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The 5 Biggest Challenges to Strategy Implementation

What are the classic challenges business face when implementing strategy? This is the 5 biggest to avoid.

Morten Dalum

Morten Dalum

Strategic changes come in many forms for the modern company. It could be a new vertical focus, new leadership style, or innovative product pivot. A solid corporate strategy narrows the focus of your organization and lays the groundwork for growth and development.

Understanding the importance of a corporate strategy is a no brainer. Getting it right is the challenge.

Every company needs a strategic plan. A bird’s eye view plan – make, sell, profit – is good enough to get any company up and running, but in order to innovate, grow, and develop, a company must narrow its vision. A strategic plan helps companies slough off the things they aren’t good at doing so they can better focus on the things that they are. A strategic plan also lays the groundwork for improving those things that need a little (or a lot of) work. The right vision shows company leaders where to dedicate time, human capital, and budgetary resources.

Alarmingly, 90% of organizations fail to effectively execute their strategic plans, according to Harvard Business School. Improperly executing a strategy leads to a lack of objectives for employees, improper resource allocation, lack of structure and leadership, and weak lines of communication. That is why it is so important to get it right.

The reasons for failed strategies are varied, but most hinge on the fact that strategy implementation is resource intensive and challenging. Understanding the biggest challenges to strategy implementation will help you avoid the most common pitfalls and better set your company up for success.

1. Weak Strategy

The point of a strategy is a new vision. This is an opportunity to create a roadmap with broad buy in and narrowed focus. There should be distinct milestones, clear timelines, and precise roles for employees. If taking on a large, company-wide initiative, it is better to start small to ensure goals are manageable and achievable. From there, resources and objectives can be expanded until the end result is achieved in the set timelines. Don’t assign fuzzy responsibilities, get caught up in buzzwords, or overwhelm departments with too much too fast.

Imagine your business strategy like the board of Candy Land. Ask yourself, is there a clear path to the end goal? Are there achievable milestones along the way? Are the obvious challenges clearly laid out? Are there clear alternatives if a roadblock is met?

2. Ineffective training

A new strategic initiative will never get off the ground without the proper training for employees who are expected to execute. There are many reasons companies skimp on proper corporate and learning opportunities for employees, and we broke them down in an earlier blog post.

There are multiple modern options for unobtrusive, yet highly effective training that fit into employees’ busy schedules. Finding the right training option saves money by preventing too much down time, strengthens skills or teaches new skills, and provides follow up to ensure employees execute those lessons in their daily workflows.

Consider Challenge Based Learning. CBL was designed to effectively and scalably roll out training and new strategic initiatives throughout companies. The right mix of instruction and action help new initiatives stick.

3. Lack of resources

The most common direct costs of executing a new strategy are associated with the consultants or board members brought in to plan, execute, and provide training, as well as the cost of any new associated technology. This can be prohibitive for a company of any size, especially small- to mid-sized companies and non-profits.

That’s why it’s important to start small and only expand once initial objectives have been met. Consider the expertise you already have in-house. Choose a training platform or strategy implementation method that is accessible, scalable, and can be cascaded throughout the organization.

4. Lack of communication

Communication is key in the execution of any new strategy. An effective communication plan must be initiated from the top down. Transparent, honest communication is not only the quality of an effective organization, but it is a necessary step for any new roll out. Lack of communication results in disjointed teams and widespread uncertainty.

It’s not uncommon for teams, especially those who have been working together for an extended period of time, to be resistant to change. And nothing torpedoes the effectiveness of a strategic implementation faster than a lack of cooperation among teams. Communication clearly from Day 1 each person’s new role, their importance to the end result, and the ultimate benefit to a change to their own current routine. Help everyone understand that a little pain now will result in big progress down the line.

5. Lack of follow through

Truly, the execution of any new strategy is never over. There should be regularly scheduled formal reviews of the new strategy to review processes, ensure the plan is performing as designed, and make any necessary tweaks. We suggest holding these meetings once a quarter.

As such, training should be included as part of this perpetual process review. Subscription-based training platforms are the perfect tool to ensure long-term consistency and ongoing skills evolution. This style of ongoing training is cost effective, team-oriented, and can revolve around a curriculum that evolves along with the company’s strategy.

Know the challenges to avoid the challenges

Acknowledging these biggest challenges to strategy implementation and communicating them to those who are responsible for the dissemination and execution of any new strategy is critical.

Understanding how companies can get in their own way is the key to ensure that you won’t make those same mistakes, and know how to take corrective action if you do.

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