I see the same mistakes over and over again. Strategy implementation is challenging but leaders often make it even tougher. In my work with high growth leaders and their teams, I see repeated, strategy implementation errors that leaders should learn to recognise and avoid.
Here are the top 7 pitfalls I see even the most capable leaders struggle with:
Believing that today’s skills can create tomorrow’s vision
The saying “what got you here won’t get you there” holds true for businesses adapting to changing market conditions. The failure to recognise that some skill sets are no longer required, while some new ones are essential can limit implementation progress.
Communication doesn’t equal execution
Leaders often assume that once they have communicated the strategy, even once, that implementation will happen automatically.
Starting with the easy steps
Frequently leaders choose the quick and easy steps when implementing a strategy because they think having success with small steps will build momentum. The easiest activities might not be the most valuable; they often don’t provide the market insight or business information needed to refine a strategy in implementation. They are easy often because they are known. Small steps into the unknown could have created dramatically more value.
Never say “no”
Good leaders understand the strategy, but fail to assess realistic capacity. They don’t clearly prioritise actions and/or say “no” to the least important initiatives. In a recent Harvard Business Review article only 11% of leaders surveyed feel that all their company’s strategic priorities have the resources they need for success.
Distracted by urgent issues.
“Fire-fighting” and the immediacy of daily operational issues can challenge a leader’s ability to stay clearly focused on strategy implementation.
Stakeholders proceed on divergent paths
Even when initially aligned, key stakeholders diverge over time in implementation – leading to scattered focus and results. Successful leaders proactively maintain alignment over weeks and months of implementation activities.
If it’s everyone’s business, it’s no one’s business
A lack of clear accountability for results and dispersed decision making ownership can undermine or lengthen the time to deliver strategic results.
I see strong, capable leaders struggle with each of these challenges. They struggle because implementation is tough: business opportunities aren’t crisply defined; team members digest and process information differently; and strategic tradeoffs are often weighed against a range of divergent criteria. However, if leaders can recognise these pitfalls, they can avoid them.