capacity to learn and then shift resources - including cash, talent, and managerial attention - quickly and effectively. Strategic agility involves carefully sequencing strategic initiatives to allow for the stages of execution to be broken down in a way that knowledge for business efficiency and growth initiatives is continuously accrued, while the flexibility to adjust the path is maintained as learning occurs.

In an agile context, the use of empirical performance metrics is all about improving the probability that delivery teams of initiatives get continuous feedback. Paramount to an agile way of working is the concept of "fail fast, learn faster." Teams quantify their performance and use the data to improve. Teams display progress status information visually, updating it frequently. This makes progress transparent to everyone including senior management. Senior management uses visible performance information to oversee projects and reinforce the message that the accountability for succeeding or failing in terms of learning remains with the delivery team.

The usual principles of assurance remain but assessment relies more on observation and engagement with the delivery team and stakeholders, rather than reporting and information reviews. Good communication and engagement are critical if effective agile delivery in the execution of initiatives is to be assured. As such, reviewers are more effective in providing critical challenges if they have agile delivery experience in order to observe the ways the delivery team works including the management approach adopted.

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