Although there are countless reasons a strategy may not succeed, this report sheds light on the stark difference between those that fail and those that succeed. Learn why most fail, and what you can do to join the 10%.
While most disciplines have evolved dramatically in the internet age, modern strategy has failed to adapt.
Marketing has moved from logos on billboards, to targeted ads right under your thumb. Logistics has moved from mathematicians around a table to predictive algorithms. Sales from the good old-fashioned diary, to advanced CRMs with real-time information. And yet strategy has stayed the same. While everything evolved around it, strategy never left the spreadsheet. The way organizations communicate their visions, objectives & work relies on an outdated process.
Leaders fall into the trap of thinking about strategy in terms of “presenting” & “sharing” - when they should be thinking about "collaborating" & "exposing."
Your plans die in boardrooms and you need to know why.
Founder & CEO
General Manager & COO
Team members are often left clueless about their company strategy. Their goals aren’t clear, they don’t understand how their work contributes to the organization's strategy and as a result, they’re left uninvested and disengaged.
Employees don’t know where to find the strategy. And even when they do, they’re disconnected from the tracking, the results. This leads to team members not feeling like they contribute to your business, which leads to disengagement and not reviewing the progress weekly.
Head of Category Strategy
Teams operating without clarity of the overarching business strategy will ultimately lead to 3 things:
So, what are the causes or triggers? Is the problem the strategy itself, or is the problem the way it is communicated in businesses?
Strategy is the North Star that guides the business towards a set of common goals. But that NorthStar is pointless if no-one can see it.
Seeing it is half the challenge, they also need to understand it in its simplest form. For this to happen, businesses need to have strong buy-in from all teams, especially those who will be part of delivering the strategy.
Those executing the strategy day-to-day are the boots on the ground. The ones in the detail getting the job done. While the leadership team acts as commanders devising the strategy from their ivory tower, far away from the frontline. Often leadership teams are making decisions without knowing the true reality of the frontline. While on the other side of the coin, many of those on the frontline aren’t actually aware of the strategy or their objectives.
There is a complete disconnect between those creating the strategy and those executing it. Everyone has experienced this yet it’s widely accepted: “That’s just how it works”.
Strategy isn’t a part of people’s daily activities and decisions. The problem is strategy communication. As we move further from the top, strategy engagement deteriorates.
Vice President Strategy,
Insights & Innovation
We are a company with strong values that weave through every part of our organization. Those values are even more evident when they are tied to long-term & daily project planning.
Team members don’t have a clue how their strategy is progressing over time. They are left in the blue and end up making decisions independent from their organization’s top strategic priorities.
Leadership, however, typically understands the state of the strategy. They see opportunities, they have visibility of change, and adapt the plan accordingly. While the frontline workers see new trends immediately, it takes too long for the leadership to get familiar with the changes. And when the plan is finally adapted, it’s simply too late to avoid the downturn.
The change of strategy is rarely understood by the greater organization until it’s too late.
The culprit here isn’t some grand mystery, it comes down to a lack of communication. Strategy isn’t being effectively communicated to the wider organization, wasting immeasurable resources and solving problems that don’t matter to the business.
Manager of Strategy, Innovation, and Engagement
I don’t think it is a conscious decision for most to not make it a priority and many executives have likely fallen into the trap of thinking that having a meeting or two on your calendar at some regular cadence is enough. Making strategy a priority means you have taken the time to reflect on where you have been, where you are, and more importantly, where you are going.
In most organizations, the thought process between different sides of the business is completely disconnected. The survey showed that few employees have access to strategy at all times and the decline in strategy visibility seems to be linear from top to bottom.
While 3/10 team members citing they do not have access to strategy may not seem extreme, the real eye-opener is the difference between what leadership thinks and what executors experience. Noticeably, those numbers inflate across all areas when it comes to strategy tracking.
When we talk about effectiveness this means being able to achieve our desired targets, our goals and in consequence execute the strategy successfully.
The big problem appears when not everyone feels they are working towards the same goals, mainly because this already means execution will fail but also because this impacts employee morale and motivation.
Principal, Diversity Equity & Inclusion
The stronger the link is, the higher employee engagement and satisfaction is, which in turns drives higher retention and increased performance.
Those values are even more evident when they are tied to long-term & daily project planning. A clear strategy helps tie all these efforts together and allows everyone to see how meaningful their daily contributions are along the way".
The cost of this could be even bigger if we think about what happens when employees quit. Businesses need to invest in hiring new people, with all the associated costs of onboarding, training and cultural fit for new employees. But what does this have to do with strategy?
Global Innovation Director
Promoting a strategy-focused culture helps employees stay focused on priorities. A strategy-focused company has higher chances of building a strong culture because employees feel part of the end goal.
Leaders are the experts, they’ve climbed the ropes, and they have the scars to prove it. Naturally, they are the best equipped to make strategic decisions and develop the plan that steers the company in the right direction. Sounds reasonable, but there's a lie within that statement.
This won’t be earth-shattering to most. In fact, this is why strategy consultants are engaged in larger organizations where the context is so vast that the leadership team needs support to hear the voices of their own employees. And like we’ve seen, this is a “must” to develop a winning strategy.
While creating a grand plan may deliver something everyone is happy with at the start of the year, it doesn’t mean the plan will work when the dust settles.
Ex-Director Corporate Strategy
It's an annual cycle of secret meetings that exhausts resources and ultimately no one is closer to understanding where, why, or what they should be doing! This is left in a PowerPoint until next year and it's such a manual effort to synthesize that it's often not even updated or tracked to give people an update on progress.
Strategy is everywhere, all the time, not just annually - you should be asking big, bold questions, assessing trends, investing in tech, and keeping tabs on where you are vs where you want to be, and not just in a purely financial sense!”.
You pour your energy and resources into a grand plan at the beginning of the year, and present it to the wider company with a beautiful slide deck. Everyone loves it and you clink champagne glasses.
Fast forward two months and that slide deck hasn’t been opened since the beginning of the year. The strategy spreadsheet is either in version five or six depending on who you ask. No one really remembers what the plan was, most have reverted to working on things they think should be done rather than working toward the strategy. Challenges appear and opportunities arise, things change but the strategy just crumbles when it desperately needed to adapt.
Marketing Manager Streets, Weis & local brands
As a business or brand, you have to remain agile at every level of the strategy to ensure that you're both responding to the market that could be changing before your eyes, but also creating value with the resources you have.
To say PowerPoint is suboptimal for strategy would be an understatement. PowerPoint is a presentation tool. It wasn’t built for collaboration, engagement, tracking goals and KPIs. But especially, it wasn’t build for your strategy to adapt fast. There’s a better way.
People who use a strategy execution platform know their strategy and also know how it’s tracking. But simply knowing the strategy is not enough. Specially when we see numbers dropping when asked if they feel part of the strategy and - what’s worse - if they review it weekly.
Strategy should be everyone’s BAU. Everyone in the organization should work on things that will impact on the strategy, but this mindset shift is part of a cultural change. Tools can accelerate that change, but they won’t solve the issue if everyone goes back to work as they did before.
Chief Strategy Officer
A compelling strategic proposition that intellectually justifies both today’s work and the future evolution of the organization is essential for success when it comes to performing in the short term and engaging in sufficient exploratory activity to perform and grow in the long term as circumstances change.
Modern strategy is being challenged. Every day more and more start to realize that it’s a race to the top. Organizational change is urgently needed.
Losers like the old hats in marketing who stuck to their guns and continued to invest everything in radio during the boom of social media only to find themselves unemployed. Losers like the many industries that failed to adapt to the advantages of modern tech solutions and became obsolete.
But this is just the surface level. The flow-on effects are where you really feel it.
Let’s not forget about the “invisible loss”: the by-product of failed or unaligned strategies is an unrealized opportunity cost. And to complicate things further, you may have “the perfect plan”, but then out of nowhere, things change *cough* COVID-19 *cough*. Your organization is now stuck with a static plan that can’t adapt.
Azure Intelligent Cloud
Strategy is about creating a winning plan. How are we going to do something that allows us to compete stronger and win together? Right? But what I've learned recently over the last 18 months since we've been going through this global pandemic is that you've always got to have a plan B”.
Hiding your strategy in the boardroom.
Bringing everyone together to contribute to the strategy. Everyone knows something about the business that others don’t whether it’s unique pressures, market insights or customer needs. Collaborate, don’t proscribe.
Logistically for large organizations, this is only practically possible with strategy execution software.
Creating grand strategic plans.
Involving everyone in your planning process and you won’t be short of ideas. Establish goals and outline a general approach quickly. You can’t wait months to refine it all to a perfect plan. Become comfortable knowing that your dynamic plan will change often. Prioritize the best ideas first and start executing quickly! Be open to experimentation and iteration as you progress.
For large plans, rapid adaptability is only practically possible with strategy execution software.
Pushing your people away from the vision.
Including everyone in the strategy. When you do, something magical happens. They buy-in deeply, and fight for the strategy because it’s not just the company strategy, it’s their own. Engagement increases enormously and they achieve more than ever before.
Isolating your teams and duplicating work.
Sharing ownership of the strategy with you teams. Because everyone is included, and the team is engaged, alignment comes easier and faster than ever. As alignment increases, dynamic iteration skyrockets. Because the alignment comes naturally from shared ownership of the strategy, people are more willing to drive the strategy through its iterations wherever that may go.
Putting barriers in front of people who want to step up.
Making everyone a leader. Because people are aligned with the strategy, everyone is engaged and people feel deeply included leaving everyone with a real sense of ownership and accountability. Naturally, they step up on behalf of strategy and lead the charge to its success.
Managing Director of Saint Lucia
Make sure you know where you're coming from, honestly, and put your tactics in place. Share, share, and share your strategy with everyone."
Although the mindset of IDEAL can be used without Cascade, you will quickly find that you need a home for your strategy. A place where your organization can collaborate inclusively and change rapidly when opportunities arise or things change:
Senior advisor to Ingka Group/IKEA
“It's fundamental to know that we learn as we go, because if you're going to sit and make this perfect plan knowing every piece and what will happen, then you'll be paralyzed by perfection. You never know what can happen.
Cascade Strategy Execution Platform was created to bridge this gap with visibility, dynamic and adaptive plans, agile iterations and a relentless focus on what actually matters. It bridges it through inclusivity, teamwork, and by giving ownership and meaning to every person in the organization.
*From a external survey conducted by Momentive with over 1,750 respondents.
This survey was completed in partnership with our research partner Momentive, Survey Monkey's business arm. The report is based on a survey involving answers from 1,765 people of all reporting levels, from team members and individual contributors all the way to C-level executives at mid to large organizations, with 1,000 employees or more. We collected data across 9 industries and three continents, 53% from the USA, 37% from the UK and 10% from Australia.