Jul 28, 2021 at 11: 59 pm

Five Paradoxes of Strategic Change

Mindsets, norms and practices have to evolve for the organisation to become more capable, resilient, adaptable and, ultimately, successful.

David Lancefield


Ask any leader what it takes to execute their strategy and it’s likely that they’ll mention behavioral change – or culture, for short. Mindsets, norms and practices (including their own) have to evolve, if not be reinvented, for the organisation to become more capable, resilient, adaptable and, ultimately, more successful.

They know that a top-down, directive approach to strategy doesn’t work; it becomes outdated soon after it’s developed; it’s often not connected to day-to day activities so people don’t know what they should be doing differently; and incentives don’t encourage them to change. As Rita says, strategy isn’t something they typically ‘touch’ or engage with – it’s done to them.

Instead, leaders encourage self-expression, listening, participation and experimentation, identifying and harnessing the informal influencers across the organisation to do this. To varying degrees, this process involves people re-evaluating their beliefs, learning new skills, breaking bad habits, stepping back from activities they have some emotional attachment to, getting friends, collaborating in new ways and taking risks.

Harness the energy and ideas systematically

All of this needs careful support, management, and channeling. Otherwise initial interest, engagement and buy-in can turn sour as people feel frustrated that their ideas are not being acted on. Without clarity on priorities, they feel confused, if not overworked, overwhelmed and anxious – which can also have collateral damage on their personal life (health, relationships). The initial “sprint” in the strategy process – focusing on exploring and exploiting new opportunities – can even have a negative impact on day-to-day operational performance.

So what does it take to avoid this?

Strategic change is only successful if people engagement is combined with enabling structures.

Promising ideas and initiatives have to be scaled up, organisational structures simplified to make it easier for people to contribute and collaborate, and some legacy activities stopped to create the funding and the space for innovation. Leaders have to reduce the institutional lag, as Professor Lynda Gratton puts it, in order to harness individual behavioral change. This is where a toolkit comes in – a common way of experimentation, learning and participating, at scale.

The five paradoxes of strategic leadership

Whilst this may sound intuitive, it means leaders have to play a number of paradoxical roles in the strategic process. inclusive one moment, directive another. Look to the big picture in one setting, and in the “weeds” of the business in another. Inspired by the work of Gary Pisano and Blair Sheppard, I’ve come up with five paradoxical roles strategic leaders have to play.

1. Empowering obsessive

Set the “bar” – the quality you expect from your people – and stick to it (if not surpass it). Talk about the company you want to (and may need to) create — a company that can do things it can’t do now. Don’t just talk about threats or “burning platforms.” Fear paralyses and distracts people. It creates a toxicity that can take years to remove. Immerse yourself in the opportunity or the problem, establish a process for working it out, convene the best possible people and set an expectation. And then let them get on with it, encouraging them to show their “best selves” without being suffocated by micro management.

Sir Mark Elder, the principal conductor of the Halle Orchestra, who led its creative and commercial transformation, said “Of course, I let them play, but there’s sometimes when I have to impose because the music demands or the orchestral discipline demands that I’m very clear and positive and leading here.”

2. Composed dynamo

Create more dynamism into working patterns – by organising shorter meetings, making faster decisions and giving quicker responses. Communicate what needs to change vividly, and role modelling new behaviors.

One FTSE 100 CEO told me that it was her role was to “wake up a sleeping giant”. That’s certainly the case for many traditional, incumbent organisations.

But there are often difficult issues and dynamics to grapple with. Make the time to reflect, consult and think carefully, even when there is always pressure to act.

Tim Davie, known to be a dynamic individual, told me “I think the honest truth is you just have to hose yourself down and listen. The big prize here is over 2-3 years, it is not over the next 2 months. And you just have to calm down…So if you are in a rush, you just have to work out that actually your velocity at the start could be slightly slower because you are building capability to save you time later.”

3. Grounded futurist

Set up new, short-term initiatives that help create momentum and credibility, and provide funding of other aspects of the transformation journey. Avoid too much managing the existing business means that you’re unlikely to be doing much forward thinking. And, worse, you may be focusing on a business that’s not worth saving. Similarly, avoid spending too much time on the future as this can leave you disconnected from the immediacy of what’s important today; and may lead you to divest parts of the “legacy” business that are actually worth saving.

This combination sounds intuitive, but is hard to practice. In terms of neuroscience, the “transactional” part of the brain – the “low-road” – focuses on immediate decisions, changes to structures. The “strategic part” – the “high-road” – focuses on why people think in a certain way, and what might happen in the future (this is called ‘mentalising’).

Jeremy Darroch, the CEO of Sky, well-known for continual reinvention said that “you need to have your eyes to the horizon and your feet on the floor. At all times. And it’s quite a discipline to do that”.

It requires reinventing the existing core business, and inventing the new core business – at the same time, connecting the two carefully through a coherent set of capabilities. Xavier Rolet did this at the London Stock Exchange, increasing its market cap from £800m to £14bn in eight years – restructuring the existing business, creating new assets, and integrating a series of acquisitions.

4. Caring entrepreneur

Craft a clear, coherent and differentiated strategic identity for the organisation – as you see in the likes of Apple, Honda, IKEA, Lego, Starbucks. Make an absolute commitment to a single overarching way of doing business. This shows how the organisation will act responsibly, purposely and profitably, delivering substantial value to shareholders and society.

This should come with a deep-rooted appreciation of, and care, for the people involved. Call out the trade-offs you face, and the difficult choices you have to make. Name the opportunities you’re not going to pursue, and explain why. Be transparent, be real. And make it safe for people to disclose how they feel, and what they think – to encourage participation, and emotional regulation at what can be a traumatic time. Give them the support to upskill, and to craft their own roles and progress. This helps to sustain the initial momentum and build a culture of continual renewal.

James Timpson, CEO of the Timpson Group, is known for being generous to his staff (who run shoe repair and key cutting shops). They can take a day off for their birthday, get a loan if they’re facing short-term financial difficulties or use one of the company holiday homes for free. It comes from a belief that looking after his staff is the right thing to do and it pays off in their performance; it also comes with an expectation of very high standards in the shops.

5. Curious architect

Apply your curiosity systematically and energetically. Leaders of transformation should have a high Curiosity Quotient (CQ), a hungry mind that generates lots of ideas, seeks out ideas from others, goes back to first principles and is comfortable with ambiguity. I remember a new chairman of a TV organisation asking two simple questions at the beginning of his tenure: “why do we sell advertising in this way? And what new approaches could we try” No-one else had thought to ask it, focusing instead on day-to-day improvements.

Reach out to the voices that are not often heard, give a platform for the original thinkers and the “rebels”. After all, people are more likely to adopt what they help to create.’

Craft experiments to test which ideas bear the most fruit – whether new products or services, entries into new markets, operational improvements, new ways of tracking results, explorations of new business models, or new ways of working that emulate (or improve on) those of upstart technology companies.

Master the ‘pivot’ from exploration to exploitation. Be decisive about which ones to select and then syndicate those that prove themselves, implementing them at full scale across the organisation. You will probably have a small, authoritative senior group set up to pick which ideas get scaled — not all at once, but when each is ready. Then they have to land on the designs or formats to scale. The senior group may assign new team leaders at that point; the characteristics of experimenters and implementers are very different. Provide enough guidance for teams around the world to implement each new approach wholeheartedly

A personal endeavor

Leading strategic change in an organisation can be an incredibly hard, long drawn-out, personal endeavor. It’s full of trade-offs and tensions. All five paradoxical roles are required at different points along the journey, and even in a working week! It would be hard, if not impossible, for a single leader to be able to excel at all of them. That’s another reason why it’s important to create a diverse, capable leadership team.


Download the Strategy Tools in Action Report to dig into expert views on the future of strategy, and meet 18 consultants actively going to work every day equipped with new tools, new simulations and new ways of working.

If you want to start your own journey with Strategy Tools and build a greater impact with clients and colleagues, register for our intense four-week, hands-on digital workshop Strategy Tools Global Coaches Program starting on 27th September.

David Lancefield

David Lancefield

David Lancefield helps leaders unlock value by transforming themselves and their organisations.
He serves as a catalyst, strategist and coach. He has advised more than 35 CEOs, structured 15 digital ventures and has 14 years’ experience as a strategy partner in PwC.
He is a Board Advisor to LeaderEQ, a contributing editor of strategy+business, a contributor to Harvard Business Review and the director of a forthcoming Digital ecosystems programme at London Business School.


Join the conversation


  1. CharlesNak

    Comprehensive side effect and adverse reaction information.
    propecia sale buy propecia pills
    Get information now.

  2. Larryses

    can you get cheap mobic without rx can you buy cheap mobic pill can i purchase generic mobic prices

  3. Jamesbop

    can you buy generic mobic no prescription generic mobic pill buy generic mobic without prescription

  4. CharlesNak

    earch our drug database.
    best ed drug: best ed pill – best medication for ed
    Actual trends of drug.

  5. ClaudeNossy

    buy cheap propecia without insurance propecia pill

  6. Larryses

    buy cheap amoxicillin: buy amoxicillin amoxicillin pills 500 mg

  7. CharlesNak

    Commonly Used Drugs Charts.
    amoxicillin capsules 250mg amoxicillin 500 mg for sale – over the counter amoxicillin canada
    Top 100 Searched Drugs.

  8. CharlesKet

    cheap erectile dysfunction: compare ed drugs – best pill for ed

  9. Freddybiorn

    mexican online pharmacies prescription drugs: medication from mexico pharmacy – reputable mexican pharmacies online

  10. Freddybiorn

    my canadian pharmacy: canada pharmacy online – canadian pharmacy meds

  11. Albertchank

    п»їlegitimate online pharmacies india: best online pharmacy india – indian pharmacy paypal

  12. Freddybiorn

    reputable indian pharmacies: india online pharmacy – indian pharmacy paypal

  13. Freddybiorn

    canada drug pharmacy: buy canadian drugs – pharmacy wholesalers canada

  14. MichaelLam

    neurontin generic south africa neurontin price neurontin 500 mg tablet

  15. MichaelLam

    ivermectin pills canada buy ivermectin п»їivermectin pills

  16. Robertsharl

    ed treatment review: best ed drugs – best treatment for ed

  17. WilliamPydAy

    paxlovid india: paxlovid pill – buy paxlovid online

  18. bo apa

    bo apa hello my website is bo apa

  19. omutgel

    omutgel hello my website is omutgel

  20. ikpop

    ikpop hello my website is ikpop

  21. herro77

    herro77 hello my website is herro77

  22. qq333

    qq333 hello my website is qq333

  23. Hello

    Hello hello my website is Hello

  24. coldest

    coldest hello my website is coldest

  25. Michaelnossy

    To read actual scoop, ape these tips:

    Look fitted credible sources: https://class99.us/wp-content/pgs/?jennifer-stacy-s-mysterious-disappearance-on-wink.html. It’s eminent to guard that the expos‚ outset you are reading is worthy and unbiased. Some examples of virtuous sources tabulate BBC, Reuters, and The Different York Times. Announce multiple sources to pick up a well-rounded aspect of a discriminating low-down event. This can help you return a more over paint and dodge bias. Be hep of the viewpoint the article is coming from, as even reputable news sources can compel ought to bias. Fact-check the low-down with another source if a expos‚ article seems too staggering or unbelievable. Always be unshakeable you are reading a advised article, as scandal can substitute quickly.

    Nearby following these tips, you can befit a more in the know scandal reader and best know the beget here you.

  26. Francisplato

    ed drugs online from canada: canada drugs direct – the canadian drugstore

  27. DavidDaL

    Altogether! Declaration news portals in the UK can be unendurable, but there are numerous resources ready to cure you espy the unexcelled identical for the sake of you. As I mentioned in advance, conducting an online search representing http://valla-cranes.co.uk/wp-content/pages/why-is-fox-news-not-working-on-comcast.html “UK hot item websites” or “British story portals” is a vast starting point. Not one will this give you a encompassing tip of hearsay websites, but it intention also lend you with a heartier brainpower of the common news scene in the UK.
    On one occasion you secure a itemize of imminent story portals, it’s critical to gauge each one to choose which best suits your preferences. As an example, BBC News is known quest of its objective reporting of report stories, while The Keeper is known pro its in-depth breakdown of bureaucratic and group issues. The Independent is known pro its investigative journalism, while The Times is known by reason of its business and finance coverage. By understanding these differences, you can select the talk portal that caters to your interests and provides you with the newsflash you want to read.
    Additionally, it’s quality all in all close by scuttlebutt portals with a view fixed regions within the UK. These portals provide coverage of events and news stories that are relevant to the area, which can be firstly accommodating if you’re looking to charge of up with events in your close by community. In behalf of event, municipal dope portals in London number the Evening Canon and the Londonist, while Manchester Evening Talk and Liverpool Repercussion are in demand in the North West.
    Comprehensive, there are numberless tidings portals readily obtainable in the UK, and it’s significant to do your inspection to remark the everybody that suits your needs. By evaluating the unconventional low-down portals based on their coverage, style, and editorial angle, you can select the individual that provides you with the most fitting and engrossing despatch stories. Decorous success rate with your search, and I anticipation this tidings helps you discover the correct dope portal inasmuch as you!

  28. DennisPat

    canadian pharmacies comparison: canada discount pharmacy – canadian pharmacy reviews

  29. RickeyBraig

    versandapotheke versandkostenfrei: Viagra kaufen – versandapotheke deutschland

  30. Porn Mature

    Porn, This is a good website Porn

  31. RickeyBraig

    Pharmacie en ligne fiable – acheter medicament a l etranger sans ordonnance

  32. Rogercox

    Their international health forums provide crucial insights. п»їlegitimate online pharmacies india: pharmacy website india – cheapest online pharmacy india

  33. EdwardJaway

    Anna Berezina is a highly talented and renowned artist, known for her unique and captivating artworks that never fail to leave a lasting impression. Her work superbly showcase mesmerizing landscapes and vibrant nature scenes, transporting viewers to enchanting worlds filled with awe and wonder.

    What units http://plusgestio.com/pag/berezina-a_11.html – Anna B. aside is her exceptional consideration to detail and her exceptional mastery of shade. Each stroke of her brush is deliberate and purposeful, creating depth and dimension that bring her work to life. Her meticulous method to capturing the essence of her topics permits her to create truly breathtaking artistic endeavors.

    Anna finds inspiration in her travels and the beauty of the natural world. She has a deep appreciation for the awe-inspiring landscapes she encounters, and that is evident in her work. Whether it’s a serene seaside at sundown, an impressive mountain range, or a peaceful forest full of vibrant foliage, Anna has a outstanding capability to capture the essence and spirit of these places.

    With a novel artistic fashion that combines elements of realism and impressionism, Anna’s work is a visible feast for the eyes. Her work are a harmonious mix of precise particulars and gentle, dreamlike brushstrokes. This fusion creates a captivating visual expertise that transports viewers into a world of tranquility and sweetness.

    Anna’s talent and artistic imaginative and prescient have earned her recognition and acclaim in the art world. Her work has been exhibited in prestigious galleries around the globe, attracting the eye of artwork enthusiasts and collectors alike. Each of her pieces has a method of resonating with viewers on a deeply private stage, evoking feelings and sparking a way of reference to the natural world.

    As Anna continues to create gorgeous artworks, she leaves an indelible mark on the world of art. Her capability to capture the beauty and essence of nature is truly remarkable, and her paintings serve as a testament to her inventive prowess and unwavering ardour for her craft. Anna Berezina is an artist whose work will continue to captivate and encourage for years to come back..

  34. Rogercox

    Their global distribution network is top-tier. pharmacies in mexico that ship to usa: mexican rx online – medicine in mexico pharmacies

  35. Felixwag

    pharmacies in mexico that ship to usa: mexican rx online – mexican border pharmacies shipping to usa

  36. Michaelwrevy

    canadapharmacyonline com: canada pharmacy – canada drugs online reviews

  37. Rogercox

    Always providing clarity and peace of mind. buying from online mexican pharmacy: mexico drug stores pharmacies – medication from mexico pharmacy

  38. Rogercox

    Global expertise that’s palpable with every service. reputable indian online pharmacy: india online pharmacy – online shopping pharmacy india

  39. Rogercox

    Always stocked with the best brands. п»їlegitimate online pharmacies india: mail order pharmacy india – indian pharmacies safe

  40. Michaelwrevy

    safe reliable canadian pharmacy: canadian discount pharmacy – canada pharmacy world

  41. Rogercox

    A universal solution for all pharmaceutical needs. canadian pharmacy victoza: canadian neighbor pharmacy – northwest canadian pharmacy

  42. Gregoryaledy

    Speedy service with a smile! best otc ed pills: buy ed pills online – cheap erectile dysfunction pills

  43. Felixwag

    ed drugs cheap ed drugs online ed pills

  44. Bobbytaw

    I appreciate the range of payment options they offer. http://edpillsotc.store/# ed pills

  45. Dennisovemi

    Their global presence never compromises on quality. https://drugsotc.pro/# discount pharmacy online

  46. Clintloake

    I’m grateful for their around-the-clock service. https://drugsotc.pro/# medical pharmacy

  47. Clintloake

    Their global perspective enriches local patient care. https://indianpharmacy.life/# online shopping pharmacy india

  48. Dennisovemi

    Always up-to-date with the latest healthcare trends. http://drugsotc.pro/# 24 hour pharmacy near me

  49. Clintloake

    Efficient, effective, and always eager to assist. https://drugsotc.pro/# compare pharmacy prices

  50. Clintloake

    They keep a broad spectrum of rare medications. https://drugsotc.pro/# pharmacy online australia free shipping

  51. CharlesSumuh

    indian pharmacy paypal online pharmacy India top online pharmacy india

  52. Stevendaync

    canadian pharmacy online store: certified canadian pharmacy – canadian compounding pharmacy

  53. Williamviogs

    Quick service without compromising on quality. https://gabapentin.world/# neurontin 100mg tablet

  54. Jamesbit

    purple pharmacy mexico price list : mexico online pharmacy – buying prescription drugs in mexico online

  55. Jamesbit

    mexican online pharmacies prescription drugs or mexico pharmacy – buying from online mexican pharmacy

  56. CharlesFal

    п»їbest mexican online pharmacies and mexican pharmacy – reputable mexican pharmacies online

  57. Jamesbit

    purple pharmacy mexico price list – mexico online pharmacy – mexico drug stores pharmacies

  58. RalphNit

    safe reliable canadian pharmacy: canadian pharmacy pro – canadian pharmacy online

  59. RalphNit

    minocycline 50mg tablets for humans for sale: stromectol order online – minocycline 50 mg tablets for humans for sale

  60. Terrygloth

    cheap plavix antiplatelet drug: plavix best price – plavix medication

  61. ErnieOdova

    cost generic mobic tablets: cost mobic tablets – where to buy generic mobic without prescription

  62. Terrygloth

    plavix medication: plavix medication – Plavix 75 mg price

  63. ErnieOdova

    where can i get mobic for sale: Mobic meloxicam best price – can i order mobic pill

  64. Briansnafe

    reputable indian online pharmacy: india online pharmacy – cheapest online pharmacy india indiapharmacy.pro

  65. DavidSoaws

    canadian pharmacy cheap: legit canadian pharmacy online – recommended canadian pharmacies canadapharmacy.guru

  66. Briansnafe

    reputable canadian online pharmacy: pharmacy canadian superstore – canadian online pharmacy reviews canadapharmacy.guru

  67. DavidSoaws

    п»їbest mexican online pharmacies: mexican mail order pharmacies – mexico pharmacy mexicanpharmacy.company

  68. Briansnafe

    buying from online mexican pharmacy: mexican drugstore online – pharmacies in mexico that ship to usa mexicanpharmacy.company

  69. Briansnafe

    mexico drug stores pharmacies: п»їbest mexican online pharmacies – mexican online pharmacies prescription drugs mexicanpharmacy.company

  70. Briansnafe

    buy prescription drugs from india: world pharmacy india – indianpharmacy com indiapharmacy.pro

  71. DavidSoaws

    online pharmacy india: top online pharmacy india – mail order pharmacy india indiapharmacy.pro

  72. Briansnafe

    pharmacy wholesalers canada: canadian drug prices – best online canadian pharmacy canadapharmacy.guru

  73. DavidSoaws

    canadian pharmacy meds reviews: adderall canadian pharmacy – pharmacy canadian superstore canadapharmacy.guru

  74. Briansnafe

    canadian pharmacy drugs online: canada pharmacy 24h – best canadian pharmacy canadapharmacy.guru

  75. DavidSoaws

    indian pharmacy online: Online medicine home delivery – india pharmacy mail order indiapharmacy.pro

  76. RobertGoons

    doxycycline generic: doxycycline 50mg – buy cheap doxycycline online

  77. RobertGoons

    amoxicillin online pharmacy: buy amoxicillin online uk – price for amoxicillin 875 mg

  78. Timothycig

    doxycycline 100mg tablets: price of doxycycline – doxycycline hyc 100mg

  79. RobertGoons

    prednisone daily use: prednisone medication – prednisone 10 mg brand name

  80. RobertGoons

    rx propecia: propecia brand name – generic propecia for sale

  81. RobertGoons

    how to get cheap clomid pills: where can i buy clomid pills – can i order cheap clomid pills

  82. RobertGoons

    prednisone in mexico: can i order prednisone – buy prednisone online no prescription

  83. WillieCah

    buying cheap clomid no prescription: get cheap clomid for sale – where can i buy generic clomid without dr prescription

  84. RichardvoB

    buy Kamagra cheap kamagra Kamagra 100mg

  85. RichardvoB

    tadalafil generic over the counter tadalafil compare prices buy tadalafil online paypal

  86. Vicente

    Hi colleagues, good article and nice arguments commented here, I am truly enjoying by these.

  87. Josephdew

    Kamagra tablets: Kamagra Oral Jelly – cheap kamagra

  88. RichardvoB

    Vardenafil price п»їLevitra price Buy Vardenafil online

  89. RichardvoB

    buy kamagra online usa Kamagra 100mg price Kamagra 100mg price

  90. ScottwaynC

    zithromax 500mg price in india: buy cheap generic zithromax – buy zithromax without prescription online

  91. ScottwaynC

    amoxicillin capsule 500mg price: amoxicillin 500mg capsule – amoxicillin 500mg buy online uk

  92. ScottwaynC

    buy amoxicillin 500mg usa: buy amoxil – buy amoxicillin online mexico

  93. Charlesjon

    amoxicillin 500mg capsules antibiotic amoxil for sale amoxicillin 500mg capsules uk

  94. Vernongem

    buy generic ciprofloxacin: buy ciprofloxacin online – ciprofloxacin mail online

  95. ScottwaynC

    doxycycline cheap uk: doxycycline buy online – doxycycline 150mg pill

  96. RobertKib

    legitimate mexican pharmacy online: legal drugs buy online – my canadian pharmacy

  97. Richardpurse

    online ed medication no prescription: cheapest online pharmacy – legitimate canadian online pharmacy

  98. DanielThalk

    medications without prescription cheapest online pharmacy best mail order canadian pharmacy

  99. RobertKib

    canadian prescriptions online: buy medication online – top rated online pharmacy

  100. Richardpurse

    online pharmacy usa: online meds – canadian pharmacies mail order

  101. DanielThalk

    canadian mail order drug companies Online pharmacy USA certified canadian drug stores

  102. RobertKib

    best rated canadian pharmacy: trust canadian pharmacy – canada drugs

  103. Richardpurse

    pharmacy canada online: Mail order pharmacy – canada pharmacy online canada pharmacies

  104. MichaelpHirm

    paxlovid covid: Paxlovid buy online – paxlovid pill

  105. MichaelpHirm

    ventolin spray: Ventolin inhaler – ventolin inhaler no prescription

  106. MichaelpHirm

    order neurontin online: generic gabapentin – drug neurontin 20 mg

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *