Lack of a strategic vocabulary. There is no global standard defining the basic strategic terms we use every day like vision, goals, objectives, and even strategy itself. This is simple enough to do within our organizations, yet we rarely make the effort. So one person’s goal, is another person’s objective, and is another person’s strategy. Is it any wonder then, that when we communicate strategy through the organization people struggle to grasp it?
Unfocused strategy documents. I regularly review companies’ strategy documents. I find goals (lots of goals), projects, plans, needs, objectives, and aspirational statements but very few real strategies. To make matters worse, strategic plans from different organizations do not align and frequently provide conflicting views. Reading more strategy related documents tends to create confusion rather than clarity.
Strategy diffusion. Without a common strategic vocabulary and integrated strategic plan, the original strategic intent loses its fidelity as it moves down and across the organization. Each manger tends to reinterpret the strategy to fit his own, typically narrower view of the world. Most of the time these are honest attempts to implement the original intent but many times lower level managers intentionally create an interpretation that aligns with their personal agenda.
Contextual misalignment. Executives often intentionally conceive strategies out of context. By that, I mean that strategy crafting is typically focused on what we need to accomplish regardless of the organizational and cultural context. “Context eats strategy for lunch.” We all know it; yet ignore contextual factors when designing strategy and creating strategy implementation plans. Contextually misaligned strategies are harder to execute than those that leverage the current context. When strategies require a context change strategists need to create plans to deal with that.
Underestimating the motivational challenge. People resist change even when strategy is well articulated and integrated. Executives frequently make the mistake of assuming that if the strategy comes from them, people will salute it and get busy. In reality most people are skeptical and often for good reason. They want to know, do the strategy creators accurately understand the challenges and implications of their work? Will they stick with the strategy or change direction at the first sign of struggle? Will they move on to more interesting ideas during the next strategy cycle leaving half-finished initiatives behind? Even strong corporate supporters need some convincing. The more divergent the strategy is from the past, the more convincing they need.
The bottom line:_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Strategy work is harder than most people think. It is exceedingly difficult to crisply and clearly articulate strategy in a way that provides clarity across the organization. Strategy execution management is an excellent opportunity for business architects to play an important and valuable role in their organization.