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Transcript: Factor in human emotions when planning strategy

KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, with Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. I am delighted to have a chance to talk to Quy Huy who is a senior strategy professor at INSEAD just outside of Paris.

Good afternoon, Quy.

QUY HUY – Good afternoon, Karl.

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KM – We look at often and we separate strategy and execution – you have been looking and thinking about execution, what are some of the key things you have found about good strategy execution?

QH – I have found certain, what I call, incomplete illusions about conceiving strategy execution. For example, senior executives tend to put a lot of thought into coming up with a good strategy: discussing, getting the best consulting firms to help them, have thought put in their team meetings and so on and so forth. And after three months, six months or a year they come up with a strategy that looks extremely good on paper.

Then what they do next, what we have found, is that they tend to have an engineering project management-type approach to strategy execution. What does that mean? We all know how project management institutes have been very powerful in doing this – it helps managers to break down their strategy into different sets of activities. For different sets of activities they kind of assign a champion, have a set time duration, assign the appropriate resources such as people, skills, money and manpower and once the gain chart is established then, here we go, we have a project management approach to strategy execution. Yet, oftentimes, that fails. So, why?

What we have found is that this project management approach did not sufficiently take into account the soft human factors that go into it. To be more precise, what soft human factors are we talking about? There are collective emotional issues, there are collective political issues that tend to be taboo subjects – people tend to whisper in the corridors, or tend to discuss it but it has never formed in formal board meetings. There are no project management principles in order to diagnose, detect, and think systematically about this.

So that is what we have begun addressing at this point and we have developed research as well as teaching in order to help senior executives to be better equipped how to identify collective emotions, what are the causes, what are the effects, what are the political agendas, who has these political agendas, and how to command trust.

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