PLAN A-B-C-…Z Why is it so difficult to implement the strategy?

There are several factors involved, and they are very different. In this post, I am focusing on one of them: there is a big gap between the role of the managing director and the real company life. If you want to reflect on what impact your reality has on your strategy, you will find below several questions around 4 key aspects, that will help you in measuring the real gap.

Putting the magnifying glass on the answers, you will be able to prepare your PLAN A accordingly, and avoid doing it over and over again, to implement the strategy, your strategy.

Some context:

Having difficulties in implementing the strategy, is this frequent?

This is a real situation at a huge amount of companies: we get tired of developing a lot of plans to implement the strategy. And review them, and adjust them, and do it once again… and on top of that, without achieving the expected results.

In fact, several studies confirm that around 90% of companies have difficulties implementing their strategies with success.

If we add to that the current situation of technological change, which is forcing companies to be more effective in transforming themselves, the truth is that we are facing a situation with increasing difficulties.

As a reflection on the impact and speed of technological change, John Chambers, the former CEO of CISCO company, said that “More than one-third of businesses today will not survive the next 10 years. Companies should not miss the market transition or business model nor underestimate your competitor of the future —not your competitor of the past” talking about the new reality with which we have to live and in which we have to compete.

Therefore, if we add to the already identified difficulties a layer of additional pressure with respect to the time in which we have to transform, we have to get down to work a lot quicker and much more efficiently than we might have thought.

This puts pressure on the strategy implementation, to do the right projects and to do them with success.

Why is it so difficult?

There are several reasons that are interconnected, and have to do with many aspects:

  • from how the “What for” of the strategy is explained and how the objectives are communicated throughout the organization to how it reflects the company’s raison d’être, its culture;
  • from the identification of the projects necessary to implement, to how they are structured, how they are planned and executed, how they are linked to the operation of the company itself, how the new operations are internalized in the organization
  • from how they affect the current situation and how the management of these differences, these changes, is organized,

In this post, I want to focus on one of them, in which I have been able to systematically observe that it is always underestimated, and that it has a strong impact: Knowing the real starting point.

All planning has a beginning, a starting point. Everything travels from a point origin. If it is badly located on the map, the route you are going to take will not be the good one, either.

It is important to have a good plan, without a doubt, with the appropriate level of details and, above all, being pragmatic (you can read about how to plan in my post…..)

But you have to know very well where that plan starts off from. If you do not pinpoint it, if you move from a wrong position, you will take false steps, which means, for sure, much more effort than expected to achieve the desired goal.

And that “more effort” has several faces:

  • More direct economic resources needed,
  • More taxing on the human resources involved
  • More time needed to achieve the expected results
  • The emergence of risks that you cannot foresee, and whose resolution usually lead again to even more effort and resources
  • A high volume of re-planning to partially achieve what was initially wanted
  • A “real non-integration” of the new operations sought by the organization, or a “forced” incorporation, which in turn implies much more human and economic resources and increases team fatigue
  • Loss of “momentum” and credibility in the transformation
  • ….

Look at our reality:

What is the least I need to identify?

4 aspects are those that, in my opinion, are necessary to be taken into account to approach the implementation of the strategy you want to take up with more guarantees of success.

About the company culture

What culture is there in my company really? What real values are there? What do I reward and what do I value?

In the end, the particular behaviors in the organization are those that show the existing real culture. We do not believe what we “think it is”, but rather “look” at what is done, what we do. Let’s look at the identity of the company and how it is lived. From the board of managers, from our own behavior: with what criteria we prioritize, what we reward in the organization and empower, and what we penalize, …how we hire talent, what kind of talent, how we fire people…

Observe particular behavior well, in the whole organization and from the top.

About the strategy that I want to implement

How does it affect my values? Do I have to change them? How do my values and my culture help its implementation? Or, on the contrary, does the culture complicate it? What does the strategy require?

With the knowledge of reality, now we have to look at the strategy we want to implement, and visualize what it needs, if the values I have and the behaviors are what I need, or if I have to adapt them, to evolve. This reflection gives us a clear magnitude of the real gap, and, therefore, allows us to better approximate how to implement the strategy, at what time and with what support activities.

About the help to follow the path

if I need to change behaviour patterns, adapt values, …what support do I propose regarding my own behaviour as CEO for the entire organization?

Faced with temporary pressure to implement your strategy, you can not underestimate the effort necessary to adapt behavior. You can indicate new rules, new procedures, but if they are not integrated, if they are not accompanied, the real transformation does not take place. And after a year, or one year and a half maximum, the “momentum” has been lost, and the old ways are back.

If you need adjustments, what kind? At all levels? Questions like these need to be addressed: Do I have the talent I need for that strategy? Have I provided the tools my organization needs?.

Identify what team you have, how you can develop it, what internal levers you have and what you need to go by in the process of implementing your strategy. Assign the time to do it, and this will help you in your planning, which will be more adjusted to the real needs.

About the length of time you need to change

 And you, how much time do you need? Your organization needs time, and so do you.

A strategy of growth, of internationalization, of e-commerce, of digital transformation, of rationalization of costs, of … whatever you want …. With all of them you need to know very well the starting point, to implement the necessary actions, and not improvise them along the way.

And in the end, everything comes from people, starting with you, as a Leader of the new strategy, as a Sponsor of turning it into reality. You also have to reflect on your dynamics, your leadership style, and what the new “momentum” of the company needs.

You have to be willing to adapt your behavior, so that the whole team you involve lives it and sees it, and to be one more element of how the new dynamics are integrated in the organization.

I hope these 4 reflections will help you to define the PLAN, your PLAN, well.

Having a PLAN A with more guarantees of success, always has to do with being clear about the point of origin and the destination point.

Dare to ask yourself and be honest in the answer! This is the first step to moving quickly and solidly.

The flexibility that is needed, how to lead successfully and ways of implementation that are effective and that involve the entire organization, all of these points I will tell you about in future posts.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions, you can contact me here