You embark down a strategic planning process, bring in a consultant and discuss the matter with your senior management team. Everyone comes to the same conclusion: your existing strategy will not work for the future. So you decide on a new strategy. It requires new core competencies, significant financial investment and possibly some leadership changes.
The strategic change scenario is pretty common. What is uncommon is a company’s success in implementing it. Unfortunately, the typical outcome is that change does not occur, and the company clings to its stale strategy.
Change requires commitment. Making a decision does not equal commitment to that decision. We all know that change is much easier to talk about than it is to execute. When a new strategy is introduced, the team seems to understand the reasons and is excited about a bold new future. Then reality kicks in. Inevitably, problems arise. Big problems. Little problems. Ultimately, when these problems occur, we are more willing to rethink the decision rather than address the problems.
As a strategic development coach, I have seen companies take years to come to consensus on a new strategy only to break their commitment a few months later.
The following are some of the common reasons why strategic change fails to occur:
- Overconfidence: Executive leadership overestimates their readiness to take the team forward.
- False consensus: Executive management fails to gain consensus among the leadership team. Everyone gives the nod and then maintains status quo.
- Shortsighted shortcuts: Relying inappropriately on “rules of thumb,” implicitly trusting the most readily available information, or anchoring too much on “facts” that support preconceived notions.
- Shooting from the hip: The plan to execute does not take into consideration all of the obstacles to success and/or all the necessary steps to achieve the desired outcomes.
- Poor communication: The mistaken belief that a group of smart people presented with exactly the same information will draw the same conclusions.
- Staffing: Inability to embrace and support new people, or lack of understanding of the behaviors, skills and values required of each position to take the company forward.
- Fooling yourself with feedback: Failing to interpret the evidence from outcomes for what it really says, either because you are protecting your ego or because you are tricked by hindsight.
The bottom line is that change is hard and requires focus, a detailed and disciplined process, people development, and mental toughness. However, the most important key to your change initiative is your commitment to your decision.
Howard Shore is a strategic development coach who works with companies that need leadership development and strategic business coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic development coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at (305) 722-7213 or email him.