The reasons why winning business strategies often fail

Working alongside leaders of top organisations across the world, I'm privy to a lot of excellent and well thought-out strategies. Whether it's embarking on digital transformation, managing a drastic change or increasing marketshare and profits, every CEO has a goal and a strategy that'll help them achieve it. 

Developing a winning strategy is a challenge in itself, but implementing it is a whole different ball game. In fact, with so many obstacles in place that carry the potential to derail a strategy, how do you ensure your best laid plans don't go out of the window? 

I've pulled together some of the most common issues that stand in the way of executing a strategy, and how you can overcome them to achieve your goals. 

No leadership buy-in

In a number of cases, strategies are thought up theoretically, rather than practically. If the strategy is great, of course it's going to work, right? Matters relating to internal operations, resources and budget need to be addressed by the people at the top of the business who actually have the ability to integrate these things. 

Every CEO needs their top managers to define the strategy before helping to create the structure and process of practical implementation and actions that result from it. It's not just rolling-out the strategy that a top team can help with, but the measurement of the impact it will have on the business and the skills it requires to make it work. Speaking of which...

Wrong skills

There's a common oversight in business when it comes to strategy execution. Some CEOs believe that the real skills are required for the design of the strategy, whereas it's actually the implementation that demands the real brains and experience. Specifically, you need people with solid experience in both project and change management. Without these skills, it's unlikely a strategic vision will be realised. Hiring in the right talent, or developing these skills internally, should be the highest priority for CEOs. 

Ambitious time frame

Some strategies go beyond pushing a business to its limits – they're downright aggressive. Overly-ambitious timelines can render a strategy's goals impossible. While it's understandable that a visionary CEO has big goals for the business, they need to create a staged plan that has measurable objectives along the way. There also needs to be an allocation of resources to ongoing evaluation to ensure the strategy is on track and room to make amendments if required. All of this takes time, as much as you might not want to hear that. 

Poor communication

It's the job of the CEO to communicate the strategy effectively, and in a manner that means the vision will be understood throughout the whole business. Failure to communicate a strategy clearly can result in objectives being missed and overall poor performance. To overcome this, CEOs must make sure their strategic plan is clear with measurable objectives that connect to KPIs. 


It's understandable that those in charge of developing a strategy want to be involved at every stage of its implementation. However, it is rarely possible for a CEO to get involved with the minutiae of a project arising from a strategy, and those who try usually end up doing more damage than good. The operational aspects of a strategy are so close to the business that if a CEO got involved without the detailed understanding required, the wrong decisions can easily be made. 

Remember that bad strategies are rarely to blame for a company's failure. What you really need to focus on is its implementation and whether you have the right people, skills and time to ensure it delivers the success you need.  

If you want to find out more about developing and implementing a winning strategy for your business, drop me a line today or connect with me on LinkedIn: www.linkedin/in/fionamckay.

Fiona McKay