Deploying your strategy isn’t easy, here are 5 reasons deployments fail.
The reality of strategic management is that it requires having a strategy and actually managing with the strategy as the touchstone. The first part isn’t easy…plenty of management “stories” masquerade as strategy without actually being founded on real choices about what to do and not to do.
The second part–managing with the strategy as touchstone–is downright hard. It’s hard because organizations have inertia…they keep moving in the direction they are already going. Overcoming this inertia is a real challenge when it comes to deploying strategy that involves a change in direction. Here are 5 root issues that we frequently witness for companies that “have” a strategy but are struggling to deploy it.
- Nobody knows: The executive team has focused on building a strong, coherent strategic plan. The organization never gets the word. Need I say more?
- Strategy management is left to staff functions: Every strategy at organizations of any significant size and complexity comes with a need for coordination, control, reporting, and management. So, many organizations set up a staff organization (in some companies, it’s a single person) to help coordinate the strategy. The problem starts when line leaders start leaving strategy program execution to the staff organization.
- Initiative definitions are lofty and cute but ultimately meaningless: The company has a great, tailored set of marketing messages, but initiatives based on marketing messages are hard to manage. They need to be based on actual process change. “Customer success” may sound great to you and your friends, but how do you drill that down to the bedrock actions that deliver on such success? If your strategy can’t connect to economic and process reality, then you are probably here.
- Workstreams masquerade as initiatives: An initiative is a self-contained effort to change “something” within the company. Great strategies are made u up of initiatives. The change may be around a process or product. A workstream is a subset of activities within an initiative. It may be somewhat self-contained, but it ultimately lacks standalone sense apart from the Initiative. In other words, a workstream rarely delivers an overall result…it requires the result of other workstreams and coordination among them. Many, many strategic deployment structures fail because they create “accountability” for workstreams and call them initiatives. This results in every “initiative” requiring constant and tedious C-Level intervention to actually get things done because, well, none of the “initiatives” is actually self-contained. While this may look like an odd and technical distinction, it actually matters a lot because it represents a failure of delegation. An initiative ought to be self-contained as to design and to general decision rights, or else it’s just another cross-functional conflagration.
- The future is undefined: The deployment lacks a vision for the future. This is the opposite of point 1. Strategic deployment looks like business as usual, but with PowerPoint and neat messages about component outcomes. If your strategy lacks a view what the future state of the business is, it may be lacking something. People are much better at executing when they have a view of a future than they are when they are given only concepts and objectives. If you find that you are spending more time communicating with powerpoint and slogans than asking about the latest progress toward margin or sales improvement, you might be in this bucket.
There you have it: Five reasons that strategy deployment fails. There are many others, but these are my “five.” The antidote is actually pretty simple to articulate, but harder to execute: vision, communication, integration, and followup.
What do you think? Have you found the secret to great strategy deployment?