How to make your strategy simple: 5 questions to get there

Why do so many well analysed and planned strategic initiatives — some say up to 70% — fail to be implemented successfully?

How to make your strategy simple

One of the reasons so many strategies fail in their implementation is the lack of tangibility in its execution.

Or in the words of Donald Sull from London Business School: “Every strategy that is too complicated to execute is not a strategy. It’s a book report”.

What makes a strategy executable

A strategy that should succeed in its implementation has to be remembered by the whole organisation.

To be remembered, people have to understand what the strategy is about, and the easiest way to realise an understandable strategy is by simplifying it.

Executable strategies are neither complicated nor are they fancy — they are just a simple description of what an organisation is striving for.

SOMETIMES AN EXECUTABLE STRATEGY IS EVEN JUST A SINGLE SENTENCE THAT DESCRIBES WHERE THE ORGANISATION IS HEADING.

If people do not understand what an organisations’ strategy is about, they cannot work in a way that supports its realisation.

Basically, organisations would put lots of effort in a strategy most people will probably ignore or try to avoid dealing with, which will ultimately lead to strategic failure.

If the solution for strategic success is a simplification, why do so many organisations not seize the chance of making strategy simple, understandable and tangible?

One of the reasons why many companies struggle with formulating a simple strategy is that strategic management is often seen as something that has to be done on an annual basis rather than a dynamic, open process.

As an example, take a look at the case of NOKIA, who completely missed out on strategic pivots.

Furthermore, strategic management is seen as something hyper-analytical and logical that only the super smart and outstanding clever people can devise.

Something that is too complicated to make it understandable for everyone.

The result is an annual strategic handbook that is presented at the annual meeting and is then never seen again. Even if the worked out strategy is superb.

However, stepping back for a moment and translating the strategic handbook into an easier language brings a lot of benefits.

First of all, you move your organisations from working on something that makes sense on paper to something that has a purpose for the organisation.

By making people aware of the strategy, you can move from something that seems to be logical to do towards something that is actually feeling worth doing.

People need to understand the bigger picture and why their work matters to get engaged, to be excited about what is happening and to go the extra mile to realise it — even in tough times.

 

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