companies fail to implement strategies
effectively.” – SAP
You can have all the power you want under the hood, but if your wheels are stuck in the mud,
you won’t go anywhere.
Running a business comes complete with
more responsibilities, obligations, and
demands on your time than there are
hours in the day.
You develop plans and strategies, invest in them, and propel
an enthusiastic charge through your employees, but if those
strategies are not implemented, your business could be
spinning its wheels.
Despite what instincts might tell us, most
employees are enthusiastic about the
company for which they work. They want their
company to succeed.
They strive to follow through and do whatever they can –working
nights, weekends, and any other time that’s necessary- to get the
Too often, though, even as they understand the strategies and goals you set forth, they don’t
possess the tools, insight, or information necessary to recognize where their work contributes
to its success.
Taking an effective strategy and making it work is about traction. It’s about having the right
tread on those tires, and sometimes it’s about using a little elbow grease to get moving.
It’s important to:
• Focus (on the goal)
• Plan (develop the strategy)
• Align (the goal with the
• Forecast (stages of success)
• Monitor (each step of the
• Report (consistently and
Do your employees understand the
How many could recount the Mission
Statement if asked on the spot?
Think of each employee as another tread on the tire of your company’s forward
progress. The more employees that are confident and fully invested in the company’s
mission and goals, the more traction your strategies will gain.
“90% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor
execution.” – Harvard Business Review.
So how do you get your company
moving in the right direction ?
How do you propel your strategies ?
Prioritize the Goals
Every company should have short-term and long-term
goals. Your long-term goals should fall within a timeline of
three to five years.
Short-term goals should be designed with the specific
intention of achieving the long-term goals. In other words,
both long-term and short-term goals should be congruent
with one another.
Goals should be articulated in the company’s mission statement. If you establish goals that
don’t align with the mission statement, you will create confusion among employees. Confusion
leads to wrong turns and becoming lost, directionless.
Consider your long-term goals as being your final destination of a road trip. The short-term
goals are the key roads that you’ll take to get there.
Now, your goals should fall somewhere
Within 4 main categories:
Growth – relating to expansion of the company.
Social/Community – relating to philanthropic, ‘good will’ projects.
– relating to customer satisfaction and retention.
– relating to increasing revenue.
Once you establish and prioritize the goals, it’s vital to
convey them effectively to all employees.
Any breakdown in communication leaves the goals subject
Consistency is a … well, consistent theme and that’s because it is critical to strategy
Creating unity among all of your employees is the goal. In order to achieve the right level of
unity (where each employee is committed to it), the goals need to create a sense of purpose.
If you establish a goal, for example, ‘We will strive to double our revenue next year so that the
CEO can cash in on a significant bonus,’ then where will the purpose be for the employees.
Reducing energy consumption by more than 50% within three years, on the other hand would
likely appeal to a high number of employees, establishing a purpose within them.
The more purpose you provide for your employees, the more traction
you provide to the company goals.
Do you know what the active interests
are of your top level employees
When it comes to business, most employees have vested interests in
the work they do. They have come to work for your company for a
reason and in most cases, it’s more than just about money.
As CEO, it is your responsibility to determine what these interests
are and how the goals of the company can align with them.
As there will be numerous stages to any specific goal within a
company, there will be a number of ways to align them with your
When you assign a task to a key level employee that is alignment
with their passion for the work they do, they will be more invested
in its success. In other words, they will devote more energy to
ensuring that the company achieves its goals.
Too often, when
company no longer
aligns with their
goals, they will
either seek to find
company to work
for or become less
devoted to their
work and only
move through the
“81% of workers do not feel strongly
When you develop
goals and form a
each aspect of
the goals, and
which tasks, align
best with certain
committed to the company’s top priorities.”
–From Fake Work by Brent D. Peterson.
Imagine what would happen if that number was reversed.
Imagine if 81% of workers within your company felt strongly
committed to the company’s top priorities. They would become
more invested in the success of the company and would
devote more energy toward ensuring that its goals were
Employees today are more career-oriented, rather than company
oriented. They will do whatever is required (within reason) to
ensure that their career moves forward. Too often, though, this
desire to self-fulfillment is not fostered by companies in an
When you’re company is cruising down the highway and you want
some fresh air moving through the vehicle, you wouldn’t ask your
employee assigned to opening doors to solve the problem. You
want the one who controls the windows to do it. The former
will certainly invite fresh air in, but there will be a tremendous
amount of resistance.
You want to uncover the path of least
resistance when aligning goals with
employees’ interests and passions.
In order to address the alignment issue, have the employees write
down, in their own words, how their day-to-day work and
goals align with the company goals.
By asking them
for their input,
and that provides
point for true
You know how to communicate, but
is everyone hearing the same thing
During your career, you have most likely
developed a keen sense of language within your
company and the industry. While you may be
used to a specific style of communication or
terminology, that doesn’t mean your employees
are on the same page. In fact, you may be
surprised to discover that there might not be a
congruent level of understanding throughout
As CEO, you may feel as though you’re in the driver’s seat of your company, but in reality
you’re the passenger. You need to be sure to effectively and consistently communicate to the
driver (employees, from top to bottom) where you want them to go.
As CEO, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone receives the same message.
Do not assume that what you set
forth will be conveyed down the
chain in the same manner.
Upper management may grasp the strategies and
ideas better, but there may be an equal number of
middle management and lower level employees
who don’t understand the goals, and this number
could be quite low.
Your managers down through the ranks will tend to
filter your message, altering it –though
inadvertently- and by the time the message reaches
the lower levels, it could be confused, inconsistent,
and ultimately meaningless.
The CEO is often viewed as a figurehead within the organization, an individual with whom
most employees rarely hear from or communicate directly with. Strategies more often fail
because of this breakdown in communication.
This can be done a number
Create a cogent and
reasonable plan to
communicate your message
directly to your employees.
One-on-one meetings with
Internal social media tools
These are just a few ideas. Once you determine the best method for communication, ensure
that everyone understands the mission, goals –both short and long-term. You can accomplish
this by creating questionnaires, similar to quizzes. Anyone who doesn’t understand the
strategic goals is a potential weak link in the chain.
If you have one employee
turning down the wrong road in
your trip, you could end up at
the wrong destination.
Invest in Your Goals
It may seem obvious to state that goals are important. However,
‘85% of management teams spend less than one-hour a month on
strategy issues,’ according to The Higher Ed CIO.
If your management teams are investing less than an hour every month toward your strategies,
then how will your company even reach them? How can you effectively and accurately measure
whether you’re on the right track?
If your team, if your employees cannot devote the time to your goals, then perhaps they aren’t
as important as you would want them to be.
Anything that is important to your company requires the appropriate investment.
If youre goals and strategies are not consistent with one another or with the
company’s mission, then they are bound for failure. For example, if you have
a goal of “achieving the highest customer satisfaction rate in the industry”
while also achieving “greatest profit margin,” then something has to give.
You will also need to continually communicate the goals to
your employees. Setting them forth in January then
checking in on them in June will likely lead to failure.
If the goals are important, repeat them. Not only do you want to
continually repeat them, but you also want to make sure that when you do
repeat them they are identical to what they were before.
If something has changed with regard to goals, then highlight these changes
If you fail to do
again or may get
these goals are
as important as
you claim them
and explain why they changed. If you fail to do the latter, employees may
become confused again or may get the false impression that these goals are
not necessarily as important as you claim them to be.
In order to
of the goals,
It is common to assign tasks to specific teams, but when you are working
on company goals, you want individuals to be accountable for their
contribution and responsibilities.
Why don’t teams work as effectively as you might
have assumed in the past?
After all, isn’t your entire company built upon the
foundation of teams?
Actually, no. A company is built upon departments.
When you begin to assign tasks to teams, then
how do you know who is responsible for each
assignment aligned within those tasks?
A team leader would assign them to individuals.
As a result, you will have already established a task
for each individual.
The issue (and where most companies fail in implementing their strategy) is that
only teams are held accountable. Make individuals accountable to their personal
assignments and monitoring becomes much more effective and efficient.
A is accountable for determining the roads to take to reach point
X, then Employee B is responsible for determining the best route to point Y, you’ll
find that each one will invest in getting the entire organization to its destination
What about CEO accountability?
The fact remains that while you may be the CEO of the
company, and you have plenty or responsibilities already, you
need to be held accountable to the goals just as any other
Ask yourself the following questions while you are
implementing the strategies (and not just once, but over and
over and over):
• Have you communicated the goals effectively?
• Did you paint a picture that everyone can see and
• Are you certain that they understand?
• Are you following up regularly (weekly or bi-weekly) with
management to ensure that all tasks are on target?
• Are all facets of the strategies and goals still effective? Or
are adjustments required?
• Are you interacting from time to time with key employees?
• Are you reminding the company of the goals regularly and
While all of the company’s employees need
to be held accountable for the success of
the short and long-term goals, it’s just as
important that you remain held accountable
You may wish to assign a VP or other executive to hold you
accountable (for example, the VP of HR can fit this role well).
The more people who watch the road, the less likely you are to
hit a pothole, or take a wrong turn.
Reinforce the key messages
If your employees aren’t committed to the goals or the company’s mission, then how can you
expect them to work toward them?
“70% of middle managers and more than 90% of front-line
employees have compensation that is not linked to the strategy.” –
The Higher ED CIO.
No matter how passionate an employee may be for the company or the work that they perform
on a daily basis, there is no better motivating factor than money. When you establish some
level of connection to performance and accomplishing company goals to compensation,
whether in the form of bonuses or other compensation, then you create inspiration within
The general thinking shifts from, ‘What difference does it make to me?’ to ‘If we achieve our
target goals, then I will be rewarded with …’
If you feel as though you’re stumbling through a mine field, then that’s exactly what you will
deal with when setting forth company goals and priorities.
However, accepting the common pitfalls means that you can take steps to avoid them. There’s
no need to bury your head in the sand and hope that they don’t trip up your company.
“53% of workers think that the work they do doesn’t count for
anything.” – from Fake Work by Brent D. Peterson
When people believe that their effort makes a difference, they are more likely to press forth
with more consistent effort. They will be more determined to contribute to the common good
of the company.
Determine how you can convince your employees, individually,
that every single one of them are important. You won’t
achieve this with 100% of your employees, but the closer
you get to 100%, the more likely the company goals will be
As CEO, you have plenty of priorities. You can’t possibly spend time monitoring every
individual’s effort and results. However, that’s what your management team is there for.
Once you’ve set forth the short and long-term goals,
and once you’ve effectively communicated these to your
employees, measured understanding and alignment, and
set forth accountability, monitoring is a much simpler
What about quarterly reviews? you might inquire. Aren’t
Is that really enough? Does a review every three
months really place these goals in a high priority frame
Will checking in every few months make much of a
What happens if performance lags early in the quarter?
What if questions arise in the beginning of the quarter and aren’t
formally addressed until the review period?
By the time you manage to discover these underlying problems, it may already be too late to
recover. The company has turned down the wrong road and you’re heading in the opposite
direction from your goals, lost and becoming even more lost.
Weekly reviews within departments will help to keep all employees aligned with the goals
set forth. Have team review sessions and have those results reported on up the chain of
Establish peer reviews in which one department evaluates the achievements of another. This
can help avoid covering up shortcomings within a department. While the goal is not to target
one particular department, when you have C-Level managers glossing over miscues or
employee failures for fear of being reprimanded, accountability breaks down.
You need to become ‘maniacal’ about your monitoring practices. There is a significant
difference between monitoring and micromanaging and it’s important to understand the
When monitoring, you are ensuring that the company stay on course. When micromanaging,
you are directing how everyone should be accomplishing their goals.
When it comes to reporting, there are many ways to achieve the same goals. Direct, face-toface interaction, email, surveys, and software programs are just a few.
For a company with hundreds or thousands of employees, face-to-face contact is not feasible.
Email can become a nightmare, and surveys tend to offer diluted feedback.
Software has become an important aspect up internal communications within major
companies. The risk, though, is that direct interaction becomes less of a priority.
If you choose software to help in reporting and measuring where each task is within relation to
completion, it’s important to make sure that managers continue to work closely with the rest
of the employees.
Employees are human; they require feedback. Even the most
confident worker could use some reassurance or guidance
from time to time.
Provide regular and consistent feedback to your employees,
from upper management on down the line.
When tasks are on target, let them know that and acknowledge
If they are off target, provide guidance that can help them
steer back in the right direction.
The goal is to constantly improve performance and the
only way to effectively accomplish that is to provide
feedback. Of course, the only way to provide the right level of
feedback is to have effective reporting and measuring avenues.
As CEO, it’s your responsibility to set and communicate the
company’s goals. If 9 out of 10 companies fail to implement their
strategies and goals properly, who has failed?
You could certainly blame the employees or the economy or management or any number of
other forces, but it still comes back around to you, the CEO.
When you know how to implement strategies effectively, and you understand what your
responsibilities are, you will be in a better position to lead your company in the direction
(toward the goals) that you set forth.
Accomplishing the goals you set forth is about traction. For some, when they’re stuck in the
mud (or ice and snow), they’ll rock the vehicle back and forth. Others may tend to press the
accelerator to the floor. These rarely work.
The best strategy to avoid getting stuck by keeping everyone focused and committed to the
goals and aligning them with the company’s mission and your employees’ strengths and
When you manage that, your goals will be more likely to succeed.