Strategy implementation is where most strategies fail

CEOs will tell of many great strategies that fell flat of providing value and results because of the way they were implemented. An estimated 70% of new product launches fail to deliver results in their first year and one only needs to read through the causes of the General Motors ignition switch failures to point to the dysfunctional corporate culture as a primary hurdle standing in the way of GM’s expressed strategy of producing high-quality and reliable automobiles.

So what escapes the attention of business leaders when seeking to implement business strategies and what stops them from getting the full value?

Past models of success prevail

Experience shows that past models of successful strategy implementations are often used to craft future implementation plans. Businesses have a habit of perpetuating the way of doing things because those have worked in the past. With time, best practices have become embedded and established into business processes, organizational structures and create a context of ‘business as usual’. This context becomes the natural place for an organization to go to when seeking to implement new business strategies

Alignment of company culture

Businesses should not forget that the competitive landscape is on a permanent move and that this requires the company to permanently adapt itself to create a cultural framework that will support generating value and results from strategy implementation.

Take a strategy that aims at dramatically improving service to customers. Can the business really fulfill value creation without aligning its culture to the type of service customers expect?

The following are some questions senior executives might want to ask themselves when preparing for strategy implementation:

  • Do people in the business understand the challenge? In the case of client service, how do they speak about it internally, to clients, how do they live it in daily work? What are the facts?
  • Do they know the value customers expect? Can the business describe the service experience customers want to have? Does it have benchmarks? Does it have a vision for service?
  • Are people in the business aware of spoken and unspoken internal hurdles that prevail and, for example, consistently bring back low service performance? How does communication happen or not happen? What are written and unwritten rules that are applied to processes? Are there silos of communication between sales, production, finance and supply chain?
  • Which elements of the company culture need to be kept, given-up, or modified in order to create a context for implementation that would produce great value such as brilliant customer service?

To deliver successful strategy implementations don’t let the prevailing company culture dictate the rules. Addressing some of these questions may be a start for challenging old rules and you may want to try it out and let me know how it works for you.


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