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Critical upward communication: ten commandments for improving strategy and decision making.

Tourish, Dennis


Dennis Tourish


Critical upward communication improves decision making in organisations. Without it, senior management teams become out of touch with the mood of their people, and underestimate or miss emerging problems in their marketplace. They are more likely to produce strategies that are misaligned with the perceptions of their employees. The possibility of successful strategic implementation is therefore dramatically reduced. This suggests that two way communication and critical feedback is vital to organisational success. But most of us are suspicious of any feedback to the effect that our behaviour, decisions or most cherished beliefs are in error. We react instinctively against it - in what has been called the automatic vigilance effect. Moreover, most of us are also reluctant to transmit such information, recognising that the hostile reaction of recipients may endanger our standing in their eyes, and possibly damage our careers. We therefore exaggerate how much we agree with the opinions of those who enjoy higher status than us - the ingratiation effect. This causes managers to form inaccurate impressions of the climate within their organisations, with dangerous strategic consequences. This article explores the problems that these dynamics create for companies, and examines the benefits that can be obtained from institutionalising more critical upward feedback into an organisation's communication systems. I propose 'ten commandments' that can help organisations to reorient themselves in this direction.


TOURISH, D. 2005. Critical upward communication: ten commandments for improving strategy and decision making. Long range planning [online], 38(5), pages 485-503. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 31, 2005
Online Publication Date Oct 31, 2005
Publication Date Oct 31, 2005
Deposit Date Jun 30, 2008
Publicly Available Date Jun 30, 2008
Journal Long range planning
Print ISSN 0024-6301
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 5
Pages 485-503
Keywords Communication; Decision making; Strategy; Critical feedback
Public URL


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