What Typically Factors that Prevent Strategy Execution?
Wouldn’t it be great to proactively prepare for the most common factors that prevent strategy execution? Even the most carefully conceived business strategies often fail in the execution stage. Between designing the strategic plan for success and reaching the goal with the entire organization there are often a breakdowns.
Three Top Factors that Prevent Strategy Execution
From our twenty-plus years of experience of strategic clarity facilitation, the broken implementation path can often be due to three basic factors:
First, a Lack of Strategic Clarity
A lack of strategic clarity occurs when the business strategy is not clearly translated from the board room to the front line. Often the strategic objectives are too vague or not put into the kinds of specific words or actions that could be understood and implemented in your unique company culture.
Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing companies. High levels of strategic clarity occur when the strategic direction and the accompanying plan are understood, believed in and implementable in the eyes of those who must lead and implement it. Strategic clarity must occur at each and every level of the company for people to put their hearts and minds fully behind it.
Second, a Lack of Strategic Flexibility
Company strategies need to account for the constant and inevitable change that is the condition of business today. Successful business strategies need to allow for necessary internal and external feedback and related course corrections. Leadership teams need to be able to adapt to everything from shifts in the marketplace to an over-insistence on “staying the course.”
Third, a Lack of Leadership and Workforce Preparation
To sustain a major strategic change or initiative, leaders must be committed to the strategic goals long-term. They also need to ensure that the right talent is in place and that the organization’s culture aligns with the new direction. The highest performing companies actively involve and engage their workforce in the strategic planning, design, and implementation processes to create solid alignment on three fronts: strategy, culture, and talent.
An Updated Approach to Strategy Execution
One way to protect against factors that prevent strategy execution is to adopt an updated approach to strategy implementation. Rather than follow the more traditional waterfall method of building your strategic plan according to a strict project management model, try a more agile and progressive plan of action. Instead of traditional straight-line thinking encourage an iterative and more inclusive strategy cascading approach that can get you to the same destination via a potentially more innovative and flexible route.
Three Shifts to Improve Strategy Execution
The traditional waterfall approach to strategy can certainly work in situations where the objectives, goals, scope, or circumstances are relatively simple and straightforward. But when the strategy’s success involves a need for the organization to adapt to new ways of doing things, a more flexible and iterative approach will be far more successful. Here are the three shifts in focus for a more flexible and successful approach to strategy implementation:
1. Ensure Strategic Clarity and Commitment at the Top 2 Levels of Leadership
If there is conflict, ambiguity, or misalignment within the executive team or their direct reports, your strategy has little chance for success. While many companies do a good job of crafting strategic plans with the C-Suite, they often neglect to effectively engage and include next level leaders. Strategic priorities are often just wishful thinking until you get all your key stakeholders on board.
In fact, a recent study by Bain of more than 400 companies backed this up. The most successful executive teams overwhelmingly rated their ability to effectively engage their organizations as the No. 1 factor in their success – ranking it more than 50% higher than any other factor. Leaders must to be able to translate their vision in a way that provides their “implementers” with clear directions, and guidelines that make sense for teams to be able to craft their own plans that will work.
2. Empower Implementation Teams to Adapt as Needed
Because markets, competitors, technologies, and customers tend to shift and change, select team leaders who can operate effectively as strategists, problem solvers, change leaders, and people collaborators. Teams should not work strictly toward tactical milestones but rather toward strategic outcomes that directly align with overall corporate priorities and values. Everyone needs to know how (and be empowered) to make and communicate smart course corrections along the way.
3. Act as True Leaders
Look ahead at what will be needed for true change. Will you need to build new capabilities in the workforce? Adjust the existing corporate culture to better support and align with the new strategy? Or change systems and practices to get where you want to go in a way that makes sense? You need to keep your eye on the goal and continue to inspire your troops to reach it.
The Bottom Line
Unless you have invented the next iPhone that people just cannot live without, even the most promising strategies are just wishful thinking unless everyone is on the same page and aligned to make complex change happen. Get clear at the top, empower your teams to make it happen, and ensure leaders have the skills to be successful.
To learn more about how to overcome the common factors that prevent strategy execution, download 3 of the Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy
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