Why does Strategic Planning fail?

 A staggering 67% of strategic plans fail. Why do companies fail at strategic planning? There are three stand out reasons:

  • Companies miss a major strategic shift or industry disruption.
  • Leaders identify a change but do not develop the right strategic response.
  • Businesses define a winning strategy but fail to execute it effectively.

To increase the odds of success in today’s turbulent environment, leading companies have added a dynamic discipline to their strategic planning process. In my book, De-mystifying the road to Change, part 3 introduces the vital ‘Making it Stick’ stage. This dynamic stage, also referred to as ‘always-on strategy’, is ongoing. It requires constant measurement, reassessment and a willingness to change direction or priorities as needed (despite what was agreed).

A commitment to ‘making it stick’ gives companies a systematic way to scan for signs of disruption and explore unexpected changes to the strategic environment, adjust and keep moving forward.

Businesses need to build their reporting, communication and meeting calendar’s to allow timely review, discussion and decision making. There must be a way of identifying pressing strategic issues or market changes, formulating a leadership response and moving forward with a focus on speed and impact.

Successful Strategic Planning

A successful strategic planning process requires commitment to 4 basic principles:

Strategic Planning Needs Implementation

It’s harder to implement a plan than to formulate it and this is why 67% of strategic planning processes fail . Without diligent and relentless implementation, the plan can not be effective. Good strategic ideas and direction are key, but the hardest things are:

  • Turning those ideas into an implementable plan – something that you can consistently manage, track, and evolve.
  • Getting everyone on the same page – at launch stage and then regularly throughout execution.
  • Integrating the work into business as usual process so it becomes seemless.

Organisational Culture

Great businesses establish a culture of communication, accountability, and one that embraces the opportunity for positive change. These elements are the difference between a successful strategic planning process and a frustrating 2-steps forward, 2-steps back process. Unfortunately, most businesses are not good at communicating and handling change.

High performing businesses make a point of:

Communicating the strategy.

Make it visible and ensure people know where and how they fit in. Update the business regularly and talk about what’s going well and what isn’t. Even if people don’t understand every element, there should be a key target that everyone in the organisation understands and can easily see how they are contributing to that goal..

Leaders owning the objectives and activities in your plan.

Build an ‘accountability culture’. If you’ve agreed on a plan, the leaders need to take responsibility for what’s in it. Taking true ownership of getting these things done may mean other actions need to be dropped or demoted. Leaders need to support each other and the business by encouraging these hard decisions so the business is fully aligned to the one goal and accountabilities are clear.

Creating the environment for change.

It’s hard to embrace change if you:

  • Don’t feel the full impact has been thought through.
  • Think that the Board/CEO or Owner will ‘change their mind in 6 months anyway’.
  • Don’t think that there will be the necessary support and collaboration.

This falls back onto the issues of leadership, culture and commitment to a dynamic, fully integrated planning process focused on long term success.

Strategic Planning Performance and Monitoring

If you don’t monitor and track your decision and actions, you will not succeed. Organisations successfully implement their strategies through forcing themselves to create something implementable, having a formal mechanism for monitoring that implementation, and then being honest with themselves about what is actually getting done, how well it is getting done, what needs to be refined to get back on track or what needs to be re-defined to respond to a market change.


Planning is not a hope project.  A strategic plan provides a business with the road map it needs to pursue a specific direction, set performance goals, deliver customer value, and be successful. The strategic plan is just a plan and doesn’t guarantee that the desired performance will be reached just like a road map doesn’t guarantee you will arrive at the desired destination.  Successful execution of an organisation’s strategic plan requires strong leadership. There are many moving parts that need to be relentlessly co-ordinated, communicated, measured and reviewed.

The success rate of strategy execution is low because of one or more of the following problems:

1. Unclear communication

2. No or insufficient communication

3. Lack of commitment

4. Insufficient or inadequate resources

5. Isolated and fragmented actions

6. Ambiguous or conflicting goals

7. No or unclear strategy

8. No clear priorities

9. Ambiguous responsibilities

10. Lack of performance information

11. Silo behaviour

12. Wrong or ineffective culture

13. Resistance to change

14. Over-complexity

15. Insufficient management capabilities

16. Delays and lack of urgency

17. Budget is exceeded

18. Lack of middle management support

19. Strategy is inflexible

20. Poor leadership

I love working with entrepreneurs and leaders to develop the purpose, vision and values for their business. I then support them to create a plan forward and a change-ready team aligned with that vision and focused on long term success.

My book, ‘Demystifying the Road to Change’, is a ‘go-to’ guide to setting businesses up for long term success. Following my 3 stage, step-by-step process, you’ll discover

  • Why past attempts to reboot your business slid to a halt.
  • How to power through the roadblocks and keep moving ahead.
  • What to do, when to do it, and how to execute every stage to achieve your business dreams.
  • How to create a dynamic culture that people want to be a part of.
  • A step-by-step pathway, complete with templates and checklists to take you and your leadership team through a collaborative process.
  • How to set your business up for long-term growth.

If you would like to find out more or discuss your specific business, I would love to have a chat .