A business strategy definition is the means by which a company sets out to achieve its desired goal or objective.
Strategic planning is the holy grail for most businesses, regardless of size. It’s the first thing you learn in Business 101, and we’re taught that it’s vital to the success of any enterprise. What business courses right up to MBA level often fail to teach, however, is the corresponding importance of corporate strategy execution or “go to market strategy.” As a result, your many perfectly good strategic plans don’t succeed because the implementation process isn’t as well thought-out as the strategy.
Why Strategic Plans Fail
There are many reasons why strategic plans fail. Some of them are easy to correct and prevent, while others are less simple. The most common causes of failure occur in small to medium sized businesses, where the planning process is often viewed as peripheral to the activity of getting on with business. The ones we see most frequently are:
Planning for the sake of it.
Most organizations know there is a need to plan, right? So when a business forges ahead with a two- to five-year plan, the company receives the approval from everyone from the bank through to its suppliers. Often, the plan is incomplete and lacking in realistic goals and objectives, missing measurement criteria and clear time frames. Unless your plan delivers a distinct pathway to implementation, it’s destined to fail.
Shelving it after completion.
The most common problem in business is the development of a strategic plan that is then shelved after completion without taking the necessary steps to make it happen. The company’s strategic plan needs to be a working document, not an ornament, and get reviewed regularly to stay on track and adjust where necessary. Otherwise, it simply becomes irrelevant. So it’s not enough to have a comprehensive plan for embracing mobile technology, you have to actually follow it to make it work.
Business owners draw up strategic plans for a range of reasons, one of which is often to obtain bank funding or to get interest from venture capitalists or other investors. Without a close eye on environmental factors and a well-developed SWOT analysis, it’s easy to end up with an unrealistic plan that you can’t adhere to.
The secret to an effective strategy that achieves what it intends to is to close the gap between planning and delivery.
Closing the Gap
The best way to do this is to prevent a chasm from existing in the first place. Experienced business strategists usually employ a range of tactics to make sure a planning process covers all the bases.
Involve your execution team from the start. Far too many implementation teams get “handed off” a finalized business strategy from top management without ever having had input into whether it’s viable or not. They’re expected to operationalize the plan based on what could be unrealistic expectations regarding the availability of resources, production performance hiccups and other unknown criteria.
To generate ownership and understanding, it’s important to know the “why” as well as the “what.” Smart executors typically want the reasoning behind some of the imperatives contained in a strategic plan. It’s not enough to know what has to be done; by understand why it’s necessary they can make judgement calls if circumstances change during implementation, as they so often do. Decisions can then be based on a clear view of the thought processes—and goals—behind the strategy.
It isn’t enough simply to devise what looks and sounds like a neatly-packaged strategic plan. Unless the practical aspects are as well thought-out as the theory, your strategy could be a complete waste of time.