Examining proactive strategic decision-making flexibility in new product development
While strategic flexibility is widely accepted as a prerequisite for a firm's success, its application in strategic decision making to a firm's new product development (NPD) activities is limited to only a few studies. Furthermore, many organizations still have difficulties creating proactive strategic flexibility in their decision-making processes. Past research studies have largely ignored the relationship between strategic decision-making flexibility and firms' resources and/or capabilities and success in the context of NPD. This study advances strategic flexibility by adopting the proactive approach of NPD decision-making flexibility and by examining its role in translating organizational resources and capabilities into NPD success. This study draws upon the resources, capabilities (i.e., flexibility), and performance framework to show how proactive strategic decision-making flexibility plays a crucial role in developing new products that can create new opportunities and comply with market needs. Therefore, this research aims to (1) develop an operational definition of strategic decision-making flexibility and (2) propose a framework to understand the drivers and the subsequent new product performance outcomes of strategic decision-making flexibility. This study adopts the proactive perspective of strategic decision-making flexibility and defines it as a capability that enables firms to develop NPD strategies to respond to future changes in the environment. The analysis, based on data collected from 103 European firms, shows that that the effects of long-term orientation, strategic planning, internal commitment, and innovative climate on proactive strategic decision-making flexibility are significant. The findings indicate specifically the roles of both champions and gatekeepers, who infuse a firm's knowledge with a clear understanding of its resources, constraints, and market needs, thereby enhancing decision makers' motivation to behave proactively to precipitate transformation. The results also reveal a positive association between proactive strategic decision-making flexibility and NPD performance outcomes. As such, strategic flexibility provides firms with an ability to adapt to changing environments and to create new market opportunities, product, and technological arenas, and to deliver successful new products. When firms open new market, technological, and product arenas, they can easily foresee their new demands and changes and successfully deliver new products, meeting customer needs/demands, and offering benefits such as quality, cost, and timeliness. This study therefore provides a valuable reference point for future research in strategic decision-making flexibility in NPD.