Why strategy doesn't get executed

One of my favorite discussion groups on LinkedIn is the Strategic Planning Xchange headed up by Joe Evans from the Dallas area. He posted this question recently: 

Q. WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE THE TOP THREE FACTORS leading to poor execution of strategy?


I watched the discussion over several days and jumped in after a couple of hundred comments were posted. Here is my post:

It's hard to argue with what's already been said, but there are three factors that I see often – both in companies we've observed and the ones that my MBA students love to tell me about:

1.  PLANNING IS A DUTY, NOT A DRIVER. Most plans I hear about simply were shelved – never driving decisions and action. Why? Perhaps because too many people have never been part of a creating a great plan, executing it fully, and seeing it be very successful – producing far more than they would have without the plan. I believe you need to experience that taste of blood – that a plan PLUS action can far outperform action alone.

2.  PLANS ARE RARELY BUILT AROUND THE WAY COMPANIES ACTUALLY OPERATE. They are often based on idealized thinking – such as that the org chart really shows how things get done around here. If plans are naive from the start, people (especially leaders) sense it, and don't give them sufficient importance or time.

3.  MOST COMPANIES OVER-MANAGE PEOPLE AND UNDER-MANAGE PLANS. Plans are too often poorly communicated (sold), inadequately assigned and funded, and rarely made part of real accountability (incentives, annual performance reviews, and so on.) "Make it part of my bonus formula and I am likely to take it a lot more seriously."

Two other factors often come into play as indicators of what the problems may be:

What happened to past plans?  I like to ask early on, "Tell me about your previous plans. Did they work? If so, why? If not, why not? Where are they?" This is usually revealing – and fun.

Anticipating barriers. The other factor is building in time to think through as a team, "What (and who) could kill or stop this project? What do we need to be ready for? What is almost certain to happen or get in the way of our succeeding?" There are always barriers and obstacles to overcome. It pays to anticipate them.

That's my opinion. What do you think?

Carl Francis