Three surprising myths to why strategy execution fails

The Harvard Business Review nails it again. In its most recent issue the article “why strategy execution unravels – and what to do about it,” reflects insight from a five-year study surveying 8,000 managers from 250 companies that debunks myths associated with strategy’s dismal success rate when it comes to execution.

If you’ve struggled with strategy execution you’re not alone. In fact, most organizations fall short of expectations when it comes to implementation and ongoing performance management. If you’ve found yourself in this bucket consider the article’s following few myths and the real underlying causes:

Myth 1: Poor alignment is the predominate reason the execution of strategy fails. True, 40% of respondents cite poor vertical alignment of strategy when it comes to tying it to goals and departmental actions. But that’s not all. A big rub exists with cross-functional collaboration and prioritization. 30% of respondents rank failure to coordinate horizontally across the organization as a leading culprit to execution failure.

Myth 2: Execution means sticking to the plan. In fact, organizations struggle with finding a balance between agility and staying the course. Nearly a quarter of all organizations believe they either respond too slowly to fleeting opportunities or respond too swiftly in a way that steers them off-course.

Myth 3: A lot of communication doesn’t mean people understand your strategy. This one’s interesting and a bit scary. The study cites 55% of managers can’t even name one of their organization’s top five priorities and less than 1/3 of senior management’s direct reports believe they can connect the dots between their organization’s top priorities and how they align to strategy.

The article features a lot more insight. It’s chockfull of interesting stuff, but it’s not entirely surprising. We’ve experienced all these sediments in working with leadership teams in muscle-building the effectiveness of their efforts when it comes to strategy execution.

Simply put, there’s no silver bullet to solving execution. It’s complex. Rarely are the answers self-defining. Often it requires leadership to be curious, challenge decorum, and take ownership of those things they control and influence.

Perhaps a pearl of wisdom is best articulated by my young daughters. Often I find myself rifling through a pantry cabinet searching for something necessary to complete a meal. They say, “Dad, slow down. Don’t be a surface-looker. It’s right here.”


One Comment

  1. Arturo Quiroz Jiménez says:

    I agree with the three main causes of the failure in implementation of the strategy in any company. Trying to summarize I can tell the failure of lacking of a balanced control since the strategic planning process, and in the execution, can get us to fail the whole system. I have to read the complete article

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