Execution failure can be conquered

Published: 03 April 2020

CEO’s globally rate Strategy Execution as a Top 3 challenge. It is generally understood that up to 80% of all strategies fail on execution. We see that executive teams are, in the majority of cases, highly competent at crafting great strategies for their organisations, only to never see them succeed.

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Strategy execution failure is ALWAYS the consequence of human error and it ALWAYS results in a loss of confidence in your BRAND.


Talk2Us helps leaders to identify and understand the FOUR root causes of strategy execution failure and to implement effective solutions.


Unclear Purpose

Too many leadership teams define their company by what they do, instead of why they do it. Their fixation with their product, technology or service makes it hard to recognise and adapt to a constantly disruptive world.

Consider the examples of Nokia, who defined themselves by WHAT they do – ‘connecting people through mobile technology’, as opposed to Apple, who is focused on WHY they do what they do  – ‘we are on the face of the earth to make great products’.

If your strategy is grounded in an aspirational, inspiring reason for existence, your company becomes enduring, resilient, open-minded, exponential. If it is grounded in your products, your company becomes vulnerable, short term orientated, inflexible.


Leadership Hesitance

The failure or hesitation of leaders to take the decisions and actions necessary for executing the chosen strategy is an often hidden cause of poor outcomes. Leaders are expected to translate strategy into action plans and measure milestones and results. The inadequacy of those plans and their execution is not always immediately obvious.

Action plans are often vague when it comes to the tough or risky decisions, for example product rationalisation, stock reduction, new technology, staff restructure or closure of a site or business unit. To exacerbate the destructive impact of leadership hesitance on strategy execution, leaders are often not held accountable for decision failures, because their inaction is obfuscated by the day to day whirlwind of activities.


Unconvinced Stakeholders

When the employees of SAA lost confidence in the wage negotiation process, and embarked on a company-wide strike, it became the last straw, pushing the company into business rescue. Shareholders and potential investors withheld their support when WeWork wanted to list and the capital raise could not go ahead. A national wholesaler who ran into cash flow challenges could no longer stick to payment terms with their suppliers, who then became unconvinced that a recovery would take place and consequently approached the retailer base directly.

Examples of customers withdrawing their support from a brand are numerous and the impact may be devastating. Tiger Brands, after the listeriosis outbreak, is a case in point.

Boards of directors should demand from executive management a thorough and regular barometer of stakeholder confidence in order to proactively manage this risk.


Poor or no Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)

M&E is not measurement. Measurement is the is routine, systematic review of actual performance against targets. It is qualitative, ensures real accountability and allows for timeous intervention. It is absolutely critical to execution success.

But M&E is a powerful framework for tracking execution progress, rapid identification of causes of failure and guidance on corrective action. It allows management to link purpose to strategic outcomes and to objective performance measures. It guides resource allocation and considers risks and assumptions to be built into the strategic plan of action.

When using it as a basis for M&E, leadership will be able to understand causes of strategy failure very quickly and to respond effectively.

Execution excellence is not impossible or complicated. When boards of directors and executive teams decide to focus on clarifying and cascading purpose, anticipating and conquering leadership hesitance, creating and maintaining strong  bonds with all stakeholders and adopting a structured M&E approach, chances of achieving the company’s strategic objectives will be greatly enhanced.


Contact us to evaluate your strategy execution status and to provide you with a road map to overcome execution weaknesses.

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About Us

We are a consulting agency.  We collaborate with you to build confidence in your brand, across all your stakeholder groups, using the disciplines of powerful branding and marketing, attention grabbing communication, powerful customer experience programmes and fully aligned people development plans. Read more