Corporate strategies fail more often than they succeed. Most leaders think of all the reasons their strategy will succeed; they either do not know or do not want to know all the reasons their strategy will come off the rails.
Here are seven reasons your corporate strategy will not work – and how to get it back on track:
1. Conflicting values and priorities
Where values and priorities conflict, corporate strategy is doomed to failure. Everyone in the leadership team needs to agree on the values and direction of the organisation. It is best if this is a collaborative and participatory process that drives buy-in to your strategy. A lack of agreement can cause conflict over resource deployment, which can manifest in misunderstandings and mismatched priorities at lower levels of the business. Employees will become overwhelmed, as everything is considered urgent. If you have everyone on board from the beginning, you heighten your chances of delivering a successful strategy.
2. Inadequate leadership development
Leaders often need sufficient development so they can perform at a high standard. Where leaders do not have the right development, they might find it difficult to inspire the team and lead them toward an outcome. Poor leadership skills are also likely to lead to lower levels of collaboration and ineffective talent management. Offering leaders development opportunities and performance management can help address this.
3. Ineffective senior team
A major challenge in implementing corporate strategy is an ineffectual senior leadership team. Everyone in the senior team needs to be brought into the corporate strategy and communicate the same vision and objectives. If not, operational teams may experience difficulties prioritising.
Other consequences of this are a lack of trust in the team and minimal commitment to the strategy, which can seriously hinder effective implementation. The leadership team also needs to facilitate a healthy and constructive debate when working on strategic decisions.
Issues to look out for that indicate an ineffective leadership team include:
- Signs of groupthink where there is limited constructive conflict and decisions are not debated constructively.
- An insufficient focus on strategic challenges and a tendency towards decision making around tactics instead.
4. Ineffective leadership styles
When working on corporate strategy, the type of leadership style used is critical; the style that works best is a democratic or participative style.
A top-down or autocratic approach does not work because it lacks involvement from all levels of the organisation. It is much harder to secure buy-in from employees that have not had any input. A constructive and collaborative debate helps to understand what may or may not work.
Another ineffective style is the laissez-faire approach, leaving people to get on with it with minimal intervention. If the leader is not involved and visible, the resultant lack of direction can cause a loss in focus. An effective leader in this scenario is one who is present, visible, and involves others.
5. Messy coordination, or lack thereof
An effective corporate strategy needs effective coordination. This is not always straightforward, particularly across disperse geographies or functional silos, or both. Team members will mirror the leadership’s behaviour, so leaders need to demonstrate the behaviour they expect to see. They must ‘talk the talk’ and ‘walk the walk’, encouraging coordination between different parts of the business. Open discussion between groups helps cross-functional teams identify which tasks add value and which do not.
6. Fractured vertical communication
Upward and downward communication helps clarify the strategy, embed it, and ensure that everyone understands the plan. When employees feel that they cannot clarify points or raise difficult issues, it can be hard to overcome challenges.
Employees need to feel comfortable addressing conflict without the threat of repercussions; fear to speak conceals challenges from the senior levels. An inability to communicate downward will result in a lack of understanding of what the strategy is. The senior team must facilitate transparent, productive, and open discussion in both directions. Better still, leaders should proactively seek input about challenges so they can keep operations moving.
7. You are not reviewing your strategy frequently enough
In recent decades, the speed of change in business has accelerated. Reviewing your strategy more often means that you can make adjustments to address changes in the business environment as they occur. An annual review leaves you at risk of continuing on a flawed path for too long.
Emergent strategy is effective in environments of uncertainty. Keeping abreast of everything that is going on in the external environment provides an opportunity for continuous adaptation. Equally, understanding progress on initiatives and barriers will help you evolve faster. This will drive a greater chance of corporate strategy success.
Do you need to get your corporate strategy back on track?
We work closely with our clients and advise them on how to improve their strategy . Whether you are planning a new go-to-market, channel strategy, or a successful exit, our advice can help you succeed.
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