In practise, the problem is threefold:
- Senior management often don’t walk the talk. The poster on the wall says customers come first but that only applies when it doesn’t cost the company anything. To understand whether the strategy has real teeth, ask yourself what the opposite of the stated strategy is. Many strategies are no more than motherhood statements. For example, claiming to cut costs, expand the business, have world class customer service, delivered with uncompromising quality – oh and all while maximising profits! If your strategy cannot guide you in making the hard choices it’s not a strategy.
- There are often far too many goals and objectives, and therefore adequate resources cannot be allocated to the projects. Managers plan their objectives when at an offsite meeting, forgetting the pressures and demands of staff just doing their day jobs. Where companies choose a few critical objectives to pursue in a finite time, they have far more chance of delivering actual business results.
- There is insufficient alignment of the goals up, down and across the business. Worthwhile goals can seldom be achieved by an individual department. Support is needed from other departments such as operations, sales or from back-office functions. Failure to get buy-in and commitment from all the stakeholders that could affect success leaves the projects aimed at achieving the objectives frustrated and without real progress. Learning how to align goals up, down and across the business is a critical management skill!