It’s not the ideas.  Those are probably fine.

It’s not the planning process.  That was probably fine, too.

If your strategy is stuck, it’s an execution problem, and it’s likely due to one of the following:

  1. There is foot dragging or sabotage because you didn’t get true buy-in.
  2. The crystal clear road map is neither crystal clear nor well-mapped. You didn’t get specific enough on the What, Who, How, and When.
  3. People who said yes to taking on responsibilities aren’t actually able to take them on effectively. Their intentions were great but their bandwidth is not.
  4. There is too much responsibility placed on too few and the lifting for those few is unduly heavy.
  5. There weren’t check-ins, measures, and mile markers (how are we going to know this is working?) established at the outset to evaluate progress and tweak the plan as necessary.
  6. There are unreasonable expectations placed on time frames, creating loss of momentum and morale.
  7. The picture is too big and the effort diluted. There wasn’t sufficient identification and focus on the 1-2 levers that would make the greatest difference overall.
  8. The future is too distant. 5 years can be inspirational but what do you want to see happen in the next 1-3?
  9. Among those responsible for implementation, there is more concern with credit rather than results, and there is lack of cooperation and cohesion on the team.
  10. Your culture and strategy aren’t aligned and therefore you have one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas.

I have yet to be in a room with a group of talented senior executives who couldn’t generate enough ideas to create a robust strategy.

But I have seen many instances where execution was lost to one or more of the ten points above.

Effective strategy is one part ideation and two parts implementation.


For more on working with me directly to address your most critical strategic priorities:  My next openings are in January.

Sarah Levitt is a trusted guide to the c-suite who works with CEOs, senior executives slated for promotion at leading organizations, and senior leadership teams.  She is the author of the book Magnificent Leadership, creator of The Making Magnificence Project®, and consults and speaks to a broad range of clients, including Harvard Kennedy School of Government, BASF Corporation, Ultimate Software, and American Bankers Association.  She is also a coach in the elite Executive MBA program at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.