9 Symptoms of an Unclear Corporate Strategy

Unclear Corporate Strategy A man stands on a clear yellow line above a confusing mix of white paths going nowhere

Is an Unclear Corporate Strategy Holding You Back?
Strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.  If you don’t know where you want to go, how on earth can you get there?  Do not let an unclear corporate strategy hold you back.

Why Strategic Clarity So Difficult
Employees continuously report to us that they find their company’s strategy half as clear as their executive team.  It’s astounding how many leaders deploy critical and limited resources and have high expectations from their organizations without everyone being on the same page.

Strategy implementation takes effort.  For a strategy to be successfully cascaded across a company, each and every employee must truly understand their role, their contribution and the roles of those around them in achieving the critical few things that matter most.

9 Symptoms of an Unclear Corporate Strategy
It is also surprising to us that so many organizations miss the strategic ambiguity clues that could warn them that they are off track.  Take a quick look at this list of unclear corporate strategy symptoms and see if your business plan for success is at risk:

1.  Not Enough Stakeholders Believe the Strategy is Implementable
If employees don’t believe the strategic initiatives will actually be implemented in the current organizational culture, you have a problem. This often shows up when plans that have been hashed out in meetings inconsistently get executed. This is often a sign of a lack of strong leadership and a lack of accountability down the line.

Beware if less than 75% of the population believes that the strategy is clear, believable and implementable enough to fully commit.

2.  Substandard Performers Are Kept on Beyond a Reasonable Time to Help Them Improve
While the consequences of allowing under-performers to remain on the team for too long may sound like a cultural warning sign, it is also a sign that strategic goals and their related performance standards may be unclear.  Low performers slow strategic progress and demotivate those around them to reach for higher performance.

A low performance bar affects everyone.  Beware if low performers remain on the team for too long without improving.

3.  The Company Fails to Hit Important Strategic Targets on a Regular Basis
Something is seriously wrong if important milestones are routinely missed. Either the goals were not realistic, they were miscommunicated or there were no clear consequences for failure to reach them.

Beware if strategic targets routinely slip without significant reflection and continuous improvement by the leadership team.

4.  Goals, Roles and Success Metrics are Unclear or Conflicting
If employees are uncertain about what, specifically, they are responsible for accomplishing and where they fit in the overall plan, strategic progress, performance and employee engagement can suffer. Do not let employees be confused about their job and their role in the context of your strategic imperatives.

Beware if people do not know how their success is measured, how their contribution fits in and what they can count on from others.

5.  Time is Wasted
Most employees are busy but not always focused on the critical few strategic activities that are in their control and that matter most. They fill out reports that go unused and attend meetings that lack clear agendas or result in meaningful actions.  They over-think decisions and spend time hunting down information that should have been shared, etc.

Beware if the majority of time is spent on executing non-strategic priorities.

6.  A Lack of Customer Focus
If you notice that products and services are being enhanced with extras that do not directly benefit target customers, you are draining profits and confusing your value proposition. If the definition of your ideal target customer is fuzzy or not agreed to by all key stakeholders, slow down and focus on what sets you apart and where you should win the majority of the time.

Beware if your target customers and what they value most are not at the heart of what you are doing.

7.  Decision Making is Not Aligned
Good strategies make it easy to make good decisions.  If decisions, resource allocations and initiatives are being driven by the quick, the easy, the political or the way it’s always been done, your strategy is probably not powerful enough to set the right course.

Beware of a strategic indecisiveness and inconsistency.

8.  Organizational Health and Employee Engagement is Suffering
If employees seem over-worked and under-satisfied, the health of your company may not be strong enough to support the strategic changes you desire. To give the discretionary effort required, employees need to trust leadership, have a good work-life balance and see career development opportunities down the road.

Beware if employee morale, discretionary effort or retention falters.

9.  Minimal Accountability and Increased Finger Pointing
If “passing the buck” is rampant throughout your organization, take a look at your level of strategic clarity before you invest in team building or executive coaching. When people are unwilling to take responsibility for missteps, the goals. roles and success metrics are usually askew.

Beware of strategic ambiguity in terms of responsibility, accountability and performance metrics.

The Bottom Line
If any of these traits sound familiar, your organization is most likely suffering from an unclear corporate strategy. The time spent correcting the above problems will serve you well. It is far easier to operate successfully when everyone understands where the company is going and how it is going to get there.

To learn more about avoiding an unclear corporate strategy, download How Strategic Clarity Distinguishes High Performing Leaders – The Elite 6%

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