42nd Street Company (#42stc)

Why strategies fail!

By on April 1, 2015

In todays (01-Apr-2015) version of the Danish newspaper ‘Berlingske Business’ there is a piece on why strategies fail. The root cause seems to be simple: Management knows too little about what is going on. The piece is based on an interview with Don Kieffer, formerly Harley-Davidson. BBStrategy01Apr2015

A 3-step recipe is offered: 1) dedicated leadership; 2) high degree of clarity as to which problems should be solved; 3) small, gradual changes.

The magic key is: follow-up. Constantly monitoring and checking that you are actually getting closer to the goal. Constantly documenting success with the changes.

(From Berlingske Business, p. 10, 01-Apr-2015: ‘Derfor kikser det med nye strategier’)

Some comments:

In the March-2015 HBR edition there is focus on the difficulty of strategy implementation. It seems to be a major theme for a lot of companies. In the technology business it is part of a wider problem … ‘the need for speed’.

If management does not know what is going on,
if there is too much going on, and
if there is a need to change what is going on at a higher pace
… no wonder an increasing number of organizations feel a bit stressed.

I believe that part of the solution lies in understanding what business agility requires at the tactical level – where strategy meets execution.

Not knowing what is going on is in part an issue of visibility, which is one of the fundamental aspects of achieving agility.

Business agility requires: 1) visibility; 2) comparability of ongoing activities; 3) balanced load/capacity utilization.

The piece quoted above concerns visibility, but the two other factors are equally important. You often find companies which are not able to prioritize one activity against another. And, especially knowledge working operations are often kept in a state of ‘constant indigestion’. There is simply too much going on.

Unfortunately agility at the tactical level is often misunderstood and there are no good bodies of knowledge for how to implement it well. The strategic level takes it too easily for granted – aka the piece quoted above. The operational level often makes it too complicated and takes the approach of piling scrum teams on top of each other under the heading of ‘scaling agile’.

Consequently the question of how
to achieve agility at the tactical level
is one of the most important questions
for a lot of companies just now!

It doesn’t need to take long: Don Kieffer states that it takes 18 months to change the production in a company. In a knowledge working organization it’s different. The impact of the right decisions are immediate. You can make dramatic changes instantly by following the 3-step recipe: 1) make visible; 2) make comparable; 3) explicitly balance load to capacity. This has been demonstrated over and over again, but the true impact of this opportunity is in most cases left untapped because of organizational levels talking across each other- a huge wasted opportunity; a huge opportunity for introducing agility at the tactical level.



=== Dilbert say’s it all – about the difficulty of implementing strategies: http://dilbert.com/strip/2012-10-29