There are many different value-creation strategies your company can follow to
achieve marketplace success. Perhaps your organization’s differentiating
- Offering outstanding customer service like Nordstrom.
- Trading on an upscale image like Mercedes.
- Positioning yourself as the low-price leader like Wal-Mart.
- Leveraging individualized customization like Dell.
Your business strategy defines your company’s intent. In essence, it’s a
promise; a promise that defines what your organization intends to deliver to its
customers and the marketplace. But articulating a good strategy is only the
beginning. It’s the strategy’s execution that determines whether an organization
can turn good intentions into profits.
Poor Strategy Execution is Destroying Business Opportunities
Companies invest so much time, energy and resources to identify market
opportunities and develop the perfect differentiating strategy to exploit them.
Yet, the vast majority of these business efforts fail. Quite often, companies
and organizations blame their business failures on poor strategy. However, in
most cases it’s not the strategy or plan for approaching the marketplace that
should be blamed. It’s the implementation of that plan and the company’s
inability to “keep its promise” that causes the enterprise to falter.
In fact, several studies confirm that poor execution is the number one reason
businesses fail in today’s marketplace.
David Norton, author and professor at Harvard Business School, says that
less than 10 percent of all business strategies are effectively implemented. This means
that poor marketplace execution of the strategy is often the culprit, and not
the strategy itself. This is a wake up call for all business executives.
Four Primary Reasons Why Your Strategies Aren’t Living Up to Their Potential
- The strategy fails to recognize the limitations of the existing
Marketplace strategy makes huge demands on an organization’s capabilities
and resources. While an organization can certainly transform its
capabilities over time, there is a limit to how far and how fast.
Recognizing what your organization can realistically deliver before crafting
a new direction is essential to your business success.
- Employees don’t know how the strategy applies to their daily work.
Most companies don’t communicate strategy broadly or effectively to their
employees. If, for example, your strategy is to offer the best service. What
does that really mean? What does it mean to your salesperson on the street,
your customer service representative in the call center and your marketing
manager at headquarters? If your employees don’t know how the go-to-market
strategy affects their everyday work, they aren’t likely to implement it
- The organization’s business systems or processes can’t support the
It’s difficult to implement a new strategy without changing the way the
organization works. Does the workflow across your various departments and
divisions support the marketplace intent? Can your systems and tools meet
the demands of the new strategic vision? Pursuing a new strategy with old
capabilities is a recipe for disaster.
- Performance metrics and rewards are not aligned with the strategy.
An organization may communicate, for example, that it wants to be a service
leader, but instead, rewards its customer service reps for keeping calls
short. Or it may create measurement tools that make employees feel good
about their performance but don’t really measure the company’s key success
factors. Metrics and rewards must tie back to the specific employee
behaviors sought; behaviors that support your company’s strategic vision.
These issues share one common theme: your organization’s preparedness to
implement the go-to-market strategy you have created. Strategy has to be more
than a feel-good presentation shared with your managers, shareholders and the
media. It has to be woven into the fabric of your organization. Your employees
need clear direction and the tools and processes necessary to support them. Your
organization’s strategy needs to span the chasm between strategic intent and
About the Author
Scott Glatstein is president of Minnetonka, Minnesota-based Imperatives, LLC,
a consulting firm that helps businesses to bridge the traditional gap between
executive-level strategic vision and organization-wide execution in the
marketplace. The company employs Strategy Activation®, a proprietary
implementation planning model that creates a holistic framework to drive
complete alignment across an organization to ensure implementation readiness.
Interested readers may contact Scott at