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Strategic Choices

Brain circuits

Are you making one of these critical strategic errors?

IbyIMD+ Published 10 June 2022 in Brain circuits • 3 min read

Imagine your company having full, or almost full, engagement at every layer of the organization, from the shop floor to the executive suite. Picture every employee feeling invested in both your company’s purpose and its strategy. When you envision it, it’s really appealing: what leader wouldn’t want that? Despite the appeal, in practice many leaders resist taking the necessary steps to create an environment where this level of engagement is possible. Ask yourself the following questions to identify whether you are resisting an inclusive strategy, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Do you believe that including all levels of employee in crafting your strategy would be too time consuming?

If you answered yes, consider the value of ensuring that all staff are clear and invested in the strategy, and come to work energized to implement it.

Are you worried an inclusive strategy will make it harder to make quick decisions in times of crisis?

There are several examples of companies losing millions each day during the financial crisis of 2008, that still successfully used inclusive strategy to areas to save money and recover. Read more about them here.

Are you worried that asking for help shows weakness or vulnerability?

The research is clear that leaders who show vulnerability are more trusted and seen as authentic by their followers. Today’s leaders need to be focused on being secure bases for their teams.

Do you think including the whole organization will be perceived as disingenuous?

The key to preventing this perception is acting fast, so employees can see that their input made a difference. Show commitment and your employees will too.

Are you worried about empowering employees?

This can be daunting: it means giving up some control. It can also mean more pressure for employees. But consider the opposite situation: employees without empowerment or accountability… Is that a workplace you want to lead?

Are you worried about creating false expectations that all employees’ views are being considered?

Obviously, decisions must be made so not everyone is going to see their ideas implemented. But research has shown that as long as employees perceive the process as fair, they commit to the outcomes.

Are you concerned that full disclosure of your strategy throughout the organization will jeopardize competitive advantage?

You should acknowledge up front that not every issue can be discussed or disclosed. But you should also consider that most things these days can be replicated and having a fully inclusive strategy might be your competitive edge.

Further reading: 

Overcome the seven concerns stopping you from building a more inclusive strategy by James Henderson and Ansgar Thiessen


James Henderson

James E. Henderson

Professor of Strategic Management at IMD

James E. Henderson is Professor of Strategic Management at IMD, Program Co-Director of the Leading Sustainable Business Transformation program, and Program Director of the Strategic Partnership course. He helps companies achieve and sustain their competitive advantage either at a business unit, corporate, or global level through directing custom specific executive programs, facilitating strategy workshops, or teaching MBAs and executives.

Ansgar Thiessen

Ansgar Thiessen

Member of the Operations Management Committee at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions

Dr. Ansgar Thiessen (Head COO Office), is member of the Operations Management Committee at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. Before joining Swiss Re, he held leadership roles in Management Consulting. For over a decade he has been a thought leader on the question of how organizations foster acceptance and assertiveness towards strategies or during large-scale transformations. Thiessen is also the author of the book Playbook Strategy Activation and lecturer at Copenhagen Business School on the topic.


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