Feet looking down at arrows

Avoiding Strategic Implementation Failure

Feet looking down at arrows
Making your strategic plan stick

Avoiding Strategic Implementation Failure

Making Your Strategic Plan Stick

In my previous blog I asserted that creating a strategic plan which focuses on vision, strategy, and tactics and also recognizes that evolution is inevitable, is well worth the investment. The benefits of unifying your organization, motivating your stakeholders, and broadening your impact are clearly compelling.

However, it is widely acknowledged that the implementation of even the most brilliant, outcome oriented strategic plans is one of the most difficult tasks a leader will undertake. Many studies have concluded that the vast majority, up to 67% actually, of strategic plans breakdown in execution. Therefore, we are wise to consider the following success factors in our strategic planning process:

  • Accountability. Deciding, documenting, and publicizing who is responsible for completing each of the strategies and tactics is a critical step. But, don’t stop there. True ownership occurs when people feel a personal sense of accountability to lead the change, to enlist others, and to adjust their own approach.

  • Communication. Discussing upfront how your plan will be publicized and communicated can prevent confusion and delay. In addition to messaging in newsletters, emails and websites, consider planning ahead for town hall meetings, manager talking points, and regular check-in sessions.

  • Coordination. Direct reports are often naturally engaged in the strategic planning process. Also considering your key stakeholders and the adjacent goals outside your department will help garner additional implementation support.

  • Flexibility. Strategic plans create commitment to a specific direction. Maintaining your focus on this stated direction, while allowing for necessary shifts in your supporting priorities and tactics, will allow for conditions and resources to shift as needed.

  • Innovation. Ideas that weren’t initially captured or considered will continue to arise. Establishing a process for discussion and integration of new ideas will encourage ongoing improvement.  

  • Involvement. At what level do you want to include others? Access to the plan will be enough for some, but many others will be expected to model the plan’s importance, integrate it into their daily work, speak about it’s value, own various tactics, and communicate what behaviors are needed for the plan to be successful. Results will come more readily if everyone impacted by the plan is clear about their role and enrolled in implementation in a meaningful way.

  • Time. Getting started immediately is everyone’s desire. Planning for some initial resistance and confusion and developing mechanisms to allow these feelings to surface and be discussed will ensure that your plan doesn’t get derailed.

Benjamin Franklin reminded us, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Instead of anticipating failure, I invite you to plan for strategic implementation success.


Get in Sync (Mary Legakis Engel, Talent Development, July 2020)

Why 67% of Strategic Plans Fail (Tanya Prive, Inc. October 23, 2020)

Put Purpose at the Core of Your Strategy (Thomas W. Malnight, Ivy Buche, and Charles Dhanaraj, Harvard Business Review, October 2019)

Why Strategy Execution Unravels – and What to Do About It (Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes, and Charles Sull, Harvard Business Review, March 2015)

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