Avoiding Strategy Pitfalls: Building Alignment for Business Growth

In the realm of business strategy development, the quest for innovation and transformation often unfolds like an exhilarating journey. Who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to engage their creative faculties and endeavour to reshape the world? However, beneath this enthusiasm lies a stark reality – the majority of strategies, up to a staggering 70%, fail to deliver.

This disheartening statistic isn’t a reflection of inherently flawed strategies but rather a consequence of their flawed execution. As the adage goes, “Without successful implementation, strategy is but a fantasy.” The real challenge lies not in dreaming up grand strategies but in the meticulous execution that follows.

A Lack of Alignment: The Silent Saboteur of Strategies

The primary culprit behind strategy failure is a misalignment between those who craft the strategy and those tasked with bringing it to life. Typically, senior leadership formulates the strategy and delegates its execution to middle managers. On the surface, this seems straightforward, but it’s precisely where things often unravel.

When middle managers feel excluded or ignored during the strategy development phase, a critical component called “procedural justice” is missing. This absence leads to negative behaviours that threaten the strategy:

  1. Feet Dragging: Individuals may superficially endorse the plan while covertly obstructing progress. They’re not invested in the strategy’s success and don’t care if it fails.
  2. Information Hoarding: Uncommitted individuals might withhold crucial information required for execution. This passive-aggressive stance reflects their dissatisfaction with being sidelined during strategy creation.

The consequence of such behaviors is a lack of organizational alignment – a brilliant plan is rendered worthless when it lacks buy-in from the key players.

Fostering Middle Management Buy-In: The Catchball Approach

Enter the Japanese concept of “kyatchibōru” or “catchball.” Visualise two people engaged in a game of catch, passing a ball back and forth. This seemingly simple analogy holds profound implications for strategy development and aligns with the Japanese “Honshin Kanri” or Policy Deployment approach.

Here’s how it works: The leadership team devises the strategy and passes it to middle managers, granting them the authority to modify or adapt it. This process becomes iterative, with the strategy being tossed back and forth until everyone is satisfied. This approach ensures buy-in, effectively dismantling the destructive behaviors that sabotage success.

While the catchball approach may appear slow and time-consuming, overlooking it can jeopardize the fate of your strategy. Even the most brilliant strategy is rendered impotent without genuine buy-in.

In the pursuit of steering your business toward strategic excellence, resist the temptation to rush ahead without securing the unwavering commitment of those entrusted with execution.


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