Ambidexterity is the state of being equally adapted in the use of both the left and the right hand. Only about one percent of people are naturally ambidextrous. Ambidexterity is often encouraged in activities requiring a great deal of skill in both hands, such as typing, juggling, musicianship, surgery, sports and martial arts.
For an organization to be ambidextrous it means to both master the art of strategy and the skill of operational excellence. The main trouble that senior executives have in practice is that it is very difficult to focus on both dimensions at the same time. If you focus too much on the short-term objectives, the competition will soon catch up as market conditions evolve. On the other hand, if you put too much into changing-the-business, you sacrifice today in the hope of a better future. Most organisation think and act like there is a big gap between the two and it is an either, or choice, not an integrated whole.
I would argue that strategy and operational excellence go together. Both are essential to a organization's long term success. Strategy defines new and unique ways to create value. It identifies specific jobs-to-be-done of customers and develops unique propositions to help get those jobs done better, cheaper and faster. Strategy is focused on what is going on out there. Defining risks and doubling down on the changing jobs customer find valuable to execute. New propositions are build based on research and small trial and error like customer development.
Operational excellence is all about making sure that the choices made are carried out in the most efficient way. To commit to a strategy, to really choose takes gut. It means confronting uncertainties, making choices when the outcome is not predictable. Strategies can only add value when choices are made and followed up with the commitment of operational excellence.
To be successful an organisation needs both. Strategy and operational excellence. Left and right hand. With the left they shape the future, with the right they hold that future in their hand. Strategy without a firm commitment is just an idea. Operational excellence without strategy is slavery.
Be brave, commit, design your strategy and let operational excellence be the commitment to see it through.