The development of strategies is the most critical process for Companies to enable them to identify and achieve their business objectives. It is also a process that utilises a considerable amount of resources therefore it is extremely disappointing (emotionally and financially) when these strategies fail to meet expectations. This article will explore some of the reasons why strategic implementation fails and provide solutions on how to rectify this in your business.

Most businesses are structured to facilitate normal operating functions in an efficient and effective manner. These functions, while integrated across the Company, usually work independently to achieve their roles within the business. However new strategies have a disruptive effect on these daily operations and the first reason for failure is that the “line management” is not engaged in the early stages of strategic planning. This is subsequently manifested in resistance (overt or passive) to the change required to implement the strategy.

Successful implementation of new strategies requires various departments to work closely together to refine the operations and normally requires sharing of very scarce resources (including budget allocation). These factors, along with the disruption of business as usual operational activities, place stress on the people responsible for tasking the required change.

Implementation of new strategies is as much about behavioural change as it is about documentation of the strategy therefore when the operational aspects of the business don’t have early “buy-in” the business is well on the path of disappointment.

From the outset, I am not suggesting the “tail should wag the dog” because the final responsibility for strategic decisions lies with the senior management and Directors of the Company. The following is a process that greatly enhances the probability of successful strategic implementation.

Understand the capacity and capability of the team that will be responsible for tasking the strategies. This process will benefit the strategic development process as well as improving implementation by

  • Providing information related to resource planning
  • Guide the entire communication plan
  • Highlight the benefits to the operational staff
  • Guide the development of KPIs to measure performance

Engagement is critical and early engagement is an absolute essential as it provides senior management with the opportunity to informally and formally engage with staff as to the direction of the business. In turn this gives staff the opportunity to provide their input. This has a number of benefits including

  • Staff feel they have influence in the direction of the business
  • Provides an opportunity for senior management to canvass the benefits of a new direction including the possibility for staff to grow personally and professionally
  • Assists in identifying potential barriers to the implementation process
  • Assists in identifying operational strengths that can be leveraged to achieve successful implementation of the strategies

Establishment of knowledgeable teams to develop the strategies AND to project manage the implementation process. This starts with the senior management team responsible for the planning process as this group MUST be completely “on board” with the need for strategic change, understand the strategies, are committed to the process and be acutely aware of the entire bundle of resources required to implement the strategies. The implementation team has to have a clear charter and needs to have a leader that has the respect of line management. In addition, this team must be endorsed by senior management to ensure all interaction is based on trust and open communication.

Finally, employee engagement throughout the implementation process is critical. This is a natural progression from the early engagement process above and has a major influence on successful implementation. Intuitively employees respect their leaders and the Company HOWEVER trust, cooperation and commitment have to be earned and this is achieved in a number of ways.

  • Communicate the purpose and expectations of the strategies
    • Staff respond positively to the knowledge that there is a clear purpose for change
    • Highlighting the expected outcomes for the change gives focus and provides a measure of reward for effort
  • Employee involvement in the implementation process
    • Give them latitude to develop functional ways to implement the strategy
    • Let them identify the benefits to them based on clear expectations
  • Definition of roles and responsibilities of departments and staff
    • This gives a clear perspective on what is expected and who is responsible for specific implementation tasks
    • It also works throughout the chain of command as it highlights what resources are required to achieve successful implementation

By adopting this relatively simple and cost effective process the business can successfully implement its strategies. In addition, the business can leverage the positive culture and high morale of its employees to enhance its reputation in the market.