The Five Most Common Mistakes in Implementing Strategies – and How to Avoid Them

Friday, 15. June 2018

A guest article by Milon Gupta

Having a good strategy is no guarantee for a successful business. The crucial thing is how organizations implement their strategies. And this is something a lot of organizations need to catch up with. In a survey by the consulting firm PwC, more than half (55 %) of the respondent managers expressed their concerns about implementing strategies being neglected in their companies. Lots of respondents (42 %) considered conflicting strategic priorities a problem. The last point shows that a lot of implementation issues are intrinsic because of insufficient strategy planning.

Frequently, constitutional strategy deficiencies don’t appear before the implementation has started to take place. In my experience, both, big enterprises as well as small companies, make the same mistakes in implementing. Checking your own organization regularly and self-critically is the only way to discern those and other mistakes in time and to avoid them.

1. Operative Goals Don’t Reflect the Strategy

Dartscheibe webLet’s assume your strategic goal is to increase your market share within a product segment up to 20 %. Your strategy may say that you want to reach this through product innovations and intensified marketing. Sounds great, but you leave it open how you intend to do that. You need to plan how to implement your strategy. You need to agree on operative goals with those who are concerned by them, and you need to measure progress, if you want to have a realistic chance to reach your strategic goal. Moreover, you need to integrate the according resources to reach those operative goals into your budget.

2. Managers are Not Promoting Implementation Sufficiently

In order to implement a strategy successfully, managers of all levels have to pull together and act in concert to promote and coordinate harmonized operative measures. Some organizations are unfortunately very far away from this. First of all, managers of different levels have different ideas about how to implement strategic goals.

In addition to that, some managers seem to believe that it’s enough to communicate the strategy or just a few of the operative goals to employees and from this point of time on, everything will just happen by itself. This would not even work if any employee was highly motivated and self-organized to implement the operative goals incorporated in the strategy. Because every strategy needs to be adjusted while implemented operatively. In order to do that you need managers who think strategically and who adjust operative goals if necessary.

3. There is Too Little Involvement of Employees

Team webIn lot of small and medium-sized enterprises strategy does only exist within the owner's or executive’s mind. In case he or she can communicate it consistently and comprehensibly, this might even work up to a certain company size. However, it frequently happens that managers below CEO-level respond very differently when asked about the enterprise strategy – some employees might also just shrug blankly.

In lots of enterprises that have a strategy there are lots of employees who don’t know, understand or accept this strategy. A strategy can however only be implemented effectively if employees don’t just know and understand it, but also work on implementing it in a motivated way. In order to make this possible, good communication running in both directions is required. Only if employees feel understood and involved, they will be motivated to implement their organization’s strategy.

4. The Strategy Is Being Implemented in an Inflexible Way and Without Consideration of Market Changes

A strategy should be imagined as marks on the way that leads towards the enterprise goals and not as fixed rails you cannot leave. When a strategy is being implemented too rigidly, the risk arises to disregard market factors like changes in demand and behavior of competitors – which will directly affect sales and profit. The art is not to throw strategic or operative goals over board whenever the market changes, but to identify overall changes in time and to act in a forward-looking way.

5. The Results of the Implementation Are Not Measured Effectively

calculator webIn order to be able to assess in how far the strategy has been implemented, effective operative and strategic controlling is needed. Operative controlling answers the question “Are we doing things right?” and strategic controlling answers the question “Are we doing the right things?”. The basis for both forms of controlling are data, which visualize the performance in terms of operative and strategic business goals. Without any effective controlling, you plan and implement your strategy completely in the dark.


In case you have recognized your company in one or several of the above mentioned aspects, you probably need to do something. It’s best to begin with an analysis of your enterprise strategy and how it is being implemented. My free strategy check-list will help you getting started. I’m looking forward to your feedback.

About the author

Milon Gupta Strategic Thinking webMilon Gupta is a freelance strategy expert and offers coaching, training, consulting and presentations about strategy development and implementation under the brand name Strategic Thinking since 2012. As a certified trainer he specializes in supporting leaders in their strategic decisions, for example by moderating strategy workshops and by training management teams. In addition, he consults organizations on the development and implementation of innovation strategies and leadership development programs. Find out more at