Why does strategy get stalled?

How often have you been fired up by a Strategy Day, only to find nothing tangible is delivered?

 

BY JOHN WILLCOX

Sarah Willcox business change consultant

John Willcox is Fairisle Consulting’s Lead Consultant

Failure to deliver on a strategy seems to be a really common problem. We hear about it so often, we decided to investigate.  So we’ve been talking to our network about how business strategy gets created, and why strategy so often fails to deliver. This is what they told us.

How strategies are created

Sometimes strategies emerge informally. People chat and share ideas, leading to a groundswell of opinion. Or it can happen from the top down. For example, a new director comes in and thinks ‘OK we need a strategy refresh.’ In the most formal settings there’s a strategic planning cycle where new ideas are fed into a set process.

However it happens, organisations often hold a dedicated event to create and develop the new strategy. This commonly takes the form of a strategy away day or a strategy forum. Strategy days in particular can be really engaging and even energising, if they are facilitated well. They identify some clear strategy goals and people are fired up to really make a change.

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Then what?

But then what? What happens the day after the strategy day? Well ideally, all the momentum you’ve built up goes straight into implementation. You start delivering on all those shared ideas and goals.

Sadly, experience shows that in too many cases, this just doesn’t happen. In other words, many strategies stall soon after they’re created.

This is bad news because a stalled strategy means that your goals aren’t met. Anticipated benefits aren’t achieved. A stalled strategy also impacts on yours and your people’s morale. All that energy and goodwill drains away and people become cynical. The next time someone mentions strategy, people think, ‘Well nothing actually happened last time, so why bother?’

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So why does strategy get stalled?

So why is it that so many strategies end up stalling in this way? We asked our network where they thought the problem was. It seems that most people think that the problem lies not with processes or systems, but with people. That’s not to say that people resist a new strategy, or just ignore it. It’s more that, after the initial enthusiasm and energy created by a new strategy, everything seems to just fizzle out. People don’t see a real change soon enough to make a difference to the way they work. Sometimes elements of the strategy do get implemented, but so slowly that everyone’s forgotten why it was happening in the first place.

We’re starting to see that there are two things going on here:

    1. When momentum is lost, people start to get disengaged
    2. When people are disengaged, little of value gets delivered.

Unlock your strategy

So how do you turn a strategic vision into reality on the ground? The answer lies in harnessing the energy and enthusiasm generated in people when creating a strategy, and feeding that into delivery. We at Fairisle have a strong track record in people focused methods for delivering organisational change. And so we’ve created a new way to deliver strategy.

We’re calling our new offering UNLOCK YOUR STRATEGY and you can learn all about it here.

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