Strategic Agility in a Time of Volatility: A Practical Guide


At Key Search, we have the privilege of working with tech founders and executives around the globe. From our position as a strategic talent partner, we’re able to observe common challenges our clients are faced with, and the approaches that lead to success, or compound obstacles.

A change in the psyche

One notion is widely shared across the tech industry: in today’s world, organizations need to be able to swiftly adapt to changing circumstances. Before 2020, strategy in most tech companies was designed to be relatively long-term and revolved around innovation, disruption, and gaining market share.The pandemic’s aftermath, with increased sickness rates, shifts in global security, and uncertainty in the financial markets has radically changed the opportunity landscape for many tech businesses. With that, strategic agility, the ability to anticipate change and pivot as needed, has become essential for maintaining competitiveness and ensuring long-term success, and in some cases, for staying alive. 

The job cuts in Big Tech over the last 24 months have changed something in tech’ talent’s psyche. Formerly known as beacons of innovation and job security, some industry giants are now looked at with scrutiny and skepticism. 

The layoffs that have plagued the likes of Microsoft, Meta and Amazon have been well-covered by the media and the repercussions extend beyond mere job losses – they have prompted a broader questioning of industry values and practices.  One recording of a conversation in which an employee at Cloudflare who was fired by people she had never met went viral and caused damage to the employer brand that is likely to outlast the current economic climate.

A leading question for talent as well as investors has become: what is a specific company doing to prepare for changes in the external environment? And more essentially: what measures are being adopted to ensure the company and its workforce can weather potential storms? 

Shining examples

On the positive end of the scale, we have seen a number of examples of companies who showed steadfastness by leaning into their core values.There was Buffer, a social media management platform based out of San Francisco, that made the decision to implement a “no layoffs” policy and offer flexible work arrangements, which helped to preserve its workforce and underlined its commitment to employee support and well-being. During the uncertainty that followed the COVID-19 outbreak, Buffer’s  CEO, Joel Gascoigne, displayed vulnerability and emotional intelligence by communicating honestly and openly with shareholders, employees, and customers. Etsy’s support for its sellers during the pandemic, including fee waivers and financial assistance, demonstrated empathy and solidarity and strengthened its community and brand loyalty. Patagonia, well-known for its commitment to environmental and social initiatives, prioritized its employees’ well-being by providing full pay and benefits to workers affected by store closures and slowdowns in production.

Critical leadership behaviors

So what can we learn from players who have ‘done-it-right’? At Key Search, we’ve seen the importance of several critical leadership qualities rise in priority. Some of them may seem obvious, like visionary leadership, adaptability, and strategic thinking – these aspects have always been cornerstones of successful leadership. It’s the not-so-obvious ones we want to talk about.


Putting the four critical behaviors into practice

Sounds reasonable so far, right? Now, how do you make sure that those four key behaviors become instinctive and enable you to demonstrate resilience in an era where change is the only constant? Consider some of the below practices to underpin the uplevelling of your strategic agility game.

  • Taking the time to truly understand your team’s perspectives can yield invaluable insights, so doing regular check-ins with employees is time that is generally well spent. Engage with people from different backgrounds, tenures and levels of seniority to ensure that you do not miss any issues that might be brewing.
  • Keep your stakeholders informed by establishing regular channels for updates on company performance and strategic direction. Even brief weekly emails or meetings can go a long way in fostering trust and ensuring everyone feels informed and included.
  • Practice responding to challenges from your team or from investors so you become an expert at fielding difficult questions. In a time of change, your team is likely feeling uncertain, and the concern might come through in the challenges they send your way. The best way to provide reassurance is to stay level-headed and on course, while listening and demonstrating that you care. Prioritize your own health and ensure you have supporters you can confide in, to take some of the load off your own shoulders when needed.   
  • When the time comes to take decisions that affect your team, reflect on the ethical implications. Consider the perspectives of all stakeholders involved. Rely on guidance from trusted advisors or mentors, and ensure your actions align with your values and the culture you want to promote. Involve enough different perspectives in the decision to build confidence that you’re on the best path.


Mastering strategic agility isn’t a lofty goal—it’s a practical skill set crucial for thriving amidst global uncertainty. When cultivated effectively, it empowers your team and organization to emerge from adversity even stronger. The advice shared here is designed to prepare you to navigate any challenge, preserving your culture, supporting your internal stakeholders, delighting your customers, and ensuring the resilience of your company.

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