9 Symptoms of an Unclear Corporate Strategy

9 Symptoms of an Unclear Corporate Strategy
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Is an Unclear Corporate Strategy Holding You Back?
Our organizational alignment research found that 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 in a way that makes sense?

Do not let an unclear corporate strategy hold you back.

Why Strategic Clarity Is So Difficult
After corporate strategy retreats, employees continuously report that they find their company’s strategy half as clear as their executive team.  It’s astounding how many leaders continue to deploy critical and limited resources without everyone being on the same page.  Strategy implementation — especially in complex and rapidly changing environments — takes commitment, clarity, and effort.

For a strategy to be successfully cascaded across a company, each and every employee must truly understand their role, their contribution, and the interdependent 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 Truly Implementable
    If employees don’t believe the strategic initiatives will actually be implemented in the current organizational culture, you have a problem. A lack of belief often shows up when plans that have been hashed out in meetings are inconsistently 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 affected population believes that the strategy is clear, believable, and implementable enough to fully commit.

  2. Substandard Performers Are Allowed to Remain for Too Long
    While the consequences of allowing underperformers at work 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.  A low performance bar affects everyone.

    Low performers slow strategic progress and demotivate those around them to reach for higher performance.   Beware if low performers remain on the team for too long (typically more than 90 days) 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, or they were miscommunicated, or there were no meaningful consequences for failing to reach them.

    Beware if strategic targets routinely slip without significant reflection, proportionate consequences, or 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 unique role in the context of your strategic imperatives.

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

  5. Time is Wasted
    Most employees are busy — but not always focused on the critical few strategic priorities that are in their control and that matter most. We hear that people fill out reports that go unused, create detailed slide decks when a simple bullet point would have sufficed, attend meetings that lack clear agendas or outcomes, over-think decisions, and spend time hunting down information that should have been previously shared or easily accessible.

    Beware if the majority of people’s time is spent on discussing or executing non-strategic priorities or in areas that are out of their control.

  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 unique 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 truly 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, or 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, hesitancy, 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, conflict management, 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 individual and team responsibility, cultural 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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