5 Reasons Strategic Plans Fail

the majority of strategies fail in some way, shape or form.
the majority of strategies fail in some way, shape or form.
the majority of strategies fail in some way, shape or form.

Every leader of every organization needs a plan – a vision for the future.  Every leader needs to know where the ship is headed and needs to drive toward that destination, day in and day out.

The strategic plan is probably the most important tool that any leader has at their disposal.  The strategic plan drives everything within, and a well-run organization should be able to connect everything it does back to that plan.
But strategies fail.  In fact, the majority of strategies fail in some way, shape or form. 


  1. We go back to work. One of the most prevalent reasons that we fail to execute the strategic plan is… we go back to our day jobs.   We mean well, but the moment the sun rises, we head back to the trenches where the short terms goals and objectives take over, where we are forced to deal with the issues at hand.  Slowly the plan for the future takes a back seat to reality.   An article on November 9, 2015 by Harvey Schachter of the Globe and Mail entitled “Unlocking The Seven Words That Define the DNA of Your Business” describes the scenario well.  A “two-day weekend retreat at which a bundle of officials gathered, developed a plan, announced it on Monday and then along with everybody else forgot it by Thursday.”
  1. Lack of accountability. The plan looks and feels good but no one in the room, nor anyone, outside the room, is accountable for making it happen. Without someone being ultimately responsible for ‘Vision 2026’, it is not going to happen.
  1. Poor communications. The binder is pretty, but no one is reading it.  No one is going to walk into the office of your C-Suite team and pick it up to read.  You sent an email to your top management team to announce the plan, but that’s where it stopped.  The strategic plan needs to be communicated to everyone from top to bottom.  You need buy-in.  It needs to be brought up on stage, introduced and laid open for comments and questions.  It needs to be placed in the corporate files for everyone to see.
  1. You do not have a suitable culture to support the plan. This one could actually overlay all other reasons for strategic plan failure. Organization’s culture drives everything: people, processes, dreams and plans.  Without a culture to support the future, the future will fail.  That culture is defined and managed from the very top and plays out in the core of the organization.  This is where the strategic plan lives or dies – at the core for the organization.
  1. You do not have the right people to make it happen. Without a team that can execute the plan effectively, your plan is doomed. In many cases this starts at the very top. There are many examples of great organizations stumbling on vision because the key person, the CEO, was not the right person to drive the plan. Not every leader is cut from the same cloth.  Possibly, the new vision or plan needs someone very different to make it work.

Then we move down the chain to the HR team that will need to make sure that the right resources are in place.  And the finance team to make sure the budget is there. And this goes right through the organization.  The right people are key to the plan and without them in place, the future of your strategy is dim.

Many strategic plans fail.  These five are just some of the reasons.

The message should be clear to all.  The strategic planning process has a life span that goes way beyond the publication of the plan. Success execution of the plan is what will make or break you as a leader, and your organization as a leader in your industry.

David Barrett is a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator in the area of Strategy Execution.


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