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04-07-2020 | Invited paper | Issue 3/2020

Global Journal of Flexible Systems Management 3/2020

Super-Flexibility in Practice: Insights from a Crisis

Journal:
Global Journal of Flexible Systems Management > Issue 3/2020
Authors:
Stuart Evans, Homa Bahrami
Important notes
This article is partly based on the Berkeley-Haas Case Study “Real-Time Leadership at Fabrinet” 2014. https://​cases.​haas.​berkeley.​edu/​search/​articleDetail.​aspx?​article=​5795.

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Abstract

Flexibility is intuitively valued as a means of dynamically adapting to uncertainty. Historically, it has been especially prized during times of crisis. This is clearly demonstrated today as the current Coronavirus crisis is unfolding; there are many different dimensions of flexibility, ranging from versatility, agility, and resilience, to hedging, robustness and liquidity. For convenience, we fuse these terms together under the conceptual umbrella of “super-flexibility”. We define super-flexibility as a dynamic capability to simultaneously withstand turbulence AND adapt to fluid reality. Our field research has focused on how companies in Silicon Valley embrace uncertainty and drive adaptation. In this paper, we draw on the experience of a manufacturing firm facing the floods that hit Thailand in October 2011. The crisis enabled us to observe a situation in which the different nuances of flexibility collectively came into play within a compressed time-frame. In this paper, we showcase the practical application of super-flexibility in a crisis. First, we describe the conceptual foundations of flexibility and its different nuances. We then examine the chronology of the crisis as events unfolded. We conclude by distilling a number of “super-flexibility” lessons for business leaders.

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