Defining Strategic Flexibility

Part of the Flexible Systems Management book series (FLEXSYS)


This chapter presents a review of the literature about the term strategic flexibility. It analyzes various components and definitions of strategic flexibility and concludes by defining the term. Using previous research about strategic flexibility, this article discusses the many components and definitions of strategic flexibility. Rather surprisingly, strategic flexibility has been considered by research in a variety of academic disciplines such as strategic management, economics, organization, theory, and marketing, and therefore, there is a diverse array of views about how to define this term. Strategic flexibility is often discussed “alongside” such terms as strategic choice, strategic maneuverability, and strategic options. This chapter found that previous research had developed “operationalized” definitions based upon the specific needs of their studies. Consequently, there has not been a “proven,” agreed definition of strategic flexibility. It is suggested that this chapter adds to our general understanding of the term by advancing a general definition of strategic flexibility.


Strategic Management Strategic Choice Sustainable Competitive Advantage Strategic Option Strategic Maneuverability 


  1. Aaker DA, Mascarenhas B (1984) The need for strategic flexibility. J Bus Strategy 5(2):74–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Achrol RS, Kotler P (1999) Marketing in the network economy. J Market 63:146–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson G (1985) Planning for restructured competition. Long Range Plann 18(1):21–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ansoff I (1965) Corporate strategy. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Bahrami H (1992) The emerging flexible organization: perspectives from Silicon Valley. Calif Manage Rev 34(4):33–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barney JB (1991) Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. J Manage 17(1):99–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barney JB (2001) Resource-based theories of competitive advantage: a ten year retrospective on the resource-based view. J Manage 27(6):643–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buckley A (1997) Valuing tactical and strategic flexibility. J Gen Manage 22(3):74–79Google Scholar
  9. Buckley PJ, Casson MC (1998) Models of the multinational enterprise. J Int Bus Stud 29(1):21–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burnes B (1992) Managing change: a strategic approach to organizational development and renewal. Pitman Publishing, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Combe IA, Greenley GE (2004) Capabilities for strategic flexibility: a cognitive content framework. Eur J Mark 38(11/12):1456–1480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Das TK, Elango B (1995) Managing strategic flexibility: key to effective performance. J Gen Manage 20(3):60–75Google Scholar
  13. Eppink DJ (1978) Planning for strategic flexibility. Long Range Plann 11(4):9–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Evans JS (1991) Strategic flexibility for high technology manoeuvres: a conceptual framework. J Manage Stud 28(1):69–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Galbraith CS (1990) Transferring core manufacturing technologies in high-technology firms. Calif Manage Rev 32(4):56Google Scholar
  16. Genus A (1995) Walls and bridges: towards a multi-disciplinary approach to the concept of flexibility. Technol Anal Strateg Manage 7(3):287–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gotcher JW (1977) Strategic planning in European multinationals. Long Range Plann, London 10(5):7–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Grewal R, Tansuhaj P (2001) Building organizational capabilities for managing economic crisis: the role of market orientation and strategic flexibility. J Mark 65(April):67–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harrigan KR (1985) Strategic flexibility: the economics of strategic planning. Lexington Books, LexingtonGoogle Scholar
  20. Harrigan KR (1986) Matching vertical integration strategies to competitive conditions. Strateg Manage J 7:535–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hayes RH, Pisano GP (1994) Beyond world class: the new manufacturing strategy. Harv Bus Rev 72(1):77–84Google Scholar
  22. Hitt MA, Keats BW, DeMarrie SM (1998) Navigating in the new competitive landscape: building strategic flexibility and competitive advantage in the 21st century. Acad Manage Exec 12(4):22–42Google Scholar
  23. Johnson JL, Lee RP, Saini A, Grohmann B (2003) Market- focused strategic flexibility: conceptual advances and an integrative model. J Acad Mark 31(1):74–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Klingen DJS (1975) Company strategy: a managerial approach. Saxon House, WestmeadGoogle Scholar
  25. Kogut B (1985) Designing global strategies: profiting from operational flexibility. Sloan Manage Rev 27(1):27–38Google Scholar
  26. Lau RSM (1996) Strategic flexibility: a new reality for world-class manufacturing. SAM Adv Manage J 61(5):11–15Google Scholar
  27. Lei D, Hitt MA, Goldhar JD (1996) Advanced manufacturing technology: organizational design and strategic flexibility. Organ Stud 17(3):501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Matusik SF, Hill CWL (1998) The utilization of contingent work, knowledge creation, and competitive advantage. Acad Manage Rev 23(4):680–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nadkarni S, Narayanan VK (2004) Strategy frames, strategic flexibility and firm performance: the moderating role of industry clockspeed. Academy of Management Proceedings, New OrleansGoogle Scholar
  30. Parnell JA (1994) Strategic consistency versus flexibility: does strategic change really enhance performance? Am Bus Rev 12(2):22–29Google Scholar
  31. Parnell JA (2003) Five critical challenges in strategy making. SAM Adv Manage J 68(2):15–22Google Scholar
  32. Pauwels P, Matthyssens P (2004) Strategic flexibility in export expansion: growing through withdrawal. Int Mark Rev 21(4/5):496–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Porter M (1980) Competitive strategy: techniques for analyzing industries and competitors. The Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Porter M (1985) Competitive advantage: creating and sustaining superior performance. The Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  35. Prahalad CKAHG (1990) The core competence of the corporation. Harv Bus Rev 68(3):79–91Google Scholar
  36. Raynor ME, Leroux X (2004) Strategic flexibility in R&D. Res Technol Manage 47(3):27–32Google Scholar
  37. Sanchez R (1995) Strategic flexibility in product competition. Strateg Manage J 16:135–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sanchez R, Heene A (1997) Strategic learning and knowledge management. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  39. Schilling MA, Steensma HK (2001) The use of modular organizational forms: an industry-level analysis. Acad Manage J 44(6):1149–1168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shimizu K, Hitt MA (2004) Strategic flexibility: organizational preparedness to reverse ineffective strategic decisions. Acad Manage Exec 18(4):44–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Slack N (1983) Flexibility as a manufacturing objective. Int J Oper Prod Manag 3(3):4–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Teece DJ, Pisano G, Shuen A (1997) Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strateg Manage J 18(7):509–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Upton DM (1995) Flexibility as process mobility: the management of plant capabilities for quick response manufacturing. J Oper Manag 12(3, 4):205–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Volberda HW (1996) Towards the flexible form: how to remain vital in hypercompetitive environments. Organ Sci 7(4):359–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Volberda HW (1998) Building the flexible firm: how to remain competitive. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UKGoogle Scholar
  46. Volberda HW, Rutges A (1999) FARSYS: a knowledge-based system for managing strategic change. Decis Support Syst 26(2):99–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Worren N, Moore K, Cardona P (2002) Modularity, strategic flexibility and firm performance: a study of the home appliance industry. Strateg Manage J 23(12):1123–1140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Young-Ybarra C, Wiersema M (1999) Strategic flexibility in information technology alliances: the influence of transaction cost economics and social exchange theory. Organ Sci 10(4):439–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer India 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Business School, The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

Personalised recommendations