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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insights - 3 Tactics to Ensure Your Next Big Strategy Actually Succeeds

CEO Insights

3 Tactics to Ensure Your Next Big Strategy Actually Succeeds

Too often, business strategies fail to achieve the intended results. Ensuring strategies are understood and executed at all levels of the organization is critical to success. Follow these steps to ensure your next strategy goes off without a hitch.

For decades, business leaders have spent precious time and resources developing and deploying new corporate strategies, only to see those strategies fail to achieve their desired results. Yet, it keeps happening. In fact, 60% to 90% of strategic plans never get off the ground, mostly due to execution challenges. The big question, of course, is why so many strategies fail. The answer is decidedly simple: Strategy creation and strategy execution are misaligned.

Take the typical strategy development process. It normally starts with a small group of in-the-know leaders. This group spends months forming the outlines of a new strategy, looking at research, trends, and market data. They talk to people, joining forces with many in the C-suite to begin to paint a compelling vision of the future. Through various iterations, the new strategy is analyzed, debated, and refined by a core group, many of whom have lived the strategy for so long that it becomes intuitive and real.

By the time they’re ready to roll out their strategy to the rest of the organization, this group has bought into everything. The new strategy is what this small group of in-the-know leaders has been living, breathing, and discussing for many months, and they assume the organization will get on board as soon as they announce the new direction. However, what this group of leaders fails to consider is the significant gap between what they know, what the organization knows, and how long people have had to adjust to the change. Even if the organization knew that a strategy was being developed, team members haven’t been privy to the tight-knit circle of people designing a new approach.

With a big town hall unveiling, the result is decidedly predictable: People have questions, and many are not on board. They find it challenging to understand how to implement the strategy. They don’t know the complexities the strategy development team might have discussed or the alternative paths that were explored but not ultimately chosen. There are many unanswered questions, as the new strategy is high-level enough to move the company forward yet not specific enough to offer clear direction. Front-line managers that weren’t involved in its creation are now tasked with detailed execution, and what they have is a set of marching orders that they may or may not understand. Even if they want to realize the vision fully, they aren’t certain how to be successful. As time passes, the organization struggles to break out of its comfort zone in fully embracing the new direction, leaving the strategy (and company) faltering.

How can you ensure your next strategy doesn’t meet a similar fate? We’ve worked with many leaders to help them make the shift from strategy to execution — what has worked best for them should work for your team as well. Consider these steps: 

  1. Invite employees from different levels to participate in the strategy creation process.
    You aren’t obligated to have mid-level managers and front-line workers in all your strategy meetings. However, the fastest way to make sure your strategic deployment feels authentic to your whole workforce is to be open to feedback and ideas from people at various levels of the organization.
    At the beginning of your process, bring a plethora of voices to the table. Ask for thoughts. Then, incorporate and integrate what you hear into your strategic planning. Getting input from all levels of the organization will strengthen your strategy, as your employees are often closest to your customers. Plus, having employees give input into the strategy — just like you do — will improve the chances that your strategy is prioritized.
  2. Understand and evolve your culture as you change your strategy.
    We know that strategy and culture are mutually reinforcing or simultaneously defeating: Any new strategy that is unveiled without an equal focus on new values, mindsets, and behaviors is likely to fail. For example, we’ve worked with energy companies that have implemented big and bold new strategies involving sustainability, carbon intensity, and renewables. In all successful cases, the companies looked beyond just changing their strategies. They set out to change their cultures in the process. It’s not feasible to implement a strategy if the culture doesn’t support its adoption. No matter how many times you model new financials or determine how to thrive in a space with a growing total addressable market (or TAM), you can’t underestimate the relationship between strategy and culture.
    In addition, evolving your culture to support the new strategy is much easier if multiple levels of the organization have already been involved in planning, as mentioned above. They’ll know how to talk to their peers, ask for and share feedback, and help their teams see the path ahead. By folding cultural shifts into strategy development, you’ll be able to get more buy-in and momentum when the strategy shifts into rollout mode.
  3. Understand that change is ever-evolving.
    Another important step in driving better execution is having a flexible vision of the future. Often, executives assume their three- or five-year strategic plans will play out as written and expected. In reality, change is constantly happening, and its pace is accelerating. Any strategy must be adaptable in terms of implementation, especially as conditions warrant such changes.
    However, this doesn’t mean your strategy can’t have a North Star or shouldn’t include a long-term vision. At the same time, you need to be sure that you are open to reviewing and revising your path to accomplish this vision as the strategy matures. Being able to incorporate feedback, pivot, and adapt quickly will keep your strategy from being stale and your team from losing momentum. Again, this is why it’s so essential that your people have the right mindsets and cultural behaviors to stay the course.

Your job as a leader is to help your organization strive for bigger and better opportunities, stay competitive, and provide the experiences desired by employees, customers, and all other stakeholders. Yet, before you develop your next bold strategy, put some safety measures in place. That way, you’ll have a better chance of seeing it unfold into something great.

Written by Scott Seiffer.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insights - 3 Tactics to Ensure Your Next Big Strategy Actually Succeeds
Scott Seiffer
Scott Seiffer is a Senior Director at BTS, focused on strategy development and execution, change management, and operational effectiveness for global companies. Prior to BTS, Scott worked in technology growth and product marketing.

Scott Seiffer is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.