Strategy execution has always been the essential complement of strategy formulation. However, in 2016, it was estimated that 67% of well-formulated strategies failed due to poor execution.Here are the top 5 reasons why executing on a strategy may fail:

  1. Some “strategies” are not strategies at all – Not every organisational plan can be automatically considered a strategy. A strategy involves a clear set of choices that define what an organisation is going to do and what it is not going to do. “We want to be number one in the field” is not a strategy but a goal. It indicates the outcome, not how it will be achieved. “We want to increase operational efficiency” is not a strategy but a priority. Without a clear strategy, any implementation process is doomed to fail.
  2. Viewing execution as a “thing” – Strategy and execution are often viewed as separate entities. Different strategic environments require different approaches to strategy and execution. In predictive environments, strategy can be seen as separate to execution but, in adaptive environments, it can not since “strategy” continually emerges from intensifying the results of execution. Both your strategy and your execution need to be flexible.
  3. Metric obsession – Some strategies are difficult to track and measure. Thus, for some strategies, it is not the best idea to pursue it directly. For example, a strategy in sales is easy to track, whereas a strategy in talent management is not. Thus, it is key to ensure that a strategy’s trajectory is visible and continually tracked using qualitative metrics.
  4. Lack of tracking – although some organisations may be obsessed with tracking the metrics associated with the success, others simply lack any. If an organisation is not tracking the success/failure of a strategy, there is the risk of the execution losing momentum as there is no feedback.
  5. It is not a strategy problem but a people problem – To deliver results, people need to be hyper-aligned and overly-focused on actions that will drive the organisation’s most important outcomes. This is often very difficult to achieve as people are very often misaligned and/or focused too broadly.

Sources:

Bregman, P. (2017). Execution Is a People Problem, Not a Strategy Problem. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/01/execution-is-a-people-problem-not-a-strategy-problem.

Carucci, R. (2016). Executives Fail to Execute Strategy Because They’re Too Internally Focused. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/11/executives-fail-to-execute-strategy-because-theyre-too-internally-focused

Chevreux, L., Lopez, J. & Mesnard, X. (2017). The Best Companies Know How to Balance Strategy and Purpose. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/11/the-best-companies-know-how-to-balance-strategy-and-purpose

Kanter, R.M. (2017). Smart Leaders Focus on Execution First and Strategy Second. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/11/smart-leaders-focus-on-execution-first-and-strategy-second

Reeves, M. & Charme di Carlo, R. (2017). Your Strategy Has to Be Flexible — but So Does Your Execution. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/11/your-strategy-has-to-be-flexible-but-so-does-your-execution

Sull, D., Homkes, R. & Sull, C. (2015). Why Strategy Execution Unravels — and What to Do About It. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/03/why-strategy-execution-unravelsand-what-to-do-about-it

Vermeulen, F. (2017). Many Strategies Fail Because They’re Not Actually Strategies. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/11/many-strategies-fail-because-theyre-not-actually-strategies

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