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Avoid the Five Routes to Strategic Failure

by Nilofer Merchant  |  
June 9, 2009

Disconnects are a big cause of strategy failure. You think you've communicated well, then find out you have—just not to your target audience. Or maybe at the end of a long research session, you realize that input from colleagues in the company's Ohio office was critical to your strategy, yet was overlooked in favor of input from more-assertive colleagues in the New York office.

There are five major disconnects that consistently trip up strategy implementation:

1. A Noninclusive Interpretation Process

Everyone should be familiar with this one. You spend lots of time doing an audit, gathering data, and refining your questioning. There's a lot at stake, and you have included and filtered and are ready to present data that you know will make the difference in getting the strategy implemented. Things look good.

But wait. You were less than inclusive in vetting the relevance and meaning of that data as perceived by the VPs in the organization. Or the strategy is budget-intensive and no one from Finance was included in your information-gathering. Maybe you purposely didn't include Jay, your mortal enemy, even though you knew he held valuable information, because you thought it might derail acceptance of the strategy.

The cost. When the right people aren't included in the decision-making process, context gets lost. Key decision-makers don't understand the situation. Impractical approaches get used. The "wrong" problem gets fixed.

Make certain you include people from the appropriate levels and business units within the organization, some who are new to the organization, and several who have been with the company long enough to know "where the bodies are buried." And be sure to include any expected naysayers.

2. Ideas That Aren't Vetted

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Nilofer Merchant is the CEO of Rubicon Consulting (, a strategy and marketing consultancy based in Silicon Valley that solves complex business challenges for high-tech companies.

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  • by SarahResults Smith Tue Jun 9, 2009 via web

    Coming from the ad/marcomm agency world, I can immediately relate to the challenges agencies have in strategically positioning themselves. When addressing a client's problem, they'll typically reach across all audiences and stakeholders for input. Yet for their own brand, they'll not look beyond their own walls to survey those clients they've won, and lost. Right out of the shoot they've violated #1, the need for an inclusive interpretation process. As Maslow, self-examination can lead to greater self-actualization and greater success.


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