Stuck on Strategy

Why Organizations Struggle to Execute What Matters 

Poor Strategic Planning Processes 

Many organizations need more rigorous processes for strategic planning and goal setting. For example, a recent Bain survey found that 65% of executives rate their company’s strategy process as poor. Leadership fails to dedicate time to reflect and analyze market trends, competitive forces, and macro-level risks and opportunities. Critical assumptions behind strategic plans often need to be revised. Top management defines strategic priorities in a vacuum without input from the broader organization and teams tasked with execution. The result is a strategy disconnected from reality and a poor foundation for execution success. 

Ineffective Communication 

Even organizations with decent strategic plans often fail to communicate and contextualize for employees adequately. Corporate strategy lives in decks and documents rather than woven into the day-to-day work. A study by Kaplan and Norton found 60% of employees were unaware of or did not understand their company’s strategy. Frontline employees frequently don’t understand how their efforts and projects ladder up to advance strategic priorities. Lack of narrative coherence around strategy leaves it vague and nebulous rather than concrete and inspiring for teams. 

Misaligned Organizational Constructs 

Silos, misaligned goals across departments, and poor coordination mechanisms further undermine integrated strategy execution. Rigid legacy organizational structures inhibit information flows and rapid adaptation necessary for responsive strategy implementation. Activities across the business become misaligned and fragmented without integrating mechanisms like cross-functional business processes, shared OKRs, or routines to drive enterprise alignment.  

Indecisive and Short-Term Focused Leadership 

At the root of these issues typically lies indecisive leadership trapped in short-term thinking. An ADP study found 60% of leaders struggle to balance short-term profit goals with long-term strategic investments. An unwillingness or inability among senior leaders to make the necessary trade-off decisions to focus the organization on a few vital strategic priorities undermines alignment. Leaders need to create transparency and consistently convey strategic context. They continue directing top-down while lacking processes to synthesize insights from the edges. And they don’t model the mindsets and ways of working needed to win – like transparency, collaboration, customer-centricity, and innovation. 

What’s Next? 

In turbulent times, a lack of strategic discipline is no longer tolerable. Organizations must confront these deep-rooted challenges and build capabilities to formulate, communicate, and execute strategies that deliver tangible outcomes amidst uncertainty. 

This starts with leaders willing to focus the organization on the few make-or-break strategic priorities that matter today—and empowering teams by providing tight strategic guidance while allowing autonomy in determining tactics. With clear strategic focus and context and the space at the edges to rapidly respond and adapt, organizations can navigate uncertainty and serve customers when it matters most. 

The path forward requires clarity of vision, alignment of structure and systems, and an empowered yet strategically disciplined way of operating. It’s time to close the strategy execution gap once and for all.