Effects of Cognitive Load in Strategic Issue Management



Firms have different ways of addressing issues emerging from outside their regular calendar-driven strategy processes. These practices tend to be unstructured, organization specific, and highly dependent on the characteristics of the strategic issues themselves. Building on the three dimensions of cognitive load—intrinsic, germane, and extraneous cognitive load—we extend the existing research on strategic issue management by showing how the different team-level choices made in strategic issue processing and the co-occurring organizational congestion interact in their effects on a firm’s strategic issue management performance. Based on an in-depth analysis of all 92 strategic issue decisions in a large multinational firm during a three-year period, we find that outside disturbances influence strategic issue initiation by top management, which, in turn, influences the quality of strategic issue management practices and the subsequent performance outcomes. Our paper is one of the first empirical studies to examine the applicability of cognitive load theory to management research