A Both/And Framework

Barry Sugarman



 How can an ORGanization achieve long-term success, thru several phases of renewal or reinvention i.e. dynamic capability?

Both/And Challenges 

  • Cost and Quality - Lean management

  • Extending the Life cycle - Ambidextrous management 

  • Short-term / Long-term - Quick results or build capacity

  • Work Team, Granular Level - Collaboration, conflict management

Ambidextrous Management 

Let's look at this challenge as a responsibility for top managers. They need to manage conflicts between pairs of necessary elements that seem to be mutually incompatible, while both are necessary.  In particular, dynamic capability requires an ORG to focus both on fully exploiting their established methods and markets  and on exploring some new (and risky) innovation for future development.  This can be done through  Ambidextrous Management, an important kind of Both/And thinking and management practice.   

Ambidextrous Management - central, top-level approach

New start-up firms are totally devoted to exploiting their initial idea.  When they become successful there is a choice either to stay 100% with that direction or to also explore for a second, backup product, which can be their insurance against  more innovative competitors.   


An innovation (like a baby) is usually born weak, clumsy at first. It needs parental care and shelter for a time. A young child needs guidance to grow up basically like its parents but (here is the difference) a radical organizational innovation needs to grow up different from its guardians.  The problem is how to provide the innovation with BOTH the resources to grow stronger AND the freedom to grow in its own (new) way.  Managing both, allowing the novice / newbie to develop a different personality (ORG culture) alongside the well-established (cash cow) ORG culture is hard. It goes beyond the usual advice that emphasizes "alignment" - focus on one set of related products. Building dynamic capability requires managing Both/And challenges in organizations.


Let's keep trying to simplify this idea, at the individual and family level.

This duality challenge/conflict is well-known to parents and educators of young adults. What do these young people most need from their parents/mentors? 

- one good answer: they must have unconditional love

- another good answer: they need firm rules, expectations and limits

At first these principles seem in conflict; incompatible opposites. 

Hard and Soft; one negates the other.

Both are absolutely needed. Either one alone leads to failure.

But both cannot exist together - apparently.

In the family there are various approaches for this challenge. 

E.g. each parent can take the lead on one or the other requirement - a traditional role division that has serious problems - until there is a change in thinking.

Old thinking: bad behavior by child should lead to withdrawal of parental love, until behavior changes.

New thinking: "we love you but we reject and disapprove that behavior"




Org builds long-term survivability by investing in radical, risky next-generation innovations. 




Old thinking,

former mental model.




Org. priority is to maximize current profits by putting main efforts into proven "cash cows" (established business assets). 


Result: innovation ventures either neglected, starved or socialized into conformity to dominant org. culture.





New ventures are sheltered, protected by top managers who "get" the dual strategy. Both sides are integrated to share assets both ways.


COST: new thinking & new systems are required