A prospect recently asked me to summarise the factors that make the difference between successful and unsuccessful strategies. In my experience, many business leaders can become frustrated that their organisation struggles to deliver a strategy that, in their own minds, is crystal clear and utterly compelling.

The eight factors that I shared with my potential client are set out below, but you will see that while the first three are centred on the content of the strategy, the other five factors are all about the process of delivery.

In other words, developing the strategy is, in many ways, the easy bit. Building alignment, organising the work and the ongoing discipline of resource allocation and performance management will take up the majority of your time. Or, as I put it in my book, The CEO’s Strategy Handbook, execution is simply the last 99% of strategy!

Why don’t you go through each of these eight factors with your leadership team and score your own organisation on a scale of 0-10? Once you have done that, you can then review the scores and identify your priorities for management attention.

The eight indicators of success are:

  1. A clear challenge: The transformation is driven by a specific and well-articulated strategic challenge that is based on a robust understanding of your markets and their future dynamics. The strategic challenge has been translated into an overarching goal that will drive ongoing decisions and actions.
  2. A coherent strategic approach: You have agreed and defined how you will meet the challenge you’ve identified, in terms of the markets you’ll focus on, the ways in which you will win in those markets and the outline business model you’re pursuing.
  3. A focused agenda for action. You have identified a handful of strategic objectives (say 3-5) that will form your ongoing focus for the next few years and which, taken together, will deliver your strategic ambitions. 
  4. Senior management alignment. The executive team and senior management are fully aligned on the overall strategy, the goal and your priority actions. 
  5. Broad organisational support and engagement. There is broad understanding and support across all levels of the organisation of the aims of the strategy and what actions are being pursued.
  6. Resource allocation. Resources are allocated on their ability to deliver the strategy (rather than on historic trends) and your best, most able people are leading the delivery of your biggest priorities.
  7. Disciplined initiative management. You are relentless in your ability to limit the number of initiatives so that your teams can focus on the most important priorities. Failing and pet projects are ‘killed’ on a regular basis.
  8. Performance accountability. The executive committee are working as a genuine team to deliver the strategy, each with their own accountabilities, and review performance together on a regular (monthly) basis.

© Stuart Cross 2021. All rights reserved.