If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Equally, if a new business strategy is developed and there is no-one willing to deliver it, did it ever really exist?

One of the biggest mistakes executives with their strategy is that they focus solely on its content and neglect to consider the commitment of their teams to its execution.

Over the years, I have worked, as part of the client team, with many of the major strategy consulting houses, including McKinsey and Bain. These organisations are full of very bright people, but their work is commonly focused on the content of the strategy and not the wider process of delivery. The consulting firm’s partners and senior managers tend to develop strong relationships with the CEO and the top team but can often ignore the critical delivery teams lower down the hierarchy.

At one of my clients, for example, a major strategy consulting group had worked with the executive team to develop a new growth strategy. Their 100-page deck had lots of great analysis and ideas. It also had a set of recommended priority initiatives for the business to deliver.



But, two months later, nothing was happening.

The strategy had been developed by the consultants and a small number of senior executives. There had been no involvement or engagement with the likely delivery teams. Unsurprisingly, these teams had no ownership of the new strategic solutions and so were taking no action to implement them.

As the chart shows, strategic speed happens when there is both a clear and compelling future direction and when there is organisational commitment to deliver it. When this happens, teams across the business fully understand what the strategy is trying to achieve as well as their own role in its delivery.

What’s more, the implementation teams are bought into the future strategic vision and so are likely to have an emotional connection to it. As a result, there will be bottom-up pull from the organisation to making the strategy happen.

When organisational commitment is missing, as was the case with my client, you merely get, at best, top-down pressure to deliver. This may deliver some benefits, particularly in the early stages of the strategy’s execution. But progress is unlikely to be sustained when the executive team’s attention moves to other issues and objectives. As the chart shows, you end up in the bottom right-hand box, and are likely to achieve only half-speed performance.

At my client, I took the consultants’ proposed recommendations, worked with a series of cross-functional business teams to turn them into actionable and fully-owned initiatives and created a series of fast-paced, 90-day delivery sprints to create renewed momentum and growth.

This increased level of involvement translated into measurable results on the ground. But the business had already lost over 3 months of time in delivering its new strategy. Like the tree falling in the empty forest, up until that point the strategy had not made a sound.

By ensuring that organisational commitment is an integral part of your strategy development process, you can deliver faster, bigger and more sustainable results. How are you involving your teams in the creation of your strategy so that they are more likely to turn your vision into real action on the ground?


© Stuart Cross 2019. All rights reserved.