Why strategies fail and what to do about it


Strategy execution involves a well-defined set of choices based on what a business will and won’t do. That said, those choices are seldom easy to make as most leaders fear making the wrong ones. Here’s a list of five common mistakes to avoid when making these decisions.

It’s a goal, not a strategy

The business confuses the strategy with the goal, which is the desired outcome. For example, to be the biggest business in this industry. The strategy should be a set of guiding principles that generate a desired pattern of decision-making.

Not consistent across the business

In larger organisations, senior leaders will often decide on a course of action but fail to ensure alignment across the business. Often there is no single clear picture that everyone understands.

Instructions are complicated

Complexity is the enemy of execution. If you as a leader struggle to explain your strategy, it will be almost impossible for your staff to remember or apply it.

The reason is not shared

A big part of explaining your strategy to ensure staff understand it is to clarify why the change is happening in the first place. Leaders who talk about the how without explaining the why do so at their peril. Staff will be outwardly compliant but inwardly defiant.

Top-down vs collaborative approach

It may seem easier to get the consensus of your inner circle when updating or defining your strategy, but this will impact its execution in the long run. The reason is straightforward: collaboration fosters ownership, and for your strategy to work, you need to have everyone’s buy-in.

An example of a good strategy in action

The iconic British toy company Hornby Railways, the maker of model railways and Scalextric slot car racing tracks, made some strategic decisions to avoid bankruptcy. These three choices drove their strategy:

  • To make perfect scale models (rather than toys)
  • To focus on adult collectors (rather than children)
  • To appeal to a childhood nostalgia

These three principles steered them out of bankruptcy and helped them become one of the industry leaders in model cars.

How we help you

At We Explain Stuff, we create space for leaders and their teams to have strategic conversations. We do this through our online strategy workshops. The outcome of these workshops varies but we often start with an infographic. Think of it as a one-page summary that gets everyone aligned fast.

Find out more

If you’d like to find out more we offer a 30 min discover call.

Based on the outcome, we problem-solve with you to create a way forward that empowers you and your staff.

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About Garth Jemmett

Garth Jemmett is the founder of We Explain Stuff. He helps business leaders escape complexity by making strategies, processes, products and services easy to understand.

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