Participation and engagement will make or break a strategy work. “If the employees are not on board, and do not wish to make the change happen, it will not happen” according to our interviewees. A major source of uncertainty and risk for strategy work, is getting participation and ‘buy-in’ in the organization. To understand how executives deal with this challenge, we utilized a sense-making model about participation to code interviews with senior executives and employees. The sense-making model conceptualizes how to foster buy-in, – through engagement, imagination and alignment. The sense-making model conceptualizes how buy-in can be fostered through engagement, imagination and alignment, for instance by ‘having ones ideas adopted’ (engagement) or a vicarious experience (utilizing the imagination). According to Wenger (2005), participation and engagement is not an absolute, but rather employees will be on a trajectory towards participation or non-participation that can be negotiated through economies of meaning or realized through identification. Crucial representations of a strategy (reports, power points, models etc.) are thought to ‘stand alone’, but in reality they are interpreted and negotiated by people. This shapes how the strategy is understood and how employees participate or do not participate in the strategy. We identified examples such as pivotal stakeholders ‘change enablers’, central in negotiating the meaning of a strategy with other employees. The framework enables strategy professionals to:

  • Check their strategic initiative for ways of fostering participation
    • Actively take into account the interplay between people and artifacts
      • Let the people side facilitate the understanding of the artifacts and vice versa
      • Identify people throughout the organisation that can serve as ‘brokers’
  • Create a shared understanding by connecting visual cues, and artefacts with people through events, workshops, meetings etc.