Unclear Business Strategies Are Too Difficult to Execute

An entire whiteboard is covered with confusing equations...the epitome of unclear business strategies

Unclear Business Strategies Are Too Difficult to Execute
While it seems like common sense that unclear business strategies are too difficult to execute, leadership team after leadership team continues to think that twenty clear strategic initiatives equate to strategic clarity.  When you ask employees, that perception could not be further from the truth.

How to Increase Your Odds for Strategic Success
Overly complex strategies rarely take off or get implemented.  The sad thing is we know that, instead of being the exception, this situation holds true the majority of the time.

  • IBM found that less than 10% of well formulated strategies are effectively executed.
  • And even though strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing companies, employees we survey perceive that the business strategy is 50% less clear to them than their leaders believe.

What is Strategic Clarity?
Not only must your strategy outline clear and compelling choices about where to play and what actions to take…it must also be understood, believable and implementable enough by all key stakeholders.  You will know your strategy is ready for action when employees understand how their work directly contributes, believe it will lead to successful results, and know the entire company is fully committed to it.

How to Avoid Unclear Business Strategies
Here are four critical “musts” for putting together a business strategy that can be successfully executed:

1. Make the Strategy Ruthlessly Simple and Clear
Every company has a lot of moving parts and important projects. Not all initiatives are created equal however.  If you want to improve your chances of strategic success, spend the time required to identify the two to three strategic imperatives that matter most.

Strategy is all about choices and trade-offs.  The primary test of leadership is ruthlessly defining what not to do, wisely stretching limited resources to fit your aspirations, and fully committing to making it happen.

2. Actively Involve Others
The best strategies are those that are co-created with broad input, not just in the executives’ ivory tower. Not until you earn buy-in from all stakeholders (employees at multiple levels, customers, suppliers and any others who have a stake in your company’s future), can you expect widespread commitment to the plan and the willpower to overcome the inevitable challenges.

3. Maintain Steady Two-way Communication
The timely flow of information is critical for any strategy to succeed. Important messages need repetition and dialogue.  Your business priorities and the rationale behind them are your most important messages.

Your business strategy must guide and inform decisions across the organization.  Don’t expect employees to “get it” right away.  Reiterate the strategic priorities at every opportunity and welcome any questions about why it matters and how it should be implemented.

4. Provide Necessary Resources
Just as you can’t reap a harvest that has not been sown, you cannot expect strategy execution without the tools and systems required to make it a reality. Make sure you provide the resources (e.g. time, money, people, expertise, systems, practices, knowledge, skills, processes, etc.) to get the job done.  Do your employees have the resources required to get the job done?

The Bottom Line
Don’t fall on the wrong side of the statistics that weigh against the successful implementation of your strategy.  Start with a strategic plan that is simple and clear and that has been designed with input and challenges from multiple levels and departments.  Then keep a steady focus on the end vision and provide the means to get there.

To learn more about avoiding the traps associated with unclear business strategies, download 7 Ways to Stress Test Your Strategic Clarity

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