Strategy developed via traditional calendar-based processes largely depends on certainty, so often becomes outdated quickly and is slow to respond to change. As executive leaders seek to drive growth in today’s volatile business conditions, they need an adaptive, event-driven strategy approach instead.
“An adaptive approach to long-term strategy is more fitting for a world in which business models are transforming more frequently, and often more radically,”
says Ian Cox, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner.
“The faster the rate of change, the more adaptability becomes a key imperative.”
Where to start with adaptive strategy
- Determine existing strategy challenges, such as extensive creation time and slow response to changes
- Identify the most relevant adaptive strategy practices to overcome those challenges, such as starting strategy execution as early as possible
- Select and implement the relevant building blocks, such as real-time insights, to support the priority adaptive practices
4 core adaptive strategy practices
Start execution as early as possible
Implementing promptly also helps to surface the plan’s flaws and identify where to improve. Adaptive strategy doesn’t require perfect or complete information to execute; it uses available information to identify the most immediate actions required to be successful.
Respond to changes as they happen
The vision that guides an adaptive strategy can still be long-term and bold — but should be continually extended (not changed completely once every few years) to push the boundaries of what the enterprise must do to succeed.
Embrace and explore uncertainty
Involve everyone in strategy
Our research has surfaced nine building blocks that help establish these four practices (though more are likely to emerge over time).
Most traditional enterprises will initially focus on the subset of building blocks that will help them establish the two or so core practices on which they’re focusing first. They use these building blocks to tackle specific issues and alongside a more traditional strategy process to add elements of an adaptive approach. Companies that were born digital often use many more building blocks.
Building blocks fall into three categories:
- Inputs. How ideas, insights and information relevant to strategy are generated, obtained or captured. The blocks are real-time insights, crowdsourcing and continually scanning.
- Process. The way in which strategy is created, reviewed, maintained and updated. Blocks: Distributed decisions, strategy sprints, continual process.
- Outputs. The format, content or structure of strategy. Blocks: Option-based strategies, experiment-based strategies and minimum viable strategy.