James Henderson

Professor of Strategic Management

James Henderson is Professor of Strategic Management. He is an expert on strategic agility, or the development and implementation of strategy under uncertainty. His research focuses on competitive strategy, corporate strategy, digital transformation, ecosystems, sustainability, and strategy execution.

Henderson says agility is all about an organization’s ability to respond to changing situations and to balance current performance with the exploration of opportunities for future growth. It may, therefore, involve an options-based approach in which small investments are made in projects with potential so they can be scaled up quickly if necessary, but without any major commitments if they don’t prove to be commercially viable. His research in this area has focused on investment timing, corporate venturing, strategic partnerships, and ecosystems.

He says agility takes different forms when applied to digital or sustainability transformation. Digital transformation initiatives usually incur rapid change cycles where getting it wrong can be quickly corrected. On the other hand, sustainability transformation initiatives often require long-term investments in physical infrastructure, where companies need to be sure that the economics are right before making heavy commitments. However, he notes, conditions for sustainability transformations are now changing due to growing political will to support the transition to new sources of clean energy.

Armed with two decades of deep research and executive education insights, I support executives on developing, co-creating, and executing successful business or corporate strategies in an increasingly rapid-cycle-digital or long-cycle-sustainability world.

Henderson has also recently explored the topic of inclusive strategy, finding that giving employees and stakeholders a bigger say in strategy can foster greater engagement and understanding and thereby give firms a competitive edge.

He has helped many companies achieve and sustain their competitive advantage at a business unit, corporate, or global level through directing custom-specific executive programs, facilitating strategy workshops, or teaching MBAs and executives. He has designed, delivered, and directed programs for companies in a variety of industries including healthcare, aerospace and defense, capital-intensive industries, professional and financial services, high technology, consumer products, and economic development agencies.

At IMD, Henderson is Director of the Strategic Partnerships (SP) online course and Co-Director of the Leading Sustainable Business Transformation (LSBT) open program. He was also Director of the International Consulting Projects component of the MBA program between 2008 and 2021, and Dean of Programs and Innovation between 2012 and 2016, overseeing the doubling of the institute’s EMBA program, the redesign of its Program for Executive Development diploma, the launch of its Global Leadership in the Cloud portfolio of online programs, and the development of the Global Leader Index assessment tool.

He coedited the 2005 Strategic Management Society book Restructuring Strategy: New Networks and Industry Challenges, and his articles have been published in well-known journals such as the Strategic Management Journal, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Business Venturing, and Journal of Operations Management. He also sits on the editorial board of the Strategic Management Journal. Furthermore, he has developed more than 50 published case studies and won several research and teaching awards.

Before joining IMD in 2006, he was an Associate Professor of Strategic Management at Babson College and Babson School of Executive Education in Boston, Massachusetts.

Selected publications
Overcome the seven concerns stopping you from building a more inclusive strategy 
Article
Overcome the seven concerns stopping you from building a more inclusive strategy 
Giving more employees and stakeholders a bigger say in your organization’s strategy can foster greater engagement and understanding, giving your firm a competitive edge.
Published 27 April 2022
Article
Sustainability: From the drawing board into the business
The first steps towards creating a credible sustainable business, is to clearly frame what sustainability really means for your organization and ensure cross-organizational buy-in. When it comes t...
Published 19 April 2021
Article
The Influence of relational experience and contractual governance on the negotiation strategy in buyer-supplier disputes
This paper theoretically refines and empirically extends the debate on the type of interplay between relational experience and contractual governance in an under-researched area: supply chain dispu...
Published 1 July 2012
Article
Resolving the commitment versus flexibility trade-off: The role of resource accumulation lags
The authors examine how time-consuming resource accumulation influences the classic strategy trade-off between commitment and flexibility. In particular, using 1975-95 data from the worldwide petro...
Published 27 August 2008
Article
From a hierarchy to a heterarchy of strategies: Adapting to a changing context
The paper finds that the hierarchy of strategies was a useful framework when it was first proposed, but since then a changed business context has made this framework obsolete. What is needed instea...
Published 1 January 2007
Book
Restructuring strategy: New networks and industry challenges
New industries are emerging; others are disrupted; old barriers are crumbling, while new ones are rising. This book seeks to better understand the challenges facing industries, networks, businesses...
Published 15 August 2005
Academic publications
Article
Resolving the commitment versus flexibility trade-off: The role of resource accumulation lags
The authors examine how time-consuming resource accumulation influences the classic strategy trade-off between commitment and flexibility. In particular, using 1975-95 data from the worldwide petro...
Published 27 August 2008
Article
The influence of governance on negotiation strategies in buyer-supplier disputes
This paper analyzes how governance mechanisms in a buyer-supplier relationship impact subsequent dispute negotiation strategies. Our analysis of 102 buyer-supplier disputes highlights the strength ...
Published 1 January 2009
Article
The Influence of relational experience and contractual governance on the negotiation strategy in buyer-supplier disputes
This paper theoretically refines and empirically extends the debate on the type of interplay between relational experience and contractual governance in an under-researched area: supply chain dispu...
Published 1 July 2012
Insight for Executives
Overcome the seven concerns stopping you from building a more inclusive strategy 
Article
Overcome the seven concerns stopping you from building a more inclusive strategy 
Giving more employees and stakeholders a bigger say in your organization’s strategy can foster greater engagement and understanding, giving your firm a competitive edge.
Published 27 April 2022
Article
Why inclusion can help you to deliver successful strategies
When people in an organization do not understand why they are executing a strategy, or have had no involvement in its creation, it’s hardly surprising that things can fall apart.
Published 29 October 2021
What a truly inclusive strategy looks like
Video
What a truly inclusive strategy looks like
The once popular model of having a high-level management team develop a strategy which is then communicated to the rest of the organization is quickly becoming archaic. A truly inclusive strategy i...
Published 4 June 2021
Article
Sustainability: From the drawing board into the business
The first steps towards creating a credible sustainable business, is to clearly frame what sustainability really means for your organization and ensure cross-organizational buy-in. When it comes t...
Published 19 April 2021
Article
What should your sustainability strategy look like?
Blurring the details on sustainability is easily done without clear definitions, but this comes with a cost attached. Applying clear parameters to enable a clear sustainable agenda is vital to busi...
Published 12 April 2021
Article
Why 2021 is the year to focus on sustainability
There are fresh winds in the sails of sustainability. From a strong momentum on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment, to the US re-entry to the Paris Agreement, to plans for the po...
Published 6 April 2021
Report
Valmet and IMD: Forward-looking leadership development
In 2014, Valmet ‚Äď a new organization born out of a de-merger in a seemingly unsexy, unwanted industry of capital equipment and services for the pulp, paper and energy industries ‚Äď sought to make th...
Published 28 February 2018
Article
Time for business school to unbundle their offering
It's time for business schools to sepearate the education product they offer to executives. With business education being disrupted as never before, unbundling represents a great opportunity for bo...
Published 18 May 2014
Article
Experience and learning in wine supply chain negotiations
This paper examines the link between experience in negotiations and the necessary governance mechanisms to prevent supply chain opportunism. The analysis comes from data generated from an experimen...
Published 1 January 2010