12 reasons why your business strategies fail


While a good strategy is a great start, organisations must be able to deliver on their intent. Unfortunately, many organisations are not very good at this.

Strategy involves change, which is difficult. Human tendency resists it. So, no matter how inspiring a new strategic vision is or how fantastic the products or innovative the technology, it will come up against hurdles. Only solid execution will put an organisation on the competitive map.

There are many reasons why strategy implementation plan fails.

The most common are:

An overwhelming strategic plan: Managers don’t know where to begin. The goals and initiatives generated in the strategic planning process are too numerous because the leadership team failed to make tough choices to eliminate non-critical actions.

Unrealistic goals: While strategic objectives may stretch the organisation, they still must be realistic. If people feel the goals are unachievable they may not try.

Lack of leadership: This issue is at multiple levels. It is not only about ensuring that each manager at each level is clear about the accountabilities and authorities they have for strategy implementation, it is about all managers understanding their role as a people manager.

Focus on structural changes: Many organisations overly rely on structural change to execute strategy. While changing structure has its place, it is only part of the requirement for successful strategy implementation.

Unclear accountability: If people are not clear of their role and their accountabilities for strategy delivery, or are not held accountable for their work, it’ll be business as usual for all but a few frustrated individuals. Clear accountability helps drive change.

Lack of empowerment: Accountability needs matching authority to deliver outcomes. It also needs the tools and resources necessary to achieve strategic initiatives.

Lack of communication: Communication helps with organisational alignment. If a plan doesn’t get communicated to employees, they won’t understand their role or how they contribute to achieving the organisation’s strategy.

Getting caught up in the day-to-day: Managers are often consumed by daily operational problems and lose sight of long-term goals. Unless there is an organisational focus on strategy implementation, managers will focus on their day-to-day work.

Lack of clarity on actions required: The actions required to execute the strategy are not specified or clearly defined.

Inadequate monitoring: Managers are unable to assess if the strategy is being achieved. Without clear information on how and why performance is falling short, it is virtually impossible to take appropriate action.

No progress reporting: There’s no method to track progress, or the plan only measures what’s easy, not what’s important, so no one feels any forward momentum.

Lack of alignment: The organisation has not been aligned for strategy implementation. Organisational silos and culture blocks execution and/or organisational processes don’t support strategic requirements.

To successfully implement a strategy, leaders must be able to:

  • Clearly define the strategy
  • Align the organisation for success
  • Cascade and deploy the strategy to relevant employees
  • Monitor and assure implementation

  • Although there are many barriers to successful strategy implementation, these barriers can be overcome by using a planned, step-by-step approach. Competitive advantage is only gained when both planning and implementation are performed well.

    Peter Mills is a consultant with over 30 years of experience in human resource management in a range of industries, including engineering, manufacturing, investment, petroleum and IT. He has led hundreds of team members in their leadership journey. His new book is MAKE IT WORK! How to successfully implement your business strategy (GOKO Publishing). He is also Director of The Leadership Framework.

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