Global Journal of Flexible Systems Management

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 27–32 | Cite as

Defining Strategic Flexibility

  • Norman Roberts
  • Gary J. Stockport
Strategic Flexibility


This article presents a review of the literature about the term strategic flexibility. It analyses various components and definitions of strategic flexibility and concludes by defining the term for the purpose of our doctoral research. 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 manoeuvrability and strategic options. This article found that previous research had developed ‘operationalised’ 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 article adds to our general understanding of the term by advancing a general definition of strategic flexibility.


external and internal perspectives strategic capability strategic flexibility 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aaker D. A. and Mascarenhas B. (1984). The Need for Strategic Flexibility. The Journal of Business Strategy 5(2): 74–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Achrol R. S. and Kotler P. (1999). Marketing in the Network Economy. Journal of Marketing 63: 146–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson G. (1985). Planning for Restructured Competition. Long Range Planning 18(1): 21–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ansoff I. (1965). Corporate Strategy. New York, McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  5. Bahrami H. (1992). The Emerging Flexible Organization: Perspectives from Silicon Valley. California Management Review 34(4): 33–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barney J. B. (1991). Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage. Journal of Management 17(1): 99–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barney J. B. (2001). Resource-based Theories of Competitive Advantage: A Ten Year Retrospective on the Resource-based View. Journal of Management 27(6): 643–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buckley A. (1997). Valuing Tactical and Strategic Flexibility. Journal of General Management 22(3): 74–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buckley P. J. and Casson M.C. (1998). Models of the Multinational Enterprise. Journal of International Business Studies 29(1): 21–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burnes B. (1992). Managing Change: A Strategic Approach to Organizational Development and Renewal. London, Pitman Publishing.Google Scholar
  11. Combe I. A. and Greenley G.E. (2004). Capabilities for Strategic Flexibility: A Cognitive Content Framework. European Journal of Marketing 38(11/12): 1456–1480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Das T. K. and Elango B. (1995). Managing Strategic Flexibility: Key to Effective Performance. Journal of General Management 20(3): 60–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eppink D. J. (1978). Planning for Strategic Flexibility. Long Range Planning 11(4): 9–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Evans, J. S. (1991). Strategic Flexibility for High Technology Manoeuvres: A Conceptual Framework. The Journal of Management Studies 28(1): 69–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Galbraith C. S. (1990). Transferring Core Manufacturing Technologies in High-Technology Firms. California Management Review 32(4): 56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Genus A. (1995). Walls and Bridges: Towards a Multi-Disciplinary Approach to the Concept of Flexibility. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 7(3): 287–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gotcher J. W. (1977). Strategic Planning in European Multinationals. Long Range Planning. London 10(5): 7–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Grewal R. and Tansuhaj P. (2001). Building Organizational Capabilities for Managing Economic Crisis: The Role of Market Orientation and Strategic Flexibility. Journal of Marketing 65(April): 67–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harrigan K.R. (1985). Strategic Flexibility: The Economics of Strategic Planning. Lexington, Massachusetts, Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  20. Harrigan K.R. (1986). Matching Vertical Integration Strategies to Competitive Conditions. Strategic Management Journal 7: 535–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hayes R. H. and Pisano G. P. (1994). Beyond World Class: The New Manufacturing Strategy. Harvard Business Review 72(1): 77–84.Google Scholar
  22. Heene A. and Sanchez R. (1997). Competence-Based Strategic Management. Chichester, England, John Wiley & Sons Ltd.Google Scholar
  23. Hitt M. A., Keats B.W. and DeMarrie S. M. (1998). Navigating in the New Competitive Landscape: Building Strategic Flexibility and Competitive Advantage in the 21st Century. Academy of Management Executive 12(4): 22–42.Google Scholar
  24. Johnson J. L., Lee R. P., Saini A. and Grohmann, B. (2003). Market-Focused Strategic Flexibility: Conceptual Advances and an Integrative Model. Journal of the Academy of Marketing 31(1): 74–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Klingen D. J. S. (1975). Company Strategy: A Managerial Approach. Westmead, England, Saxon House.Google Scholar
  26. Kogut B. (1985). Designing Global Strategies: Profiting from Operational Flexibility. Sloan Management Review 27(1): 27–38.Google Scholar
  27. Lau R. S. M. (1996). Strategic Flexibility: A New Reality for World-Class Manufacturing. S.A.M. Advanced Management Journal 61(5): 11–15.Google Scholar
  28. Lei D., Hitt M. A. and Goldhar J. D. (1996). Advanced Manufacturing Technology: Organizational Design and Strategic Flexibility. Organization Studies 17(3): 501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Matusik S. F. and Hill, C. W. l. (1998). The Utilization of Contingent Work, Knowledge Creation, and Competitive Advantage. The Academy of Management Review 23(4): 680–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nadkarni S. and Narayanan V. K. (2004). Strategy Frames, Strategic Flexibility and Firm Performance: The Moderating Role of Industry Clockspeed. Academy of Management Proceedings.Google Scholar
  31. Parnell J. A. (1994). Strategic Consistency Versus Flexibility: Does Strategic Change Really Enhance Performance? American Business Review 12(2): 22–29.Google Scholar
  32. Parnell J. A. (2003). Five Critical Challenges in Strategy Making. S.A.M. Advanced Management Journal 68(2):15–22.Google Scholar
  33. Pauwels P. and Matthyssens P. (2004). Strategic Flexibility in Export Expansion: Growing Through Withdrawal. International Marketing Review 21(4/5): 496–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Porter M. (1980). Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analysing Industries and Competitors. New York, The Free Press.Google Scholar
  35. Porter M. (1985). Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. New York, The Free Press.Google Scholar
  36. Prahalad C. K. A. H. G. (1990). The Core Competence of the Corporation. Harvard Business Review 68(3): 79–91.Google Scholar
  37. Raynor M. E. and Leroux, X. (2004). Strategic Flexibility in R&D. Research Technology Management 47(3): 27–32.Google Scholar
  38. Sanchez R. (1995). Strategic Flexibility in Product Competition. Strategic Management Journal 16: 135–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sanchez R. and Heene A. (1997). Strategic Learning and Knowledge Management. Chichester, England, John Wiley & Sons Ltd.Google Scholar
  40. Sanchez R. and Mahoney J.T. (1996). Modularity, Flexibility and Knowledge Management in Product and Organization Design. Strategic Management Journal 17: 63–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sanchez R., Heene A. and Thomas H. (1996). Towards the Theory and Practice of Competence-Based Competition. Dynamics of Competence- Based Competition: Theory and Practice in the New Strategic Management. R. Sanchez, Heene, A. and Thomas, H. Oxford: Pergamon, Elservier Science Ltd.: 238–265.Google Scholar
  42. Schilling M. A. and Steensma H. K. (2001). The Use of Modular Organizational Forms: An Industry-Level Analysis. Academy of Management Journal 44(6): 1149–1168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shimizu K. and Hitt M. A. (2004). Strategic Flexibility: Organizational Preparedness to Reverse Ineffective Strategic Decisions. The Academy of Management Executive 18(4): 44–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Slack N. (1983). Flexibility as a Manufacturing Objective. International Journal of Operations & Production Management 3(3): 4–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Teece D. J., Pisano G. and Shuen A. (1997). Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management. Strategic Management Journal 18(7): 509–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Upton D. M. (1995). Flexibility as Process Mobility: The Management of Plant Capabilities for Quick Response Manufacturing.” Journal of Operations Management 12(3,4): 205–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Volberda H. W. (1996). Towards the Flexible Form: How to Remain Vital in Hypercompetitive Environments. Organization Science 7(4): 359–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Volberda H. W. (1998). Building the Flexible Firm: How to Remain Competitive. Oxford. U.K. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Volberda H. W. and Rutges A. (1999). FARSYS: A Knowledge-based System for Managing Strategic Change. Decision Support Systems 26(2): 99–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Worren N., Moore K. and Cardona P. (2002). Modularity, Strategic Flexibility and Firm Performance: A Study of the Home Appliance Industry. Strategic Management Journal 23(12): 1123–1140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Young-Ybarra C. and Wiersema M. (1999). Strategic Flexibility in Information Technology Alliances: The Influence of Transaction Cost Economics and Social Exchange Theory. Organization Science 10(4): 439–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Global Institute of Flexible Systems Management 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Business SchoolThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

Personalised recommendations