While most companies and organisations form a business strategy, delivering the strategy is where most of them go wrong. Here are five reasons for strategies not working out the way they should.

#1 | Conflicting priorities and ill-defined values

In many cases, the strategy is not the culprit, but rather the process by which the plan was formed. Commonly, a company strategy is developed by the leader in collaboration with a chief of strategy or a marketing director, and then shared with the rest of the senior team to hear their opinion on the newfound strategy. But if the plan doesn’t travel further down the organisation, it’s impossible to get the rest of the company involved, eventually resulting in unclear (or a lack of) values, conflicting priorities (resulting in people feeling overloaded because everything is labelled a priority) and poor execution of strategy in general.

#2 | An ineffective senior team

No company can do without a senior team. But what – in this context – makes a senior team ineffective? Most of the time, the ineffectiveness comes from the seniors not speaking with one voice about strategy and value, resulting in issues like these:

  • Little confidence in, and low commitment to strategic decisions.
  • Different and sometimes contradictory views on what the strategy even was.
  • Meetings without constructive conflict: the real decisions are made outside the meeting room.
  • Meetings where most of the time is spent on information sharing and updates instead of discussing, confronting and resolving strategic issues.

These issues all originate from a situation where a company leader and his or her senior teams haven’t resolved the fundamental problem of getting everyone on the top team to talk about the right things in the right way.

Both methods can be attributed to a leader’s aversion to conflict or to not being able to manage a decision-making process.

#3 | Ineffective leadership styles

As for personal leadership, there are two ineffective styles: a top-down approach where team members aren’t involved enough and a laissez-faire, non-confrontational manner. Both methods can be attributed to a leader’s aversion to conflict or to not being able to manage a decision-making process. As a result, he or she doesn’t learn about what senior team members or wider teams think about what’s not working and why, which is detrimental for the implementation and execution of the business strategy. These are signs of ineffective leadership:

  • Your leader tends to get lost in the operational details.
  • Your leader is invisible and he or she spends a very limited amount of time on communicating overall strategy or direction.
  • Your leader doesn’t confront issues or people directly to resolve conflicts.

Extra info

Why trust and commitment is important for a strategy to work

As a leader, you need teams that trust one another and have commitment to each other, their leaders and to the company. Research has shown that teams that are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues and decisions are key to the organisation’s success. They do not hesitate to disagree with, challenge, and question one another, all in the spirit of finding the best answers, discovering the truth, and making great decisions in order to make a strategy work. The same research has also shown that leaders and teams that engage in unfiltered conflict are able to achieve genuine buy-in around important decisions, even when various members of the (management) team initially disagree. That’s because they ensure that all opinions and ideas are put on the table and considered, giving confidence to team members that no stone has been left unturned.

#4 | Poor development of leadership

How do your leaders develop themselves? Research has shown that leaders ‘grow’ faster and better not through training, but by taking up challenges that arise from the organisation. For this to happen at your company, you need to have a talent-management system that enables the cross-border developmental assignments required to develop general management ability. The lack of it, and with too few opportunities for leadership and management development, increases the chance that the other issues described in this blog will come forward.

The vital info about an organisation’s strategy and values needs to flow from the top team to the wider teams, and feedback from the team on the challenges must be encouraged to flow the opposite way.

#5 | Poor vertical communication

Good vertical communication is very important for the business strategy to work. And, for vertical communication to work, the vital info about an organisation’s strategy and values needs to flow from the top team to the wider teams. Feedback from the team on the challenges must be encouraged to flow the opposite way. If this doesn’t happen, then situations will occur in which senior leaders rarely (or never) ask the wider team to tell them about the obstacles that stand in the way of the company’s strategy and how those barriers can be removed.

As you can imagine, this is detrimental to not only the implementation of the strategy but to the execution as well.

What to do?

Our advice is to start with an assessment to determine which of the above problems are occurring in your company. Even if it is only one problem, it is still important to intervene to ensure that the company continues to sail the planned course towards the right goals with everyone on board.

If you are in need of strategic support, please leave a contact request so that one of our expert local business advisors can contact you.

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