This paper presents a model of how decision-makers interpret stategic issues. The model of strategic issue diagnosis identifies three critical events: activation, assessments of urgency and assessments of feasibility. The relationship of each of these interpretive assessments to the creation of momentum for change allows one to predict if and how organizations will respond to a changed decision environment. The paper further links strategic issue diagnosis to organizational responses by highlighting the systematic effect of two contextual variables—the organization's belief structure and its resources—upon the assessments in diagnosis. In this way, the model of issue diagnosis provides a framework for understanding how and why organizations respond differently to strategic issues.