Why do so many strategies fail to get implemented?

Discover key reasons why strategies fail and practical tips to avoid common pitfalls. Learn how to steer your business towards success.


  1. Insufficient time spent
  2. Strategies are not properly formulated
  3. Lack of communication
  4. Insufficient resources
  5. Misalignment with incentives
  6. Strategies not based on evidence
  7. Weak leadership
  8. Conclusion

The Titanic sinkingThere are a number of reasons why so many strategies fail to be implemented.

Some of the most common ones are:

Insufficient time spent

Many organisations spend surprisingly little time developing and executing their strategies. There always seem to be more important things to do - fires to fight. But the longer you neglect strategy, the harder it gets to fix it.

Many organisations only consider strategy once a year. Perhaps at an annual strategy off-site just before the annual budgeting cycle.

Strategy should form a core part of regular management meetings. You should also devote time to deep dives into key issues throughout the year.

Strategies are not properly formulated

If goals, objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), initiatives, and the rationale that binds them together are not properly clearly articulated and defined, it can be challenging to get everyone in the organization on the same page.

For example, some so-called strategies are really just:

  1. Statements of ambition: These state what the organisation wants to achieve without giving any indication as to how it plans to achieve it. Worse still, many are very vague: we want to be the biggest, best, fastest-growing, market-leading etc. without any meaningful detail about what that really means.
  2. Laundry lists of things to do: This often happens, for example, when different divisions are invited to submit their plans for consolidation at the centre.

If a strategy is not properly formulated, then:

  1. It becomes harder for people to understand and get behind it.
    Even if people do get behind it:
  2. It is unlikely to amount to much because it is not integrated. As a result, the whole will never be greater than the sum of the parts. More likely, if parts of the organisation are working independently or even at cross purposes with each other, the whole is likely to be less than the sum of the parts.

Lack of communication

If the strategy is not clearly communicated to everyone who needs to be involved - even indirectly - in its execution, it will not get executed. After all, you can't execute a strategy if you don't know what it is.

Communication should be crystal clear, regular, and tailored to different audiences and circumstances. A single edict from the top is unlikely to have an impact.

Regular progress updates and celebrations of success, will keep the strategy front of mind and help people stay focused over a sustained period of time.

Insufficient resources

Strategies take money, people and other resources to execute. If you don't allocate enough, they are bound to fail.

Many organisations make the mistake of launching new strategies requiring the same people to achieve more with the same amount of money. Few pay attention to what they should stop doing to free up capacity.  Efficiency improvements may help but are seldom enough alone.

To alleviate this, the strategy should be closely aligned with the budget and human resources (people) management processes.

Misalignment with incentives

If you reward people for doing one thing, then asking them to do something else won't work. Strategy should be aligned with incentives like promotions, bonuses and other perks.

Strategies not based on evidence

Strategies based on opinion and intuition are built on shaky ground. Strategies based on the opinion and intuition of those who shout the loudest or wield the most power rather than those with the most expertise and experience are even worse.

When those opinions or intuitions turn out to be wrong - as they often do - there is little that can be done to salvage them.

Strategies based on evidence are built on much stronger foundations. Opinion and intuition can tell you what evidence to look for and where to look for it. But they can't replace evidence.

Evidence can still turn out to be wrong, of course. But when it does you've learned something new and can make appropriate adjustments to your strategy.

Weak leadership

Strong leadership is required to maintain morale and correct any issues that arise. If people sense that their leaders are not completely committed to the strategy then they won't be either.


By addressing these issues, you can significantly increase the chances that your strategy will get executed and your business will thrive.

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Published: 2024-04-24  |  Updated: 2024-04-24