#1 Reason Strategy Fails and What Leaders Can Do About It

How often have you heard leaders announce a bold new initiative, only to watch it die a slow, painful death?

How often have you done this yourself in your organization or team?

Most strategies fail, not because they are poor strategies (although that happens – click here), but because they are poorly executed.

It’s discouraging for a team member to get all inspired and motivated about a big change—and then nothing changes. Sure, there was a big event and a showy announcement party complete with banners, bands, balloons, and t-shirts for everyone. Everybody was excited, but they go back to work the next day and don’t hear much about it after that.

Occasionally someone asks, ‘Whatever happened to that great new program?’

Meanwhile, leaders wonder why the new program is failing. They try to pump new energy into it, but eventually leaders stop talking about it altogether—it becomes too embarrassing.

This scenario might be extreme, but it’s more or less like this everywhere. How many carefully designed strategies are slowly gathering dust for lack of execution?

Occasionally there’s resistance to a strategy, sometimes people cross their arms and suggest that the leader who dreamed up this idea won’t be here forever saying, “we can wait him out.” Perhaps people resist because they fear that moving in a new direction will cause them to lose power, take on too much new work, or simply don’t want to go down a path that feels all too familiar.

Arguably, the #1 reason for strategic failure is a lack of organizational focus on the strategy.

Think about it: the leaders give you a new program, a new goal, a new strategy; but your day-to-day work doesn’t go away, so you can’t give it enough focus. You have to keep doing what you’ve been doing (remember, the mantra is “more with less”) and meet the new goal too. You’ve got to “get back to work.” Also, by asking you to do something new, the leaders are asking you to do something you’ve never done before. They’re asking you to change your behavior, which is the hardest thing anyone ever tries to do. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, learn the piano, win at golf, or execute a strategic goal with excellence, sustained success requires extraordinary commitment.

It’s no longer enough to have a great strategy. The job to be done now is to get yourself and your team absolutely clear on your most important goals and discipline yourselves to execute with excellence and precision.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • If you were to ask your people to write down the team or organization’s top goals, what would the results look like?
  • Are your people truly crystal clear on what winning looks like, not in vague terms or lofty rhetoric, but in measurable outcomes?
  • How do you know the answers to the first two questions?