Paul Strebel

Professor Emeritus of Governance, Strategy, and Change

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Paul Strebel is Professor Emeritus of Governance, Strategy, and Change. 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, The Change Pact: Building Commitment to Ongoing Change, Trajectory Management: Leading a Business over Time, and Smart Big Moves: The Story Behind Strategic Breakthroughs. He is also co-editor of IMD’s guidebook Mastering Executive Education: How to Combine Content with Context and Emotion.

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.

 

Academic publications
Article
How to distinguish smart big moves from stupid ones
When top executives undertake big moves – dramatic shifts in strategic direction – their decisions can make or break a company. This paper aims to offer a methodology for cutting the risks of makin...
Published 1 January 2009
Article
Is your company addicted to value extraction?
Should companies exercise their ability to “extract” value from external or internal stakeholders? What is value extraction? Is it in the long-term interest of the shareholders? We define value ext...
Published 1 August 2014
Insight for Executives
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 21 October 2022
Escape ESG risk traps: How to reinvent your company's role in society
Article
Escape ESG risk traps: How to reinvent your company's role in society
Taking the high road to positive impact on people and planet. Too many companies still focus on extracting value from society. But being stuck on a “low road” of negative societal impact can be co...
Published 17 August 2021
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 16 November 2020
Article
On balancing conflicting stakeholder interests
Are executives supposed to manage the tradeoffs between conflicting stakeholder interests? For example, between the interests of shareholders and supporting society to help manage a pandemic? Execu...
Published 14 October 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 7 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 19 May 2020
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 21 October 2019
Article
Hvordan håndtere en dominerende styreleder
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 27 April 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
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 12 February 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
No market to pick up the pieces when a political decision goes wrong
Published 15 July 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
Article
Rule of law is central to the social compact
Published 15 July 2015
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
Mejore la confianza pública de su empresa
“Tenemos la mejor oportunidad de avanzar hacia la dirección corporativa”, comentó Joe Dear, director de Calpers, un fondo de pensiones en California, en medio de la crisis financiera. Dos años desp...
Published 21 February 2011
Article
Why boards are still so out of touch?
We have the best opportunity ever to advance corporate governance," said Joe Dear, the head of Calpers, the Californian pension fund, in the middle of the financial crisis. Two years later the cris...
Published 4 February 2011
Article
The right directors
We have the best opportunity ever to advance corporate governance, said Joe Dear, the head of the Californian pension fund, Calpers, in the middle of the financial crisis. Two years later, the cris...
Published 1 February 2011
Article
In touch boards: Reaching out to the value critical stakeholders
The purpose of this paper is to show how boards can get in touch with their value critical stakeholders, those who can make or break the company. The repeated failure of boards to intervene early e...
Published 1 January 2011
Article
How is your company's corporate goverance?
Almost exactly two years ago, the "perfect storm" of a decade of excess credit, excessive leverage, and uncontrolled expansion by financial institutions precipitated the financial crisis. A common ...
Published 22 November 2010
Article
Taking it all on board
Directors come from a wide range of sources, but they all need time, skills and determination to make a business successful, writes international leadership expert Paul Strebel¦What do you get when...
Published 6 November 2010
Article
Lessons from the banking crisis
The article examines the various lessons learned by managers about the significance of board compositions in the British banking industry after the banking crisis. It mentions that the crisis has p...
Published 1 November 2010
Article
Walker's recipe for groupthink
Sir, There is widespread agreement with the Walker report that bank boards need a critical mass of industry expertise and non-executive board members who can act as the powerful sparring partners o...
Published 3 December 2009
Article
Aandeelhouder als commissaris
Financiële instellingen hebben een stevige raad van commissarissen nodig waarin kennis van zaken belangrijker is dan diversiteit.
Published 15 April 2009
Article
Time to bring real shareholders back on board
In the scramble to design a new regulatory architecture, more should be said about reforming the requirements for corporate boards. No matter how sophisticated the new regulatory regime is, creativ...
Published 12 February 2009
Article
How to avoid the ego-traps in big moves: Saving CEOs (and their companies) from themselves
Over-confidence is a common trait in successful ambitious leaders. Success breeds confidence. But does confidence breed success? Some companies have paid a high price for the self-esteem of their t...
Published 8 October 2008
Article
Many banks' boards just not financially savvy enough
In the financial services industry, boards with executive chairmen or combined CEOs/chairmen and without sufficient members who have current industry expertise are effectively neutered when it come...
Published 20 February 2008
Article
Investment bank boards need a critical mass of industry experts to prevent next lending excess
Sir, When the dust settles, the question will have to be asked: Where were the boards of directors when the leading banks and financial firms were loading up on subprime-backed collateralised debt ...
Published 16 February 2008
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
Driving learning that sticks
You pay for executive education. But does it work?
Published 1 September 2005
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
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
Creating industry breakpoints
Generating, rather than reacting to, an industry breakpoint requires a three-point learning approach. Frontline managers must have a mandate to discover new opportunities through directed innovatio...
Published 8 March 1996
Article
Breakpoint: How to stay in the game
An industry breakpoint occurs when the market is presented by a new offering so superior that it completely changes the rules of the competitive game. The personal computer industry provides a good...
Published 1 March 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