High-level strategy is as useful to most workers in an organisation as a high-flying airliner is to people in a bus queue. The bus passengers may briefly look up and notice the plane and its vapour trail, but, even if it is travelling in the same general direction, it cannot possibly help them reach their destination. Similarly, unless you can bring your strategy down-to-earth, it will have no discernible impact on your organisation’s performance.

It’s often said that a strategy doesn’t fail in formulation but in its implementation. I don’t agree. I believe that in many cases strategy simply falls through the gap between formulation and implementation: it gets lost in translation.

Many leadership teams, in their excitement to turn their strategy into results, fail to take the necessary steps to ensure that their strategy is sufficiently grounded so that their organisation can deliver it. 

Bringing your strategy down from 50,000 feet to ground level involves the following leadership tasks: communicating the strategy and building genuine colleague engagement and alignment; breaking down your high-level ambitions into a series of more focused objectives; establishing relevant KPIs, accountabilities and rewards; and allocating resources and deploying talent effectively.

Only then can you think about planning and launching specific initiatives; only then will your organisation be able to translate your strategic vision into operational success.

Which of these steps do you take to make sure that your strategy doesn’t get lost in translation?

Off The Record: More Than This by Roxy Music

One of my favourite scenes from the film Lost In Translation is when Scarlett Johansen and Bill Murray visit a karaoke bar and Murray chooses this song:

I could feel at the time

There was no way of knowing

Fallen leaves in the night

Who can say where they’re blowing?

As free as the wind

Hopefully learning

Why the sea on the tide

Has no way of turning