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How to Achieve Business Adaptability With Adaptive Strategy Execution

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What is business adaptability?

Business adaptability refers to a company’s ability to quickly respond to market changes, trends, industry shifts, and economic disruptions by adjusting operations to fit the new normal. This requires businesses to hone a specific set of skills, consisting of: 

  • Agility: Rapidly reacting to changes in the market environment while keeping long-term goals in mind 
  • Innovation: Continuously building on top of competitive advantages to reach new heights of innovation 
  • Organizational transparency: Ongoing visibility into strategic priorities and decision-making processes 
  • Flexible resource deployment: Aptly relaying information and resources when necessary 
  • Value-driven collaboration: Relevant stakeholders collaborating to drive favorable results 

Why is adaptability important in business?

The increasing pace, severity, and complexity of competitive and environmental challenges are never-ending in today’s environment. Forces such as globalization, technology, and big data are severely impacting how businesses function, while additional market jolts create turbulent business environments. In the past twenty years alone, we’ve experienced: 

  1. The dot-com bubble of 2000  
  2. The financial crisis of 2008  
  3. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 

With global business challenges occurring more often than we’d like, organizations must hone their business adaptability, learning to closely align with industry shifts to remain relevant. Doing so is necessary as businesses can't thrive in challenging environments if: 

  • Decision-making takes weeks instead of minutes 
  • Employees focus on personal directives instead of company objectives 
  • Teams are misaligned and create duplicative or conflicting work 

A new operational approach to business adaptability 

To be successful amidst such large-scale challenges, organizations must leverage a comprehensive business adaptability framework. This involves a novel take on strategy execution — one adaptable enough to maximize productivity, coordination, and engagement whilst fending against obstacles.  

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin 

This modern business adaptability framework involves establishing agility using adaptive strategy execution. Adaptive strategy execution is a sure-fire way of encouraging flexibility, close communication, and routine operational assessments, ensuring ongoing alignment with internal and external changes. 

Before looking at how you can embed this business adaptability framework into your organization, let’s take a closer look at two of its core concepts: the agile framework and adaptive strategy execution.  

Understanding agile

The agile methodology is a product management approach initially created for software development projects. It involves a collaborative, iterative, and feedback-driven process to streamline processes, align employees, and improve products continuously. 

components of agile

While agile is now widely adopted by worldwide enterprises such as Apple, IBM, and Google, it didn’t happen overnight. Rather, it rose to success in three distinctive waves of adoption. 

  • First wave: The proliferation of agile in individual development teams 
  • Second wave: Agile at scale in product development and corporate IT  
  • Third wave: Business agility deployed throughout the enterprise 

Wave 1: Agile development teams in the early 2000s

The first proper wave of agile began when the Agile Manifesto was published in 2001. Agile methodologies — namely Extreme Programming (XP) and Scrum — were used to streamline software development and improve project management. These capabilities grew in importance as enterprise digitalization and software-driven processes became prominent. 

Wave 2: Agile across business functions in the 2010s 

By 2010, the second wave of agile was making its rounds in more traditional organizations. It involved vast, distributed functions leveraging the agile framework in a coordinated, scalable fashion to overcome issues prevalent in big enterprises.  

This functional wave propelled the rapid adoption of agile practices, with agile qualifications ensuring efficient deployment across functions. These formal accreditations attracted innovative leaders from every part of the organization, paving the way for the third wave of agile.  

Wave 3: Business-wide agile adoption in the modern era 

The third wave (which we’re currently in) involves enterprise-wide agile adoption. By scaling agile across the entire organization, companies sought to cultivate a culture of experimentation and rapid learning cycles. 

This scaled adoption was further accelerated when organizations embraced the inevitability of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). This led companies to shift from traditional silos to value-generating activities. For this to work, stakeholders must be entirely bought in, ensuring agility drives company operations. 

Nowadays, enterprise agility is hailed as a critical driver of innovation, efficiency, and customer engagement. It enables organizations to respond to market changes in a quick, value-focused manner by bringing decision-making closer to customers.  

Given the importance of agility in navigating unstable environments, your organization must proactively incorporate agility into your business processes. How can you go about doing this holistically? 

The three stages of agile adoption

The fundamentals of adaptive strategy execution

While agility is paramount to adaptability in business, it’s insufficient for creating maximum organizational efficiency. For long-term business adaptability, you must use agile as a steppingstone to a more all-encompassing approach: adaptive strategy execution. 

What is strategy execution? 

Understanding adaptive strategy execution requires you to first grasp the basics of strategy execution. Strategy execution is all about ingraining high-level strategic vision into practical, day-to-day execution. It involves creating a plan for your goals and taking actionable steps toward achieving these using available resources. A well-thought-out strategy execution process entails four steps: 

  1. Planning a cohesive strategy at the corporate, business, and functional levels 
  2. Aligning individuals across the organization to clearly defined goals 
  3. Executing and managing your strategy at scale 
  4. Assessing and adapting your strategy in line with market changes 

Making strategy execution adaptive

Adding the “adaptive” component to strategy execution is achieved through the modern operating model. This model focuses on continuous flexibility, alignment, agility, and cross-functional accessibility using key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives and key results (OKRs). KPIs are used to run standard operations, while ambitious goal-setting frameworks such as OKRs establish business adaptability and growth. 


Read more on the modern operating model.

modern operating model diagram

Solidifying adaptive strategy execution with organizational design

To sustain adaptive capabilities, you need a supportive organizational design. In the current knowledge economy, a top-down command and control structure can stop you from attaining business adaptability. As such, you must strive for flatter, network-based structures. These are necessary for today’s hybrid work environment, facilitating ongoing alignment, coordination, and flexibility for optimal operations.   

The high cost of non-adaptive organizational designs

Sticking to traditional corporate designs can cause (or aggravate) multiple issues within your organization, affecting your ability to attain adaptability in business. For example, non-adaptive structures inhibit effective communication, alignment, and employee ownership, leading to disempowered employees and subpar work. As 79% of employees are already disengaged, this can exacerbate pre-existing issues, with non-adaptive designs fueling the fire of misdirected efforts, minimal value creation, and costly turnover. 

Using adaptive organizational designs, you can effectively deploy resources in response to market needs. This motivates employees to address threats, opportunities, and obstacles promptly, subsequently improving engagement, productivity, and adaptability in business.  

Making adaptive strategy execution a fundamental business competency

Now that we’ve covered the basics of adaptive strategy execution, we’ll look at how you can implement it into your organization. For starters, you must take a critical look at how value is created within (and across) your business departments. By assessing your operations, you can steer them toward business adaptability using agile principles and adaptive strategy execution — turning these into a core competitive advantage for your organization. 

Building adaptive resilience with agile

After choosing to prioritize business adaptability, you must understand the individual benefits your business can derive from agility. A great place to start is with a deep, yet limited implementation of agile on a handful of customer-impacting processes or value streams. 

A crucial part of this involves leadership clarity on the expected benefits of implementation. That is, you should be able to fill in the blank of “We are optimizing for ____.” 

Some examples include:  

  • Increased value realization 
  • Increased productivity  
  • Improved responsiveness and adaptability 
  • Increased innovation  
  • Faster time-to-market 
  • Increased customer responsiveness and satisfaction 
  • Improved quality 
  • Improved employee engagement and satisfaction 

While you can gain significant benefits from agile, attaining them all at once is rare, and it’s not practical to push for them all at the same time. With this in mind, focus on the most important benefits for your organization, using progress measures to track, align on, and prove success. 

Creating agile OKRs for adaptive strategy execution

To support agile goals, you need a robust goal-setting methodology such as OKRs. OKRs provide actionability to goals while allowing you to make adjustments as needed. This makes them fundamental to adaptive strategy execution. Composed of objectives and key results, this methodology encourages you to set trackable, ambitious, and time-bound goals at every level of your organization. Objectives refer to short, qualitative descriptions of what you want to achieve. Each objective is supported by 3-5 key results, which are trackable metrics depicting progress toward your objectives.   

OKRs provide several benefits as you work to establish adaptability in business, enabling: 

  1. Focus: OKRs highlight the most important company goals, improving prioritization amidst market changes 
  2. Accountability: Mandatory OKR ownership ensures everyone knows what goals they’re in charge of  
  3. Alignment: Using clear overarching objectives as guiding lights, departments, teams, and individuals push in the same direction 
  4. Transparency: OKRs' transparency ensures everyone is aware of goal progress 
  5. Engagement: As OKRs encourage visibility around ambitious goals, individuals are empowered to push boundaries and make steady progress toward their goals 
  6. Flexibility: OKRs’ flexible cycle allows them to be adjusted and adapted in response to progress metrics and changes in market environments  

By using OKRs to establish agile operations, you can leverage unparalleled capabilities, prioritize value-added growth, and work cohesively toward a singular mission – all while accounting for ongoing changes in the business environment. 

Leading business adaptability with adaptive strategy execution

Given today’s tumultuous environment, as visionary leaders, you must take it upon yourself to courageously lead, transform, and reposition operations for success. This involves nurturing business adaptability throughout your strategy and structure using adaptive strategy execution.  

Weaving agility into your operations strengthens communication, keeps teams flexible, and aligns efforts toward prioritized outcomes as you keep tabs on the market environment. 

As OKRs spearhead adaptive strategy execution by helping create, align, and track actionable goals, they're potent accelerators of business adaptability. OKRs encourage the much-needed mindset shift for organizations of all sizes to establish quick decision-making, coordinated ecosystems, and flexible strategic management. 

If you want to deploy OKRs across your organization, you can leverage a strategy execution platform to make OKR implementation a breeze. The best OKR software helps you create team OKRs, view live data, and continuously adapt OKR elements. Moreover, they can empower efficient operations by establishing goal ownership, generating performance reports, and ensuring visibility at every level of the organization. 


Quantive is your bridge between strategy and execution. Founded on the objectives and key results (OKR) methodology, our Strategy Execution Platform is where businesses plan successful strategy, focus and align teams to it, and stay on the leading edge of progress.

As your company looks to achieve the best possible results, you need a modern approach to run your business and change your business. The Modern Operating Model brings strategy, teams, and data together to help make decisions faster, optimize operations, and drive better business outcomes.

Whether you’re a large enterprise facing competitive disruption or a small business leading the innovative charge, Quantive helps gets you where you want to go.

Ready to achieve the best possible? Start using Quantive for free.

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