Why Your Strategy is Failing

You are motivated, you and your team are committed, and you come out of a strategy development process inspired. You put the document together, you do initial outreach and then it inevitably fizzles. Was it the wrong strategy? Were the wrong people involved? Was your team actually never invested in the first place? Are you in this alone?  

The tendency is to blame your people – in particular when you have attempted to do something collaboratively, came out with something consensus-based and it still fails. I’m going to tell you the truth; in all likelihood it is you, your people, and the environment that you work in that are the problem. Here are some reasons your strategy may be failing:

  • Reality has set in – the 3 months you spent building the strategy was great and now it is back to the day-to-day. You address the data drills you have been ignoring and your managers go back to reassuring their people all is the same so they will continue to produce. How does the strategy fit into an organization that is already fully taxed?
  • Nothing changes – the strategy is set and you do some internal outreach to tell people about it. But nothing changes – funding is allocated in the same way, everyone is expected to produce the same results and work on the same programs, external communications about the organization are the same. If the strategy doesn’t change anything then what was the point?
  • The team went in with no/the wrong data – the team loves the strategy but when they talk to their people and their stakeholders about it they discover that the strategy focuses on all the wrong things. Can your organization implement something that has no buy-in?
  • You think the hard part is over – you walk out of the meeting energized and expect your people will carry the torch. One month later you discover nothing has been done, nothing has changed and your strategy is dead. Can a strategy without a driver survive?


Strategy is no longer a one and done communications activity. If you want a strategy that sticks, you need to change people’s realities. This is not to say that you will necessarily end up with all happy employees. Strategy that matters causes waves and may cause people to leave or express dissatisfaction. These are the hard lines that leaders – true leaders – need to take to fix broken organizations and make good organizations great. Gather information from your staff and stakeholders before you embark on strategy. Think long and hard about how it will be implemented, if your organization as it exists today is capable of implementing, and what you need to change, reconfigure, or develop to help make it happen.


What is your experience with strategy efforts?