Academic research shows about half of strategic initiatives failing to achieve their objectives. Implementation efforts somehow get diluted or head off in a different direction to that intended. Sometimes they seem to ‘bounce off’ the organisation.
When we poll business leaders, they point not to the strategy, but to a gap between strategy and implementation. 60% consider this to be the biggest risk to a strategic initiative.
How then do you cross this great chasm?
This is exactly what Red Kite helps our clients to do. Helping to get your implementation programmes set up in the right way, highlighting capabilities and skills that will be critical for your success, how to fill any gaps, and how to organise all the pieces so they all work together for success.
(e.g. Nutt 1999, Nutt and Wilson, Warwick Business School 2010)
On one side: the executive and strategy team, with a fresh set of PowerPoint and whiteboard sketches that sets out a bold new strategy for the business. It will outsmart the competitors and be worth millions.
On the other: the delivery and programme management team, who know how to get things done, know the business’s capabilities and its limits, and who bear the victories and scars of projects past.
Between them and joint success: Three main potential causes of failure
Based on observations and discussions with clients and colleagues.
"Their unique combination of strategic advice and hands on implementation support has enabled us to drive our commercial strategy further, and faster, than we would otherwise have been able to achieve and has added a great deal of value to our business."
– Chief Commercial Officer, International Media Group
Cause 1: Not enough attention to the strategic ‘essence’
• Not creating the ‘space’ for an open, high-level discussion
• Omitting important facts or options, or what not to do
• Reverting to the comfort of detail
Solution: Keep reinforcing the essence.
While specifying detail is essential (see 3 below), the power of most strategies lies in a few key aspects. These must be maintained or enhanced, not diluted as the strategy moves into operation.
Cause 2: Not having a fully shared vision
• Senior team with different interpretations
• Coherence and clarity lost as it is communicated
• Departments start implementing different strategies
Solution: Check for alignment on a Shared Vision early and in some depth.
Different views between executives or departments will cause multiplying problems later. It is essential to spot them early.
Cause 3: Not specified for the whole organisation
• Implications not developed for every department
• Or, not communicated in the right ‘language’
• Resulting in vital gaps in delivery
Solution: Create an expanded view of the vision – your ‘Rosetta Stone’.
It is great to have a ‘vision on a page’, but if it is going to affect all parts of the organisation, then the changes need to be specified, translated and understood for each of them – and then realigned to ensure it is all still consistent and possible. Think of this as the ‘Rosetta Stone’ for your strategy, translating the same strategy into the languages of IT, Marketing, Sales and Operations.