Requisite Agility is necessary to becoming edge-driven

by Philip Boxer

Digitalization is changing the balance-of-power between the supply-side and the demand-side of the economy, moving organizations towards having to deal with the multi-sided nature of clients’ demands.[1] Capturing value in this competitive environment depends on a demand-side ability to attend/align to the particular situation of each client and to wrapping any solutions around that client situation as it unfolds over time. This fundamentally changes the way organizations need to compete since they must both compete and collaborate around clients’ situations.[2]

Capturing value on the demand-side means creating alignment and cohesion within clients’ situations better and more economically than the clients can themselves.[3] This means knowing a lot about how a client is itself trying to create value and where the gaps are in that client’s current approach to doing this.  This creates a new kind of challenge for the organization in which it must hold a dynamic balance between the effects created for each client and the sustainability of this kind of responsiveness. To be effects-driven, this balance must be held from its edges.[4]

For an organization to be dynamically responsive, it must have the requisite agility to sustain concurrent networked collaborations at each one of its edges.[5] This requires an approach to organization that can sustain development across the whole range of its activities in a way that is itself aligned to its edges, platform architectures capable of supporting the resultant variety of value-creating responses,[6,7] and an approach to securing returns on investment that values impact on structural agility per se.[8] 

To be edge-driven, individuals must be driven more by the outcomes they can secure for their clients than by any existing role definitions.  Doing as much as possible for the client without jeopardizing the sustainability of the organization means engaging critically with existing understandings, developing a ‘nose’ for the dilemmas faced by collaborations creating value for clients,[9] and pursuing learning that links the challenges their clients face to the challenges they themselves are prepared to face. [10,11]

The way individuals take up these challenges within the context of an organization is subject to a three-way stretch between their investment in their own histories, the way their colleagues define what is in their interests, and the interests the organization’s clients have in the way value is created. The degree of cultural inertia of an organization is determined by the way these different valencies interact with each other.[12,13]  Changing their systemic balance is necessary to preventing maladaptation and to sustaining being edge-driven.[14]

Under edge-driven competitive conditions, leadership must support a questioning of both the structures underlying the capabilities of the organization and of individuals’ valencies for how they support value-creation.[15]  For an organization to be dynamically responsive to its clients in a way that is sustainable, this means balancing the consistency of each response to a client’s situation by an interest in the client’s experience of the response’s value deficit, i.e., of its incompleteness.  Engendering leadership is leadership that enables this balance to be held in the pursuit of learning.[16]


[1] Boxer, P.J., Managing the Risks of Social Disruption: What Can We Learn from the Impact of Social Networking Software? Socioanalysis, 2013. 15: p. 32-44.

[2] Boxer, P. J. (2014). “Leading Organisations Without Boundaries: ‘Quantum’ Organisation and the Work of Making Meaning.” Organizational and Social Dynamics 14(1): 130-153.

[3] Boxer, P.J., et al. ‘Systems-of-Systems Engineering and the Pragmatics of Demand’. in Second International Systems Conference. 2008. Montreal, Que.: IEEE.

[4] Boxer, P. J. (2017). “On psychoanalysing organizations: why we need a third epoch.” Organizational and Social Dynamics 17(2): 259-266.

[5] Anderson, B. and P.J. Boxer, ‘Requisite Agility’. Eye on Integration, news@sei 2008, 2008.

[6] Boxer, P.J. and B. Cohen, ‘Why Critical Systems Need Help To Evolve’. Computer, 2010. 43(5): p. 56-63.

[7] Boxer, P.J. and R. Kazman, ‘Analyzing the Architectures of Software-Intensive Ecosystems’, in Managing Trade-Offs in Adaptable Software Architectures, I. Mistrik, et al., Editors. 2017, Elsevier: Maugan Kaufman: Burlington, Mass. p. 203-222.

[8] Boxer, P.J., The Architecture of Agility: Modeling the relation to Indirect Value within Ecosystems. 2012, Saarbrücken, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing.

[9] Boxer, P.J., ‘Caring Beyond Reason: A question of ethics’. Socioanalysis, 2017. 19(December): p. 34-50.

[10] Boxer, P.J., ‘Working with ‘the irritation of doubt’: the place of metaphor’. Socioanalysis, 2018. 20: p. 27-50.

[11] Boxer, P.J., ‘Defences against innovation: the conservation of vagueness’, in Defences Against Anxiety: Explorations in a Paradigm, D. Armstrong and M. Rustin, Editors. 2014, Karnac: London. p. 70-87.

[12] Boxer, P.J., ‘Working with defences against innovation: the forensic challenge’. Organizational and Social Dynamics, 2017. 17(1): p. 89-110.

[13] Boxer, P.J., ‘Challenging impossibilities: using the plus-one process to explore leadership dilemmas’. Organizational & Social Dynamics, 2018. 19(1): p. 81-102.

[14] Boxer, P.J., ‘Betraying the citizen: social defences against innovation’. Organizational & Social Dynamics, 2015. 15(1): p. 1-19.

[15] Boxer, P.J. and R. Veryard, ‘Taking Governance to the Edge’. Microsoft Architect Journal, 2006: p.

[16] Boxer, P.J., ‘Vive la différence: when a choice is not about choosing’. Socioanalysis, 2020. 22: p. 1-27.

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