Why Strategies Fail
There are three reasons strategy fails to execute. They are:
• Company initiatives don’t aligned with strategy
• Company processes don’t align with strategy
• Employees and stakeholder fail to engage
So how do we ensure that our strategies implement successfully? The answer is to build the execution into and across the strategy and the strategy planning process.
Below are the 5 steps to successful strategy implementation.
1. Align your initiatives
A key road to failed implementation is when we create a new strategy but then continue to do the same things of old. A new strategy means new priorities and new activities across the organisation. Every activity (other than the most functional) must be reviewed against its relevance to the new strategy.
A good way of doing this is to create a strategic value measurement tool for existing and new initiatives. Initiatives should be analysed against their strategic value and the impact to the organisation.
2. Align budgets & performance
Ideally your capital budgets are decentralised, so each division can both allocate and manage the budgets to deliver the division’s strategic initiatives.
Organisational performance should be closely aligned to strategy. Performance measures should be placed against strategic goals across the organisation and each division and staff member. All staff will have job functions that will impact on strategy. Most staff will have impact across a series of strategic goals (eg. financial, customer service, product). Ensure employees are aware of their role and influence on strategy delivery and performance. This is also important to employee engagement
3. Structure follows strategy
A transformational strategy may require a transformation to structure. Does the structure of your organisation allow strategy to cascade across and down the organisation in a way that meaningfully and efficiently delivers the strategy?
4. Engaging Staff
The key reason strategy execution fails is because the organisation doesn’t get behind it. If you’re staff and critical stakeholders don’t understand the strategy and fail to engage, then the strategy has failed.
The importance of this step cannot be understated. If you’re staff are not delivering the strategy, then the strategy has failed.
So how do we engage staff?
Prepare: Strategy involves change. Change is difficult and human tendency is to resist it. So not matter how enlightened and inspiring your new strategic vision, it will come up against hurdles. Tipping Point Leadership theory (a key principle of the Blue Ocean Strategy methodology) outlines four key hurdles that executives must overcome to achieve execution. Those hurdles are cognitive, resource, motivation and political hurdles. It is important we understand each of these hurdles and develop strategies to overcome them.
Include: Bring influential employees, not just executive team members into the planning process. Not only will they contribute meaningfully to strategy, they will also be critical in ensuring the organisation engages with the strategy. Furthermore, listen across the organisation during strategy formulation. Some of your best ideas will come from within your organisation, not the executive team (think 3M’s Post-It Notes)
Communicate: Ensure every staff member understands the strategic vision, the strategic themes and what their role will be in delivering the strategic vision.
And enrich the communication experience. Communicate the strategy through a combination of presentations, workshops, meetings, newsletters, intranets and updates. Continue strategy and performance updates throughout the year.
And engage them emotionally in the vision. The vision needs to give people goose bumps – a vision they believe in, that they want to invest and engage with.
Clarify: It is important that all employees are aware of expectations. How are they expected to change? What and how are they expected to deliver? Each individual must understand their functions within the strategy, the expected outcomes and how they will be measured. As mentioned above performance measures and incentives should be aligned with performance against strategic KPIs.
5. Monitor and Adapt
A strategy must be a living, breathing document. As we all know: if there’s one constant in business these days it’s change. So our strategies must be adaptable and flexible so they can respond to changes in both our internal and external environments.
Strategy meetings should be held regularly throughout the year, where initiatives and direction are assessed for performance and strategic relevance. At least once a year we should put our strategy under full review to check it against changes in our external and competitive environments as well as our internal environments.
Strategy is not just a document written by executive teams and filed in the CEO’s desk. It is a vision for the organisation, owned by the organisation. And to succeed the whole organisation must engage with it and live and breathe it. Strategy should inform our operations, our structure, and how we go about doing what we do. It should be the pillar against which we assess our priorities, our actions and performance.
When execution is brought into strategic planning we find that our strategy is weaved through our organisation, and it’s from here that great leaps in growth and productivity can be achieved.