4 Big Ways Your Corporate Strategy Can Fail

How many times have you seen a new and exciting strategic plan be forgotten within a few quarters? How many times have you left a strategic retreat with optimism for great things to come only to find that the strategies never consistently cascaded throughout the organization? How many times have internal and external expectations been raised by inspiring new strategic directions only to be left in the planning stages due to a lack of commitment and follow-through?

When we work with executives to create clear, believable and implementable strategies, the strategy itself is rarely to blame for a lack of success. For the most part, the market research is rigorous enough and the strategic plans are sound enough. The failure lies in the process of execution.

Here are the top four reasons we have found that a strategic business plan falls short:

  1. Unclear objectives
    Even if you have near universal buy-in, a strategy can fail for lack of strategic clarity. The overall objectives may seem well articulated, but what about how it plays out across the company? All stakeholders need to know how, specifically, they will contribute to success and how that success will be measured. The plan needs detailed structure…it needs to be broken down into clear actions with a realistic timeline where progress can be monitored, adjusted and celebrated.
  2. Insufficient support and buy-in
    A successful strategy cannot be created in a vacuum with only a few senior executives. Instead, a believable and implementable strategic plan should come about as a result of multiple discussions and feedback from cross-functional representatives. Involve as many employees as you reasonably can to ask questions about how they view the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and what they think of the company’s vision, mission, values and optimizing strategies. How do they think success can best be realized? Make sure you have backing from the executive office to the workers on the line and that they are willing to commit the time, effort and resources needed to accomplish the plan.
  3. Lack of accountability
    Strategies are about both the important and the urgent. It is easy for people and companies to get bogged down in the day-to-day tactical and operational urgencies. Make sure that your strategy allows room for “running the business” AND executing the strategy. For most strategies and change initiatives you need to go slow to go fast. Hold regular (ideally weekly at first to create momentum and handle immediate obstacles) and cascading strategy meetings to create a cadence of transparency, accountability and learning. While collaboration and delegation is encouraged and often required, make sure that you have one executive team member accountable for making each strategy a success. Keep the overall team accountable for delivering on schedule and maintaining progress toward your key strategic promises. The strategy is your plan for success. Don’t lose momentum; stay on track.
  4. Inflexibility
    For most high companies, change is the name of the game. This is not to say that your strategy should shift with the tides. The direction should stay the same but there will most likely need to be some well-learned adjustments as you move forward. Tweaks should be made as needed to accommodate the real-time feedback from your employees, customers and competitors.

It’s pretty simple. Gain support, define action steps, stay focused and tweak as necessary. Follow these four tips for strategy success.

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