Why Companies Fail to Execute Strategic Plans


From working with many companies just like yours, our experience suggests the following reasons why companies fail to execute their strategies:

  • There are too many items on the “things-to-do” list of initiatives. To make matters worse, there is little or no prioritization.
  • Plans are high level and do not detail the work involved to achieve the goals.
  • Plans are poorly communicated. Failed accountability typically begins by not clearly establishing expectations. People don’t know what is expected unless it is spelled out for them, complete with a timeline.
  • The strategy and the company culture are not aligned. This creates plenty of opportunity for organizational inertia. And a company at rest wants to remain at rest.
  • Leadership discipline is inconsistent. When this inconsistency is combined with a mindset that execution is beneath the strategic thinker, most initiatives are dead on arrival.

Remarkably, not one of the aforementioned bullet points involves the customer or market conditions. The blame rests solely on poor leadership.

In their book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, Bossidy, Charan, and Burck highlight three key points to execution:

  • Execution is a discipline, and integral to strategy.
  • Execution is the major job of the business leader.
  • Execution must be a core element of an organization’s culture.

It’s time to dust off that strategic plan folder and take a deep breath. How would you rate the quality of your execution against your strategic plan? What must change to be more effective? Accountability may start with you. But, that’s all right. It can also start over with you.