Strategic Flexibility

Posted by Matthew Thomas

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matthew-thomas-2.jpgIn my part of the world, wind gusts are the stuff of legend - and reality. Fully loaded semitrailers have been known to blow off the highway onto their sides from them. Tall buildings are designed to sway or flex with the wind. We have mile after mile of ghostly gray-white windmills silently generating electricity. These winds are known to break rigid structures, while flexible ones survive the buffeting.

One of the reasons strategic plans get shelved before their time boils down to the plan's ability to flex with changing conditions - internal successes and failures, of course, but more often changes in the organization's external environment. Plans with incredible precision but without flexibility are often the first casualty of early success.

Photo Credit: News-Gazette. Highway sign on I-74 in East Central IllinoisOn-the-fly adjustments will always be necessary. Nevertheless, many organizations find building those adjustments into plans to be a considerable challenge. As is human tendency, we end up in a polarity of excessively detailed, layered, branched flowcharts; or making it up as we go, knowing it will all work out in the end.

Two approaches, working in tandem, help to keep plans clear and on track, even while navigating through windy conditions.

  1. Clear Communication plans. This sounds like a no-brainer. It is, but. Communication plans often struggle when purpose isn't clear, when lack of trust is (or even appears to be) the driver, and when plans don't display mutual benefit to all parties involved. Those things quickly change communication plans into dreaded paperwork. Clear communication plans keep information flowing where it needs to in ways that improve everyone's capacity to complete their work.Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now!
  2. Strategic Triggers. These are aspects of solid strategic plans developed by leadership teams that posit a variety of situations across major sectors of the organizational environment to which the leaders will need to respond. Perhaps the stock market rises (or drops) 40% in a month. Perhaps new regulations that affect core business come into effect, or old ones expire. Most industries have specific things they watch. This just puts them in place and creates a series of "first thoughts" about what might be done under those new circumstances: whether the plan has to be reworked from first principles, or whether minor adjustments can be made, or more typically, somewhere in between.

(Related: Prioritization and Strategy Implemenatation)

The TAD process we have described over the last two weeks brings both of those approaches together in the Think phase. As a leadership team strategizes and prioritizes strategic themes, communication plans and strategic triggers get baked right in to the overall plan. This allows for the flexibility needed to adjust - so all the time, energy, money, and frustration of planning is not wasted the first time something unexpected blows in. In most cases, this starts from the first actual meeting to begin the TAD process.

How can I find out more?

As a TAD-Certified Consultant and member of the TAD Partner program, I can walk you through a demonstration of the software and work with you to see if TAD would be a good fit for your organization or project. Feel free to call 1.877.771.3330 x20 or e-mail me  at matthewmthomas [at] designgroupintl [dot] com. If you would like to see more about the software directly from adaQuest, visit


Topics: Matthew Thomas, strategic planning, organizational strategy