By Marie Mansheim, Senior Consultant—Growth & Strategy Practice Leader
| 06/11/21 |

Much work goes into developing sound business strategies. Yet when it comes to executing those brilliant initiatives, plenty of organizations fall short.

If execution is the secret behind every successful plan, why do so many companies fail at it?

One reason is that leaders can be great at designing strategic vision but not so great at follow-through. The same holds true for organizations as a whole. Very few have a disciplined approach for executing their strategy.

Even when there is a robust deployment plan in place, execution can still sputter and stall. Why? Because many organizations underestimate the probability of inaction down the line and across the organization. And that all comes down to human behavior.

Execution often requires change and change is difficult for most people. Manufacturers that ignore the people and cultural side of their execution efforts will likely find their strategic plan dead on arrival.

In other words, plans can’t succeed unless and until your people are set up for success.

Here are the seven deadly execution mistakes that can derail a good strategic plan.

1. An absence of alignment. Aligning your workforce with your strategic plan is crucial to successful execution. Alignment helps shape the decision-making criteria your managers use, and guides the actions of your employees by promoting strategically-aligned behaviors and performance. If you fail to align, you fail, period.

2. Lack of information sharing about responsibilities. Inadequate or poor information about responsibilities and tasks leads to unclear roles, which leads to poor execution. Good execution requires structure, accountability, and a flow for documenting and tracking progress against plan objectives.

3. Moving targets. No matter how great the strategy, lots of companies develop the bad habit of shifting their focus to the challenge du jour (and reallocating resources accordingly). Likewise, they may attempt to juggle too many strategic priorities simultaneously. Consequently, the employees responsible for execution aren’t ever sure where to aim their efforts.

4. Cultural warfare. Friction across teams or departments and political obstacles within your organization can quickly hinder success. Employees won’t embrace a strategy that they perceive it to be detrimental or contrary to other objectives within the organization. If they don’t believe management has weighed the full impact of a strategy, they’ll resist it. Without buy-in from all levels within the company, a good plan will go nowhere fast.

5. Failure to communicate. Too often the plan never makes it off the board or out of the boardroom. Those at the highest levels understand the strategic destination, but beyond that, there’s no dialogue with the necessary workforce below. Communication is either infrequent, ineffective, or nonexistent as leaders neglect to explain the strategy and help people understand its impact.

6. Say one thing, reward another. One team is focused on volume and another is focused on profitability, which is in line with the corporate strategy. But the team cranking out volume is awarded an incentive. Companies send conflicting messages when they reward efforts not in line with the strategic goals. If employees receive incentives for accomplishments other than fulfilling the execution required for success, why on earth would they do otherwise?

7. A case of negligence. Perhaps the biggest culprit is sheer inattentiveness. This can happen when leadership steps out of the picture as execution begins, or whenever organizations fail to track and measure progress. They either lack the tools or simply the inclination. As a result, performance is neglected, execution is ignored, and the master plan falls into the great abyss.

Avoid the Mistakes to Save the Strategy

A good strategy isn’t viable unless it can be transformed into results, but execution can be devilishly hard. By sidestepping the seven deadly mistakes, you’ll have a greater chance at success.


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715.630.4550 | [email protected]