This post is based on my research into the barriers and challenges in implementing strategies and summarises some of the key observations.
Organisations are like fields and strategies are aspirations of how we want to gather crops from those fields as farmers. Seeds and plants grow if environment made up of soil, light, air, and water is right for them. Different plants require different mix of those environmental factors. The job of the farmer is to create that environment where plants can grow and be fruitful. Everything else is out of their control. If the farmer fails to create that environment there is no point of going to the plant and blaming them for poor produce. Managers are like those farmers and their role is to create environment where people can be productive and strategies achieved.
Strategy implementation happens through people. Developing a stronger appreciation for how people are engaged in the strategy process matters and can be critical for successful strategy at any stage. Management practice of ‘removing obstacles’ in implementing strategy is necessary to succeed and keep people engaged. Adopting a more considerate and consultative strategy process may foster and facilitate a more effective implementation environment than merely commanding and controlling.
Lack of consideration for aligning aspirations with actual reality within the organisation may result in ineffective strategy implementation. Considering both hard and soft factors (i.e. through conversations with other implementers) that make strategy happen may reveal assumptions and practical challenges that get in the way of optimal implementation. Strategy sponsors (typically, senior managers) need to be prepared to get their hands dirty and work at removing obstacles to implementation.
Being aware of the unique implementation challenges that may arise at different levels of managerial roles can be helpful in adopting practices that could help mitigate those barriers to strategy implementation. Increasing degree of involvement in strategy implementation may encourage ownership and clarity of what is expected. Creating a feedback loop between strategy sponsors and the rest of the organisation may encourage participation and increase the sense of ownership.
Strategies happen in and through people and the practitioners need environment where they can be productive. Creating a suitable environment for implementing a strategy is done by both the strategy sponsor (as implementer) and other implementers. Lack of control or influence over how strategy is implemented by those expected to deliver results can hamper the achievement of strategic intentions.