The purpose of this paper is to explore the underlying strategic mechanisms of agility in a humanitarian logistics context. Based on the research conducted in business disciplines, the paper empirically examines a set of four strategic dimensions (being purposeful, being action-focused, being collaborative, and being learning-oriented) and identifies an emergent relationship between these capabilities and agile humanitarian logistics operations.
Leadership and management actions perceived to support the four capabilities were identified and used as a basis to complete the exploratory research. Specifically, a case study with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) was undertaken and, in this context, a qualitative analysis of 29 face-to-face interviews with humanitarian logistics experts working for WFP was conducted.
The research corroborates the relevance of the four strategic-level capabilities to the humanitarian logistics context and confirms that these capabilities play a role in the development of agility in humanitarian operations. The work also identifies a set of key strategic decision-making areas that relate to the building of agility.
Additional research is needed to further investigate and measure the strategic-level capabilities and to quantify their impact on operational agility. Further research should also be undertaken to extend this study to a wider range of humanitarian organisations.
This paper is the first empirical research that takes a strategic approach to the concept of agility in humanitarian logistics. It highlights that the leaders and managers of humanitarian organisations have a significant role to play in the building of an agile system.
The authors would like to thank the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and, in particular, Adrian van der Knaap who made this research possible. The authors are also grateful to the interview respondents for their time and their valuable contribution.
L'Hermitte, C., Tatham, P., Bowles, M. and Brooks, B. (2016), "Developing organisational capabilities to support agility in humanitarian logistics: An exploratory study", Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 72-99. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHLSCM-02-2015-0006
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