Avoid the Top 6 Traps that Cause Strategies to Fail

Avoid the Top 6 Traps that Cause Strategies to Fail
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Is Your Strategy Set Up to Succeed?
There is so much to consider as you craft, much less begin to execute, a corporate strategy. So much to consider and so many avoidable traps that cause strategies to fail. It can be daunting. However, done right, a successful strategic plan sets a company up to perform beyond just the sum of its parts.

The Top 6 Traps that Cause Strategies to Fail
Here are the top six traps that can cause strategies to fail. Be sure you don’t fall into one.

  1. The Team is Not Fully Behind It
    This is by far and away the most common of leadership traps that cause strategies to fail.  Lack of full buy-in from the team is a major and common trap. In order for a strategy to make a true difference, it must be properly executed.

    To be properly executed, the business strategy must be understood, believable, and implementable enough by all key stakeholders. If not, all the effort put into the planning stage will be for naught.  Here is a shocking statistic: 49% of executives recently surveyed by Booz & Company said their companies had no strategic priorities.

    How could so many high-level folks be unaware of the plans that should guide business decisions and secure the company’s future? The lesson is two-fold.  First actively involve> the whole team in the planning stage so they feel ownership of the plan.  Second, communicate and cascade the strategy throughout the company early, clearly, and often.

    We like using this simple exercise to uncover key obstacles and improve commitment levels. Before finalizing your strategy with the executive team, ask each person to raise their hand and show 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 fingers to show their levels of clarity, belief and commitment.

    “5 Fingers” means that they are 100% onboard.  “1 Finger” means that they are sure the strategy will fail to deliver the desired results.  “3 Fingers” means that they have serious concerns.

    Then discuss what it would take to move everyone to “5 Fingers” and do so before you move forward.

  2. The Plan Lacks Alignment
    Similar to the fist of the leadership traps that cause strategies to fail, your strategy needs to align with your organizational culture and depends on the right talent to implement it. Without the right culture and workforce capability, even well-crafted strategies can misfire.

    Make sure you shape your corporate culture (the way people think, behave, and work at your company) to support the plan.  Make sure your leaders are in sync with who they hire, fire, and promote.

    For example, a strategy that tightens the screws of accountability, resources, and procedures would go against an organizational culture where employee independence and empowerment have been the norm.   Similarly, a business strategy that suddenly promotes open vacation time, flex hours, and looser reporting could easily fail in an organization where the corporate values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors are highly structured.

  3. The Objectives Are Confusing or Unclear
    Don’t think that because you have a plan and have communicated the strategy throughout the organization that it is clearly understood. You have been working to create it for a long time. It will take employees time to understand it and to incorporate its implications for behavior change into their daily routine.

    Employees we survey perceive that the organizational strategy is 50% less clear than their leaders believe. If people are consistently asking for more clarifying information before they act, or going in different directions, then you probably have a problem.

  4. Ongoing Business is Neglected
    Strategic planning focuses on the future. The business vision of success can be exciting. But don’t lose sight of what you need to do to stay in business while you are working on new strategic initiatives.  You need to be sure that business priorities are balanced in a way that makes sense.

    It is critical that existing business activities are managed well even as you encourage the new behaviors that support the future plans.

  5. Interest Wanes as Time Drags On
    This is the opposite of the previous strategy trap. In this one, there is a loss of momentum and the danger that business returns to the usual. The challenge is to keep the focus, urgency and pressure on.  Set up a schedule of regular leadership team meetings; hold key folks accountable for delivering against their assigned tasks; and celebrate goals as they are reached along the way.
  6. Team Leaders Are Unwilling to Flex or Adapt as Things Change
    The best strategies need constant tweaking – not necessarily major change but iterative adjustments. The plan should not be static but a living document that can shift slightly as conditions at the company, in the industry, in the marketplace shift as they always do. Keep your eye on the overall picture but be ready to use change management best practices to redraw the players and plays as needed to be successful.

The Bottom Line
There are so many avoidable traps that cause strategies to fail. Strategy execution can seem overwhelming. Keep it ruthlessly simple and actively involve your key stakeholders along the way to set yourself up for success.

To learn more about how to sidestep the most common traps that cause strategies to fail, download 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy

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