5 Barriers to Strategic Execution

Some business owners and leaders believe strategy is something you do once per year and is more theoretical and conceptual than something that can actually be achieved. Other owners don’t even bother because they feel they are too small and think they just don’t need it. Only a few create, plan, execute and monitor a strategy to ensure effective strategic execution. Regardless of your experience with strategic planning, you may find yourself nodding in agreement. If this is the case, take comfort because you are in good company. Below are the top 5 barriers to effective strategic execution that most companies encounter when trying to grow and transform:

No plan. Studies have shown that you are significantly more likely to accomplish your plan/goals if they are documented! Entrepreneurs and small business leaders are often navigating from fire to fire, reacting to the next biggest thing to ensure that it won’t sink their company or their mission. In the Acustrat Strategic Management Maturity Model, this type of company would fall in the reactive/chaotic maturity level. Most likely, everyone involved in the company is either burned out or about to burn out very soon. If you find yourself in this category, think about the following:

  • Hire a company to facilitate strategic planning and document the outputs
  • Decide which things you want to focus on to grow and transform your business
  • Write down a plan for execution with target dates

Only built by executives. Feel free to replace executive with entrepreneur, business owner, VP of something. Regardless of the title, “executive” is someone who runs or helps run the business. Aculign believes strategies and strategic plans should be developed by ALL stakeholders of that company…because a strategy built by executives is only truly owned by the executive team, however; a strategy built by the entire stakeholder group is owned by …you guessed it, the entire stakeholder group. So why is this so important? Two big reasons: Organizational Awareness and buy-in.

  • Organizational Awareness: Often times, the executive teams believe they have visibility into the intricacies of their business. With organizational awareness, you have more input into the strategy from various stakeholders: customers, staff, partners, and suppliers. A plan without the correct organizational awareness will be silo’d to only the executive perspectives. While they have great perspective, it is impossible to know the intricacies of every aspect of the operation unless you involve the entire stakeholder group.
  • Buy-In: Involving your customers, staff, partners and suppliers will help you achieve something that is very hard to gain: Buy-in. They understand you are working on your business, they want your input to help improve what they do and the cool thing is, under most circumstances, they want to help creating a Skin-in-the game / Bought-in type of relationship. Something that is very hard for companies to gain.

Lack of Program Management: Ok, how many of you have conducted what you thought was a pretty good strategy session, took some pictures of the output and then filed it away in your memory or a filing cabinet? You are not alone. Companies struggle tremendously with keeping the strategy front and center and planning the work so they can work the plan. You may ask yourself, “what’s the point.” My thoughts exactly! What is the point of spending all of that time if you don’t execute on those great ideas?!? A well-known proverb says: “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” If you are in this category, you’ve just spent an enormous amount of time day dreaming.

  • A great solution to ensure success is to hire a middle-party to manage the entire program of work. If you are an executive, someone needs to hold you accountable. Someone needs to manage the timeline, tasks, assignments, resources, budget and scope.

No Prioritization. Someone or a group of people need to make prioritization decisions. “Do the easiest first” doesn’t always work in this case. Would you choose to spend $200 on a broken car radio or spend $250 on new brakes? Prioritizing the “Nice-to-haves” vs “Must-haves” is a critical step that is often left out of the strategic planning process. Here are a few great tools to assist with prioritization:

  • Pairwise comparison: A pairwise comparison is a great tool to use that will rank every initiative/idea against each other. For a free template, please contact us at info@aculign.com
  • MoSCoW: This is a great prioritization method which gives you the opportunity to say:
    • I Must have this
    • I Should have this
    • I Could have this
    • I Would have this

Lack of a kick-off. The easiest way to ruin a good party is to not have one. Once all of your great work is planned for, prioritized and funded, companies need to have a kick-off. A kick-off provides the energy, alignment, passion and cultural awareness needed to effectively launch a strategic program of work. Without a good kick-off, you will have confusion, mediocre buy-in (even if you involved them in the planning aspect) and hampered results. An effective kick-off session provides a launch date, a new energy, a re-birth of a sort. If you do all of our strategic planning processes and miss this, you will limit your results tremendously. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on this. Here are some elements to effective strategic kick-offs:

  • Presentation outlining the strategic objectives, vision, mission
  • Expressed gratitude. This can be in the form of words (written thank you notes), gifts, donations, etc.
  • Have fun. Plan some fun games. Hire a comedian or team building coach.
  • You can cater in OR you can cook if you are on a budget.
  • Give some money away to a local charity at the kick-off.

These Top 5 barriers to strategic execution are not all-inclusive. You may experience others along your journey.  Aculign helps companies break down the barriers and set a clear path to strategic execution. If you would like more information or need some advice, please email us at info@aculign.com.