Leadership alignment is a persistent challenge. 

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When CEOs and their senior teams embark on ambitious strategic efforts like new growth initiatives or digital transformation, sharing a common vision and understanding about the path forward is critical to success. Yet too often, senior teams that appear aligned are plagued by divisions and doubts just below the surface. This lack of unity can create paralysis, confusion, and derail even the most promising initiatives.

Consider Bern-based Swisscom. In 2016, the telco seemed trapped in a mature industry. The global telecom sector was flatlining, with revenue inching up a mere 1% per year and profits and prices under siege. Despite Swisscom’s long track record of innovation, stasis had set in at the $12 billion company.

CEO Urs Schaeppi and his senior leaders knew the firm needed to refine its long-term growth strategy for a world transformed by digital technology, but they were divided by disagreement about the best path forward. 

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Because Swisscom’s traditional strategic-planning process focused on short- and medium-term plans, Schaeppi decided to try a new approach. It comprised a trilogy of leadership dialogues enhanced with comprised a trilogy of leadership dialogues enhanced with data visualization that aimed to establish a foundation of common understanding, expose misalignment, and catalyze decision making through physical exercises.

By the end of the process, the leadership team had converged on the “North Star” vision of Swisscom for 2025 and allocated resources for growth opportunities such as data security, the internet of things, and vertical markets including financial tech and transportation.

The leadership alignment challenge is a human one. The techniques used at Swisscom are based on thinking from fields including neuroscience, behavioral psychology, and the study of how physical movement and artifacts affect creative thinking.  

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The method is generalizable and has had impact in industries ranging from medical devices to legal services, in multiple geographies.

Download a copy of our Harvard Business Review article to learn more about how leadership teams can break through classic behavioral traps, surface hidden agendas and unite around a strategy for the future.

Getting Physical: Leadership alignment in action

Watch delegates at our 2018 Munich CEO summit participate in a “walk the line” exercise to predict Germany’s chances of advancing in the World Cup.

About the authors

Bernard Kuemmerli

Bernard C. Kümmerli is a senior partner at Innosight, the strategy and innovation practice at Huron Consulting Group.

Scott Anthony, 2017

Scott D. Anthony is a senior partner at Innosight, the strategy and innovation practice at Huron Consulting Group.


Markus Messerer is the former head of corporate strategy at Swisscom and the CEO of Alltron.