Is Your Strategy Set Up for Failure?


Is your team challenged to keep up with our changing industry and competitive landscape? Is it harder to source great talent? Are your customer’s expectations changing?

Many organizations are facing heightened challenges right now because:

a)  the pace of change is faster than ever

b)  what got them this far is not going to get them to the next level

A sound strategy that accounts for all of this is paramount to sustainable organizational success, now more than ever, but that doesn’t make it easy.

Think of your last strategic effort. Did it go smoothly and get you all the results you wanted? Developing and implementing a great strategy takes “art,” but it’s also a science with particular components that, if done well, set you up for success. We all know that we need a desired future state, goals and strategies, but don’t stop there. If you want to ensure both your process and outcome (a great strategy!) are effective, here are five things that should be included, but we often see are missed.

1.  Clear assumptions or conditions that lead to your long-term strategy. At some point you decided that your current organizational strategy was the best choice. What if you asked all those involved how you landed on the strategy you chose; would they answer the same? A clear list of assumptions and conditions that lead you to that strategy will not only help you communicate it effectively to others, but let you know when it needs to change. At least annually, perform a check-in; do the reasons you landed on your strategy still apply? If so, update your short-term goals based on your progress. If not, it’s time to reset.

2.  An honest review of current state.  Take a big picture look at your organization and the marketplace. How are your employees doing?  Are they engaged; are they producing results? What do your customers say? How are you helping them succeed?  What’s happening in the market that could impact you? What are the best- and worst-case scenarios if you continue at status quo? You can’t get where you are going without understanding where you are now. An unbiased and holistic view of your current state will allow your whole planning team to start from a shared perspective and plan realistic strategies to achieve your goals.

An unbiased and holistic view of your current state will allow your whole planning team to start from a shared perspective and plan realistic strategies to achieve your goals.

3.  A realistic assessment of what’s standing in your way. For you to succeed (i.e. hit your goals), what must go right? Why haven’t you already succeeded? Make sure you’re accounting for all the hurdles, so you can clear your path to success. Once you have them identified, you can determine ways to work through them.

4.  A method for monitoring.  Do you have an unbiased measure of success that is directly tied to your strategy?  Make sure these are specific and tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are succeeding.  These should not encompass everything that matters to your organization and should be different than what is always important.  For example, a publicly traded company can deliver a return on shareholder value without necessarily making progress on their long-term strategy. If that’s true, that doesn’t mean that shareholder value doesn’t matter, it just isn’t the best measure of your strategy.

5.  The buy-in of your entire organization. Imagine being in a canoe where people are paddling in different directions. Doesn’t work well, right? That’s exactly what it’s like when an organization’s various teams aren’t all aligned toward the same goal. It will take the efforts of your entire organization (and perhaps others) to realize your strategy. Getting buy-in will take more than communicating your strategy and making sure people “know” it. There are numerous ways to get there, but your entire team needs to be on board and rowing in the same direction for the best results.

A strong strategy that is unique to the business, works within the marketplace, and has the buy-in of the team is invaluable for a company’s success. There is more that goes into great strategy development and execution, but these are a few components we see missing quite often.           

Holly LaBoda is a Partner & Co-Founder of Luminaries Consulting, a management consulting firm that helps logistics organizations transform and build the capabilities to achieve their goals. She can be reached at [email protected] and 612-669-6762.

Photo credit: Azad Pirayandeh/