Updated: Sep 13
Dr. David Alkaher and Elizabeth J. Taylor
In the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary business, the pursuit of growth, adaptability, and competitive advantage is a universal objective. Organizations, whether on the battlefield or in the corporate realm, share a common aspiration: to harness strategic methodologies and frameworks that facilitate survivability, resilience, innovation and expansion.
Militaries around the world commonly leverage an approach called “force design”, a powerful framework that is not taught in any business school. Organizations wanting to remain competitive may want to utilize this framework to gain inspiration and lessons to shape a dynamic strategy that navigates challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and pioneer the art of growth and adaptation. The force design framework emphasizes swift decision-making, resource allocation, and responsiveness to change. This framework guides decision makers how to support and reinforce the organization's potential to translate initiatives and ideas into breakthrough products and services, ultimately achieving their missions and goals.
In the past decade modern armies started realizing that the design force framework is a necessary yet not sufficient to effectively lead Revolution in Military Affairs, RMA (i.e., organizational transformations); hence, started integrating institutional corporate innovation frameworks and innovation management system methodologies to their legacy force design approaches.
Inspired by the aforementioned frameworks, this article introduces the "Agile Expansion Framework," a framework encapsulating a strategic approach for modern organizations that enhance adaptability and the position to seize opportunities with agility.
Motivation - Built to Last
"Built to Last" is the title of the bestseller written by James Collins and Jerry Porras in the mid-1990s, which dealt with the existential question: "How do a few corporations succeed in changing the world, leading in their field, and achieving success for decades and even centuries? What do these giant corporations have in common, and what sets them apart from their competitors?" Since its publication, the phrase 'Built to Last' has become a linguistic emblem describing the determination of corporations to survive the constant race of change and remain relevant . Upon reflecting on documented history, it is evident that the fate of kingdoms, armies, corporations and companies is to collapse and disappear. In the capitalistic realm, from the beginning of the current millennium, within two decades, about 52% of companies on the Fortune 500 list vanished, folded, or lost their place in the hall of fame and became irrelevant . Furthermore, from 1995 to 2016, only 12% of companies on the Fortune 500 lists managed to survive the race of change . Similarly, in the realm of imperialism, the largest empires have survived for an average duration of around 250 years .
Hence, both civilian and military organizations need effective strategies that can play a pivotal role in enhancing their survivability, resilience, and growth efforts, by fostering a dynamic and adaptable approach to challenges and opportunities.
Survivability is the ability to adapt and evolve, to withstand shocks and maintain operational continuity, even in volatile conditions. It can be achieved by rapidly assessing risks and opportunities, making informed decisions, and reallocating resources.Resilience is the capacity to bounce back and thrive in the face of adversity. As a result, organizations become more equipped, recover quickly, and continue delivering value to stakeholders. It can be achieved by promoting a culture of proactive problem-solving and innovation, monitoring the external landscape, anticipating disruptions, and adjusting strategies promptly as conditions evolve.Growth is a central goal for corporations and organizations to capitalize on emerging opportunities with agility and precision. It can be achieved by allocating resources to ensure that growth initiatives receive the necessary support, and streamlined decision-making eliminates bottlenecks that could impede progress.
Force Design and Force Buildup Frameworks
In the military domain there are two solid concepts that play important roles in military planning and readiness. These concepts collectively contribute to the successful design and buildup of military forces to meet specific objectives, whether in response to evolving threats, strategic goals, or emergent situations. The first concept is termed "Force Design" and the second one is termed "Force Buildup". While Force Design is about providing the foundation for sustained capabilities, Force Buildup is about addressing short-term contingencies.
Force Design refers to the deliberate process of structuring and organizing military forces to meet specific strategic and operational objectives. It involves making thoughtful decisions about the size, composition, capabilities, and distribution of military units within an armed force. Force design takes into account factors such as technological advancements, evolving threats, geopolitical considerations, and budget constraints. The aim is to create a well-balanced and effective force that can address a wide range of potential challenges. It's a strategic process that considers long-term goals, interoperability, adaptability, and integration of emerging technologies.
It includes: Capability Assessment and Gap Analysis: Evaluating an organization's current capabilities, identifying gaps in resources or skills, and determining the necessary capabilities to achieve strategic objectives. Operational Requirements: Defining the specific operational needs and goals that the organization's forces must fulfill. This includes considering factors such as mission types, geographic areas, and potential threats. Structural Design: Organizing the composition and structure of the forces, including the types of units, their sizes, roles, and functions. This also involves determining the command and control hierarchy. Technological Integration: Incorporating advanced technologies, equipment, and systems to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the forces. This could include cyber capabilities, advanced weaponry, and communication systems. Resource Allocation: Allocating budget, manpower, and logistical resources to support the designed force structure. This involves balancing cost-effectiveness with operational capabilities. Training and Skill Development: Designing training programs to ensure that personnel possess the required skills, expertise, and readiness to operate effectively within the designed force structure.
Force Buildup: Force buildup, on the other hand, is a more tactical and short-term concept. It refers to the rapid increase in the size and capabilities of military forces in response to a specific threat or crisis. Force buildup often occurs in situations where there is an immediate need to enhance military readiness and presence in a particular region or to respond to an emerging conflict. Force buildup involves the quick deployment of additional personnel, equipment, and resources to bolster existing military capabilities. It's often a reactive measure taken in response to a sudden escalation of tensions or a clear and present danger. The goal of force buildup is to demonstrate resolve, deter potential adversaries, and be prepared to take swift action if necessary.
It includes: Resource Mobilization: Mobilizing the necessary resources, including personnel, equipment, funds, and materials, to build up the desired force capabilities. Rapid Deployment: Ensuring the swift deployment of forces to specific locations in response to emerging situations or contingencies. Logistical Support: Establishing supply chains, transportation networks, and maintenance systems to sustain the buildup of forces and their sustained operations. Scalable Operations: Developing plans and strategies for scaling up force operations as the buildup progresses, ensuring cohesion and effectiveness. Interagency Coordination: Collaborating with different agencies, governmental bodies, or allied forces to ensure a coordinated approach to force buildup. Contingency Planning: Developing contingency plans that outline potential challenges, risks, and alternative courses of action during the buildup process. Communication and Information Sharing: Establishing effective communication channels to disseminate information, orders, and updates among the forces involved in the buildup.
In the realm of military strategy and preparedness, the intricacies of both Force Design and Force Buildup hold pivotal significance. These multifaceted processes are the cornerstones of crafting effective military capabilities and swiftly mobilizing resources when the need arises. Force design encompasses the meticulous orchestration of capabilities, resources, and structures to meet strategic goals, while force buildup entails the rapid marshaling of these elements for immediate deployment. This exploration delves into the distinct aspects and categories that underpin both force design and force buildup, shedding light on the complexities that shape military readiness and operational success.
In the past decade modern armies started realizing that both the design force and force buildup frameworks are necessary yet not sufficient to effectively lead Revolution in Military Affairs, RMA (i.e., organizational transformations); hence, started integrating institutional corporate innovation frameworks and innovation management system methodologies to their legacy force design approaches. In the past decade, the application of institutional innovation has been evident in the Israeli Defense Forces, IDF (2013) and, in recent years, in the defense entities of the western armies; e.g., the U.S. Army's Futures Command (2018 AFC), the Innovation Labs in the British Army (Jhub 2017), the Innovation Labs in the Australian Army (2018), and NATO's Innovation Hub (2022). The organization's innovation capabilities encompass the ability to identify and respond to changes, harness new opportunities, and leverage the knowledge and creativity of individuals within the organization, as well as partnerships with external collaborators and competitors (i.e., coopetitors) within the ecosystem.
"Agile Expansion Framework" a new term is coined
Paving the Way for Effective Corporate's Force Design and Buildup
Inspired by the force design and force buildup frameworks, this article introduces the "Agile Expansion Framework," a framework encapsulating a strategic approach for modern organizations that enhance adaptability and the position to seize opportunities with agility.
Although the military and the civilian corporate domains are different, the fundamental principles of effective organization, resource allocation, adaptability, and strategic planning apply to both.
While the terminologies within the civilian corporate domain may vary, and may not be directly equivalent, there are terms and concepts that reflect the same principles:
Organizational Strategy and Restructuring: This term captures the essence of force design. It refers to the deliberate process of designing and organizing an organization's structure, functions, and resources to achieve specific strategic objectives. Organizational restructuring can involve changes in departmental structures, reporting lines, roles, and responsibilities to align with the company's goals.
Rapid Expansion or Scaling: This concept corresponds to force buildup. Rapid expansion or scaling refers to the quick increase in the size, capabilities, and resources of a company in response to sudden demands, opportunities, or market shifts. It involves deploying additional resources and personnel to address immediate needs.
Agile Transformation: Similar to the idea of modularity and flexibility in force design, agile transformation involves designing a company's operations and processes to be adaptable and responsive to changing circumstances. It focuses on the ability to pivot quickly and efficiently to meet evolving market conditions and customer preferences.
Crisis Management and Response: While not a direct equivalent, crisis management and response encompass the idea of rapidly mobilizing resources, adjusting strategies, and making quick decisions to address unexpected challenges or disruptions in the business environment.
Strategic Resource Allocation: This term captures the essence of how resources are distributed within a corporation to align with its strategic objectives. Just as force design involves resource allocation in the military, strategic resource allocation in the corporate world involves allocating funds, personnel, and other assets to achieve business goals.
Talent Development and Training: This concept is aligned with the training and personnel aspects of force design. Talent development and training involve nurturing employees' skills, providing ongoing learning opportunities, and ensuring that the workforce is equipped to contribute effectively to the company's success.
Supply Chain Optimization: Analogous to the sustainment and logistics aspect of force design, supply chain optimization focuses on ensuring the efficient and seamless flow of materials, products, and services through the company's supply chain to meet customer demands.
Innovation and Technological Integration: This captures the idea of incorporating cutting-edge technologies and innovations into a company's operations, aligning with the capability enhancement aspect of force design.
Strategic Partnerships and Alliances: Similar to the concept of joint and combined operations, strategic partnerships and alliances involve collaborating with other companies, suppliers, or organizations to achieve shared goals and enhance capabilities.
Risk Mitigation and Continuity Planning: This concept aligns with the risk management aspect of force design. It involves identifying potential risks and developing plans to mitigate those risks, ensuring business continuity even in the face of disruptions.
In the absence of an explicit terminology in the civilian corporate domain, the following "Agile Expansion Framework" is hereby suggested as a term that defines the ability of corporates and companies to swiftly and thoughtfully enhance capabilities and resources in response to evolving situations. The following elaborates the core ideas that are encapsulated within the suggested term:
Agility and Adaptability: The term "Agile Expansion" emphasizes the ability to quickly and effectively respond to changing circumstances, which is a key aspect of both force design and force buildup. In the civilian domain, agility is crucial for organizations to stay competitive and responsive to market shifts. Expansion and Growth: "Expansion" suggests the idea of increasing capabilities, resources, or operations rapidly, akin to the concept of force buildup. This aligns with the need for businesses to rapidly grow their capacities in response to opportunities or sudden demands. Strategic Framework: The term "Framework" implies a structured approach to achieving a goal. Just like force design involves a deliberate, structured process, an "Agile Expansion Framework" suggests a thoughtful strategy for growing and adapting an organization. Broad Applicability: The term is versatile and can be applied to various contexts within the civilian domain, whether it's a startup rapidly scaling up, a company adapting to new market dynamics, or an organization responding to unexpected challenges. Clarity and Conciseness: The term is concise and easy to understand, conveying its meaning clearly without being overly technical or complex.
Amplifying Innovation: Unleashing the Agile Expansion Framework for Resilient Growth and Uncharted Realms
Efficient and beneficial organizational renewal can occur when all the activities and elements within it, whether interconnected or in interaction, are managed as a system. In the year 2020, the ISO completed the fifth standard in the crucial family of ISO-56000 standards, focusing on innovation management in organizations. This international quality standard for managing innovation provides guidelines for the establishment, implementation, maintenance, and continuous improvement of innovation management systems for use in all knowledge-based organizations.
Institutional corporate innovation concerns the development of the organization's infrastructure and does not directly engage in the creation of innovative and breakthrough products and services. Its purpose is to ensure the organization's survival, fortification, and rejuvenation, achievable through investment in various areas that leads to effective organizational transformations. The following details five areas of which the proposed agile expansion framework focus on, to encourage effective institutional innovation efforts:
Human capital and the intrapreneurial capability of individuals.
Supporting infrastructures: Organizational structures, technological infrastructure, physical and digital infrastructure.
Execution and Operational theories, perceptions and doctrines.
Processes, mechanisms, and routines.
Strengthening these areas supports and reinforces the organization's potential to translate initiatives and ideas into breakthrough products and services, ultimately adding value and creating demand among the organization's customers.
In August 2023 the agile expansion framework was adopted by Israel's 1st national innovation competition, as one of its main themes. It is used as a practical framework to both evaluate and assess the innovation levels of the candidates. Moreover, this framework was suggested as a guide to the competing organizations within the Israeli eco-system, to empower their institutional corporate innovation efforts.
In today's dynamic business environment, the pursuit of growth, adaptability, and competitive advantage is a universal goal shared by organizations across sectors. Whether on the battlefield or in the corporate arena, the aspiration to leverage strategic methodologies for survivability, resilience, innovation, and expansion remains paramount.
Inspired by military frameworks like "Force Design" and "Force Buildup," the article proposes that these military concepts hold relevance for businesses seeking to navigate challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and foster growth and adaptation. Finally, the concept of the "Agile Expansion Framework" is introduced to emerge as a dynamic blueprint for amplifying innovation, encouraging growth and strategic agility.
 Collins, J. C., & Porras, J. “Built to last: Successful habits of visionary companies,” Random House, 2005
 Glubb, J. "The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival," William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, 1976  IDF Innovation Strategy, 2022