Paul Strebel

Professor Emeritus of Governance, Strategy and Change

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Paul Strebel is Professor Emeritus of Governance, Strategy and Change at IMD. He works with boards of directors and top management teams as an educator and advisor on strategic vision and the resolution of boardroom conflicts. In addition to personal experience as a board director, he has facilitated interactive workshops and seminars on best-in-class boards and strategic breakthroughs for multinationals in Europe, the US, South Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

He has twice received the Research on Leadership Award from the Association of Executive Search Consultants and has won several case study awards from the European Foundation for Management Development. He has been published in MIT Sloan Management Review, Harvard Business Review, California Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, and Long Range Planning among others, and has contributed on governance issues to the business press.

Strebel’s books include Breakpoints: How Managers Exploit Radical Business Change (Harvard Business School Press), The Change Pact: Building Commitment to Ongoing Change (FT Prentice Hall), Trajectory Management: Leading a Business over Time (Wiley), and Smart Big Moves: The Story Behind Strategic Breakthroughs (FT Prentice Hall). He is also co-editor of IMD’s guidebook on Mastering Executive Education: How to Combine Content with Context and Emotion (FT Prentice Hall).

He is the originator of several managerial frameworks, including:

Outpacing Business Strategies: Companies shouldn’t opt exclusively for low delivered cost or high perceived value, but rather deploy them in sequence to drive the industry’s evolution and beat the competition. (Developed together with Xavier Gilbert.)

Employee Compacts: To make organizational change effective, management must understand why employees resist change, take account of the forces of change and resistance, and offer employees correspondingly tailored compacts.

Contingent Governance: Board directors are more effective when they are aware of the four basic roles of the board that reflect support and control, and how the board should shift focus between the roles to deal with internal and external challenges.

Redefined Stakeholder Capitalism: Executives can reconcile shareholders with other stakeholders by focusing rigorously on creating long-term shareholder value based on win-win initiatives with value-creating stakeholders, while avoiding the value-destroying traps and ESG risks associated with others.

Strebel was IMD’s first Director of Research, held the Sandoz Family Foundation Chair in Strategic Change Management, sponsored the introduction of IMD’s Executive MBA program, directed several of IMD’s open and company-specific executive development programs, and developed the IMD online program Strategic Thinking.

Prior to joining IMEDE, one of the two founding institutes of IMD, he was Chairman of the Finance and Economics Group at the State University of New York in Binghamton, Director of the MBA Program at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and on the financial staff of WR Grace & Co.

He was educated at the University of Cape Town, where he was awarded a Master of Science degree for a thesis in nuclear chemistry, graduated from Columbia University in New York with an MBA specializing in finance, and received his doctorate with a dissertation in chemical physics from Princeton University.

Insight for Executives
Redefine stakeholder capitalism for real impact with three guiding principles
Article
Redefine stakeholder capitalism for real impact with three guiding principles
Redefine stakeholder capitalism for real impact with three guiding principles by Paul Strebel
Published 15 November 2020
Why and how you should distinguish between stakeholders
Article
Why and how you should distinguish between stakeholders
What executives must do to make stakeholder capitalism work.
Published 6 October 2020
Article
How to reconcile your shareholders with other stakeholders
Identify which stakeholders will create long-term value for shareholders — and avoid the value-destroying traps associated with others. In this article, we look at the five traps and describe how l...
Published 13 July 2020
COVID-19 is turning the tables on short-term shareholders
Article
COVID-19 is turning the tables on short-term shareholders
While many companies’ instinct in a crisis is to cut costs across the board, they cannot ignore tomorrow and must invest in value-creating stakeholders.
Published 18 May 2020
How to oust dominant leaders when they become dysfunctional
Article
How to oust dominant leaders when they become dysfunctional
Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic fall from grace at Nissan highlights the problem many boards have with a dominant leader. They emerge, like Ghosn, with political skill and their ability to create value, or...
Published 20 October 2019
Big business models are back-to-front
Article
Big business models are back-to-front
Large firms have been treating their shareholders as their most critical stakeholders. In the short run this might make sense, but not in the long term. The author argues that in order to safeguard...
Published 20 October 2019
Article
Big Business Models Are Back-to-Front: Create Long-term Value By Putting Shareholders At the Back-end of Cash Flow Distribution
Large firms have been treating their shareholders as their most critical stakeholders. In the short run this might make sense, but not in the long term. The author argues that in order to safeguard...
Published 28 January 2019
Business model evolution: Outpacing opportunities
Case Study
Business model evolution: Outpacing opportunities
This background note describes industry evolution as a sequence of business models that leading players often use to dominate the industry at different stages in its development. The sequence invol...
Published 18 October 2018
The BlackRock letter: A turning point for real change?
Article
The BlackRock letter: A turning point for real change?
Although greenwashing is far too common, recently there have been two powerful “green shots,” which show that business is finally taking sustainability a lot more seriously. These are, in our opini...
Published 15 February 2018
Why nobody takes corporate social responsibility seriously
Article
Why nobody takes corporate social responsibility seriously
Why the cynicism? Consider this real setting: About 25 owners and top executives of medium-sized companies have come together to discuss sustainability. An executive for a major oil company present...
Published 12 January 2018
Strategy is dead? Long live strategic thinking!
Article
Strategy is dead? Long live strategic thinking!
Strategy is a dead concept say Bill Fischer and Michael Wade, two of my colleagues at IMD. The world is moving too fast for strategy. Industry boundaries are blurring, new entrants and technologies...
Published 17 February 2017
From triple towards one bottom-line
Article
From triple towards one bottom-line
At the 2016 Annual General Meetings of Exxon and Chevron, institutional investors forced a vote on whether the companies should release detailed climate impact reports, adopt greenhouse gas emissio...
Published 21 October 2016
Article
Competitive profits and the annual report: Measuring the sustainable business
Value extraction can be identified and a sense of its magnitude obtained using information in the financial and sustainability reports, looking at the ways in which it is done: manipulating markets...
Published 12 May 2016
Brazil: What next?
Article
Brazil: What next?
Brazil has always been referred to as a land of opportunity and great potential. Famous Austrian writer Stefan Sweig declared in 1941 that, “Brazil is the Country of the Future.” In his welcome int...
Published 23 March 2015
CEO Roundtable
Article
CEO Roundtable
The research trends on corporate governance and boards suggest that the board today must be active and engaged to be relevant in the changing, global world. This contrasts with the historic, agency...
Published 10 September 2012
Article
Widening the lens: The challenges of leveraging boardroom diversity
Having spent the past five years working with the boards of some of the world's leading organizations, the authors reached a conclusion: boards need to become much more diverse -- not just demograp...
Published 1 May 2011
Article
The art of making smart big moves
Big strategic shifts are risky, but the constantly changing business environment periodically forces corporate leaders to reposition their businesses in fundamental ways. With case studies from the...
Published 1 August 2006
Article
The case for contigent governance
Many corporate boards adopt a "one size fits all" approach to governance. Instead, they should consider fulfilling the role most needed at any given time.
Published 1 February 2004
Article
The case for contingent governance
To cure weak corporate governance, new regulations and codes of best practices might be necessary, but they won't be sufficient. What is also required is the acknowledgment that governance has to c...
Published 1 February 2004
Cell Network (C): From take-off to mainstream
Case Study
Cell Network (C): From take-off to mainstream
The (C) case wraps the series up. It starts with the conclusion of the Mandator deal and the appointment of Niklas Flyborg as CEO. Parts of Cell Network are sold off, generating important amounts o...
Published 16 July 2001
Cell Network (B): Managing take-off
Case Study
Cell Network (B): Managing take-off
The B case covers the merger with Linné and international expansion. The case discusses the post-merger integration, international expansion and provides a snapshot of the company at the end of 199...
Published 16 July 2001
Cell Network (A): From idea to take-off
Case Study
Cell Network (A): From idea to take-off
The case describes the evolution of Cell Network from a start-up of 5 people in 1997 to 2'000 employees in 2001. This evolution is divided into three cases and six short video sections. The (A) cas...
Published 16 July 2001
Article
Why do employees resist change?
Executives and employees see change differently. For senior managers, change means opportunity - both for the business and for themselves. But for many employees, change is seen as disruptive and i...
Published 1 June 1996
Article
Choosing the right change path
By distinguishing between strong and weak forces of change, strong and weak forces of resistance, and the balance between them, eight different change paths can be identified. Of the eight paths, s...
Published 1 February 1994
Programs
On campus
Orchestrating Winning Performance

Reset for sustainable and inclusive growth

IMD's signature program, OWP, brings you the latest business trends, thought leadership and insights to revitalize your business, drive innovation and lead you forward. Fully customizable schedule. For executives and teams.

Location: Lausanne Length: 5 days Fee: CHF 10,900 Next start: 26 June 2023
Online
Strategic Thinking

Develop an effective strategy for your unit or organization

Develop your strategic thinking. Formulate ambitious but realistic business and organizational strategies with diagnostics, creative alternatives, and smart choices.

Location: Online Length: 8 weeks Fee: CHF 2,950 Next start: 10 October 2022