Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 165–183 | Cite as

Towards a Dynamic Model of Organisational Flexibility

  • Amaia Sopelana
  • Martin Kunc
  • Olga Rivera Hernáez
Original Paper


Organisational flexibility, as the ability to adapt quickly to new or changing environments, has received growing attention from both researchers and managers as a key driver for companies to survive and prosper in turbulent and unpredictable environments. Although many scholars have studied the complex nature and multidimensional structure of this construct, research on a comprehensive model, which explains the relationships between its key variables and consequent side effects of such iterations, remains a challenge. We explore these interactions and the dynamic adaptation processes applying system dynamics modelling to develop a more robust organisational flexibility theory. The objective of this paper is twofold, to provide dynamic propositions related to several strategies along different enterprise lifecycle stages and to complement the transition guidelines proposed by the organizational flexibility framework. The results suggest that decision concerning flexible capabilities management and organizational responsiveness can be improved if organizational flexibility is analysed and evaluated incorporating the time-varying dimension. The analysis help to test and expand current theory, envisage new theoretical propositions and provide new alternatives for empirical results about the complex construct of organizational flexibility.


Organizational flexibility System dynamics modelling Flexible capabilities Responsiveness Change strategies 



A. Sopelana acknowledges financial support from a local funding project SAIOTEK-IMPEMA (2005) led by Ikerlan, S.Coop.


  1. Ansoff I (1980) Strategic issue management. Strateg Manag J 1:131–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. De Toni A, Tonchia S (2005) Definitions and linkages between operational and strategic flexibilities. Omega 33(6):525CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dreyer B, Grønhaug K (2004) Uncertainty, flexibility, and sustained competitive advantage. J Busin Res 57(5):484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hambrick DC, D’Aveni RA (1988) Large corporate failures as downward spirals. Adm Sci Q 33(1):1–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Hatum A, Pettigrew AM (2006) Determinants of organizational flexibility: a study in an emerging economy. Br J Manag 17:115–137. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2005.00469.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kanter RM (1988) When a thousand flowers bloom: structural, collective and social conditions for innovation in organizations. In: Volberda HW (ed) Building the flexible firm: how to remain competitive. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p 195Google Scholar
  7. Kraatz MS, Zajac EJ (2001) How organizational resources affect strategic change and performance in turbulent environments: theory and evidence. Organ Sci 12(5):632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Martínez-Sánchez A, Vela-Jiménez MJ, Pérez-Pérez M, De-Luis-Carnicer P (2009) Inter-organizational cooperation and environmental change: moderating effects between flexibility and innovation performance. Br J Manag 20:537–561CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Oliver C (1991) Strategic responses to institutional processes. Academy of Management Review, 16(1):145–179. In: Tan J, Zeng Y (2009) A stage-dependent model of resource utilization, strategic flexibility, and implications for performance over time: Empirical evidence from a transitional environment. Asia Pac J Manag (APJM) (2009) 26:563–588Google Scholar
  10. Repenning Nelson P (2002) A simulation-based approach to understanding the dynamics of innovation implementation. Organ Sci 13:109–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Sastry MA (1997) ‘Problems and paradoxes in a model of punctuated organizational change’. Adm Sci Q 42:237–275Google Scholar
  12. Sterman JD (2000) Business dynamics: systems thinking and modeling for a complex World. McGraw-Hill, BostonGoogle Scholar
  13. Suárez FF, Cusumano MA, Fine CH (2003) Flexibility and performance: a literature critique and strategic framework. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. Teece DJ, Pisano G, Shuen A (1997) Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strateg Manag J 18(7):509–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Verdú-Jover AJ, Lloréns-Montes JF, Garcia-Morales VJ (2006) Environment–flexibility co-alignment and performance: an analysis in large versus small firms. J Small Bus Manage 44(3):334–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Volberda HW (1996) Towards the flexible form: how to remain vital in hypercompetitive environments. Organ Sci 7(4):359–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Volberda HW (1998) Building the flexible firm: how to remain competitive. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  18. Volberda HW, Rutges A (1999) FARSYS: a knowledge-based system for managing strategic change. Decis Support Syst 26:99–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Volberda HW, Ende JCM, Van den, Ark HH, Rotmans J, Soete LLG, De Vries NK (2007) ‘What matters most for innovation? Multi-level complementarities between knowledge creation, transfer and utilization’. Proposal for NWO-MaGW strategic theme 2007–2010, p. 32Google Scholar
  20. Zelenovic DM (1982) Flexibility: a condition for effective production systems. Int J Prod Res 20(3):319–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amaia Sopelana
    • 1
  • Martin Kunc
    • 2
  • Olga Rivera Hernáez
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) & Fundación TECNALIA Research & Innovation, Parq. Tecnológico de MiramónDonostiSpain
  2. 2.Operational Research and Management Science GroupWarwick Business School, University of WarwickCoventryUK
  3. 3.Deusto UniversitySan SebastianSpain
  4. 4.Health Research and Innovation Basque GovernmentVitoria-GasteizSpain

Personalised recommendations