Turbulent times: How managers can act flexibly

Flexibility is the best strategy for managers in turbulent times – this is the view of Professor Thomas Hutzschenreuter from the Chair of Strategic and International Management at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). He explained what this means in practice in the masterclass “Strategic Flexibility – Origins, Challenges and Impacts” hosted by the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning. A further certificate program on strategy development will start in September 2022. 

How should managers act or react in turbulent times? The title of the Masterclass “Strategic Flexibility” by Professor Thomas Hutzschenreuter already provides the answer. The expert from the Chair of Strategic and International Management at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) explained the background with a series of graphics and poignant questions. For example, Hutzschenreuter showed a person paddling in a boat across a calm sea. However, he does not see the shadow of the shark below. “Figuratively speaking, surprises lurk just below the everyday life of executives,” Hutzschenreuter explained – also citing a selection of headlines that covered volcanic eruptions and Russian cyberattacks on the US energy sector. They were representative of possible threats to the business world.

Origins in military practice

What helps in such situations? Hutzschenreuter pointed to the origins of strategy in military practices – outside the ivory tower of academia. Prussian Field Marshal Helmut von Moltke, for example, defined strategy as a system of ways and means as early as the end of the 19th century, describing it as the art of acting under the pressure of the most difficult conditions. TUM expert Hutzschenreuter: “In business, each case has to be dealt with individually; there is no identical form of cooperation. Decisions are made on the basis of what you already know and in addition: What you have to intelligently guess.” As an example of a successful strategist in practice, he presented the boxer Muhammed Ali, who won his world titles because he chose the appropriate fighting style from a variety of different ones depending on the opponent and the environment. Hutzschenreuter further illustrated this example of physical mobility, among other things, with pictures of break dancers – in this dance form, only those who have little contact with the ground can be fast.

Important questions for strategy development

Transferred to the business world, the strategy specialist said that two abilities lend flexibility:

  1. Scaleability
  2. Switchability

According to him, this is about being able to switch between different business areas and to expand or contract them as needed. This is currently performed well by companies like Google or Amazon, who conduct their business via platforms and are flexible in different business areas. In order to also be successful, other companies need to ask three questions to develop a suitable strategy:

  • Are we facing difficulties? If so, in what way?
  • How flexible are we? How easily can we expand and reduce our capacities? How quickly can we switch?
  • How can we improve our flexibility? What do we have to do to achieve this?

According to Professor Thomas Hutzschenreuter, continual training is one possible way to gain the competence to be more flexible.


From fall 2022, the new certificate program “Strategising in Turbulent Environments / Strategieentwicklung in unbeständigen Umfeldern” with Prof. Thomas Hutzschenreuter will start. It consists of a three-day seminar at Campus Galileo in Garching near Munich from 14 September 2022 and online coaching from 14 October 2022. The requirements: at least eight years of professional experience and two years of leadership experience as well as an entrepreneurial mindset.

Information about the process, costs, possible discounts and tax benefits for participants is available from Silvia Hagn, Team Lead Certificate & Customized Programs and Tabea Stockburger, Program Manager.

Online registration is possible here:

Natascha Plankermann, 4.4.22

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