There’s almost nothing more discouraging than watching a business strategy fail in spectacular fashion. At first, there’s only denial: This can’t be right. Let’s give it a chance to work. Just a little longer. Eventually, though, you’re forced to admit the ugly truth: your strategy let you down. Maybe you head straight to Sonic and drown your sorrows in a cherry limeade (or the beverage of your choice.)
But did the strategy fail? Was it hopelessly flawed from the start? Maybe not. In my experience, the root cause of failure isn’t always with the strategy itself. Instead, it’s more often a lack of alignment with your business model. Without this alignment, even the best strategy can’t possibly deliver the results you’re hoping for.
In colloquial terms, your strategy wrote a check your business model couldn’t cash, because it wasn’t updated and adapted to support those strategic goals. I’ve witnessed this weakness quite a few times over the years, particularly in organizations shifting from a retail to a customer-centric mindset and model.
Here are a few of the most common misalignment scenarios:
Examples of Misalignment
- Internal resources/assets aren’t properly adjusted and allocated to support the strategy
- Fulfillment capabilities aren’t adequate and appropriate for e-commerce
- Inventory requirements aren’t adjusted
- Personnel haven’t been trained to ship by box, rather than by pallet
- Investments in digital marketing are weak or nonexistent, which makes it difficult to connect with consumers
- Lack of proficiency with CRM limits your access to customer data
Whether the problem was with resource allocation, lack of personnel or some other issue, the outcome was predictable. Strategy is never self-sustaining, and without support, collapse is inevitable.
Achieving Closer Alignment: A Brief Checklist
Perhaps you’ll decide to work on your business model and give the strategy another shot. Or maybe you’ll scrap it and start over. Whichever path you choose, ask yourself these questions for better results next time:
- Is your entire organization on board?
- Can everyone explain their part of the strategy and how it impacts their duties?
- Is each team member accountable for results?
- Do you have the right personnel in place?
- Is training adequate?
- Are you measuring progress on goals?
- Are the goals realistic, given your capabilities? If not, what are you doing to increase those capabilities?
- Is your communication process simple and efficient, or are you plagued by bottlenecks and other breakdowns in communication?
It’s no secret that most strategies fail, but resist the knee-jerk impulse to blame your strategy first. Instead, assess the failure in context. Ask yourself where and when your business model failed to match your objectives. Connecting all those moving parts isn’t easy, but without effective coordination, you’ll never make progress on strategic initiatives. Sometimes strategy really is flawed, but more often than not, it simply isn’t supported.