5 Reasons Why Strategy Execution Fails

By Alicia Croke


We are already two-quarters deep this year. How is your 2017 plan going so far? Is it already careening off5 Reasons Strategy Execution Fails its track, middling along, or right on target?

If you have found that your plan is already off track, have no fear! Harvard Business Review to the rescue! Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes, and Charles Sull found five myths that cause strategy execution failure. 

Myth 1: Execution Means You are Aligned

According to the HBR article mentioned above, "Only 9% of managers say they can rely on colleagues in other functions and units all the time, and just half say they can rely on them most of the time."

Just because things are getting done, does not mean that everyone is an A player or working well cross functionally. Breaking down silos is part of the solution to misalignment in your company.

The authors of the HBR article agree that breaking down silos is critical to executing well across teams: "The failure to coordinate also leads to conflicts between functions and units, and these are handled badly two times out of three—resolved after a significant delay (38% of the time), resolved quickly but poorly (14%), or simply left to fester (12%)."

Myth 2: Execution Means Sticking to the Plan

"No plan can anticipate every event that might help or hinder a company trying to achieve its strategic objectives." (HBR)

Agility and adaptability are critical in a growing organization. You have to be prepared to deal with the inevitable changes and setbacks. Unfortunately, many executives focus solely on the huge mountain they want to tackle, not realizing that it takes years and many base camps to get to their Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

According to a blog by Ted Skinner, "Instead on focusing on the mountain, which is the end of the year, we focus on what needs to be done this quarter to get us to the first base camp." 

How have you structured your BHAG? Where do you see your company next year and the year after that?

Take the time to build out your plan over the next few years and build in for the unexpected.

Myth 3: Communication Equals Understanding

"Only 55% of the middle managers we have surveyed can name even one of their company’s top five priorities." (HBR)

Just because you are always communicating with your team, it doesn't mean they understand everything.

Do your employees clearly understand your company's strategic initiatives? Your employees, (especially millennials) need to see a clear path from what they work on to how it affects the company's goals.

During your annual and quarterly departmental planning, take the time to show your team how their work will help the company achieve its goals. Recently, my department went over all our priorities for the quarter; using Rhythm software, we were able to see and show how much energy we were porting into company initiatives.

Myth 4: A Performance Culture Drives Execution

"Past performance is two or three times more likely than a track record of collaboration to be rewarded with a promotion." (HBR)

I wrote a blog last year about super chickens and their correlations to teamwork. A culture of pure accelerated performance does not necessarily lead to good team dynamics or workplace health.

Instead, focus on working collaboratively to get more goals achieved. Create a culture where people feel accountable to each other and want to help the company achieve success.

Myth 5: Execution Should Be Driven from the Top

"Concentrating power at the top may boost performance in the short term, but it degrades an organization’s capacity to execute over the long run." (HBR)

You need to empower your team from the bottom up. Reiterating what I have said previously in this blog, do your employees understand why they are working on projects? Do they feel they have a voice and that they are heard?

I recently heard about a team who said they were slaves to their new system because their bosses demanded it. Forcing initiatives and process does not ensure success. CEOs and managers need to present their initiatives to their team and empower them to make them feel part of the process.

Let me know if these tips help you get your year back on track!

Download the Rhythm Strategic Execution Plan Tool to know what to do every year, quarter and day!

Would you like to learn more on this topic? Here are some additional resources:

5 Reasons Strategy Execution Fails

Is Your Execution Really Connected To Your Strategy

Annual Planning: Create A Winning Annual Plan

How CEOs Succeed—Achieve A Top Valuation Through Strategy Execution

What Are The Top 8 Business Challenges For Mid-Market Companies? Survey Says...

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Alicia Croke


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images