Not so obvious signs that your strategy needs work

What are some of the signals that indicate that you may have a problem with how you have defined your future direction?

There are obvious signs that a strategy is not worth the PowerPoint slide deck that it was dumped onto, and then there are not so obvious signs that your strategy needs work.

Some of the most obvious signs that something is amiss with your strategy are that the business is consistently missing targets, struggling to attract new and retain old customers, has a growing list of failed product and project launches staring you in the face and you are fielding complaints from staff about a lack of clarity as to where the business is heading.

Slightly less obvious signs are a notable lack of cohesion and collaboration between departments, high rates of staff turnover, failed attempts at strategy implementation, slow decision-making, defensiveness and tangible evidence of organisational time-wasting (i.e. huge amounts of work gets done on projects, which ultimately yield zero benefit).

Then there are the NOT so obvious signs that your strategy needs work.

  • People in the organisation talk a lot about 'the good old days'. How great things were in days gone by; the awards that used to be won, the friendships that at one point were strong, the ideas and campaigns that existed previously. The organisation's past looks better than its future meaning that the future vision (if it even exists) is not capturing much needed buy-in internally.
  • The company is carrying a growing amount of 'dead weight'; people who are more of a drain than they are of value. These are staff that hold onto old projects and work. They can also be identified as team members who are openly divisive and antagonistic towards others. Culturally the organisation is creating the conditions under which this kind of toxic behaviour can manifest. If people have time to defend their old turf, they're obviously not actively involved in building what comes next. The less sure people are of where they are heading next, the more vigorously they will hold onto the past.
  • Your best-selling product today was first introduced more than 15 years ago. Innovation is more of a buzzword than a serious pursuit and the business has fallen into simply managing an aging portfolio of old winners rather than focusing on delivering the next batch of revenue-generating hits.
  • Excessive meetings. Excessive meetings not only waste time, but may be a signal that there is an underlying lack of clarity as to what needs to be done that people might not even be aware of. If you don't have a clear strategy, but give staff a mandate to work 8-hours a day - they will automatically fill that time with 'busy-ness' (proof that they are working and justifying their monthly salary) not necessarily applying their efforts towards creating an ideal future state. Meetings are an excellent 'busy-ness' tool and a red flag if the frequency and duration of them are excessive. The rule of thumb is... 'the less important an issue is to the future of the business, the more time managers spend discussing it.'

You can try to fix these issues in many different ways, but they exist most probably because you are lacking a good organisational developmental thesis to disprove.

You are short of a strong theory as to how you can best serve the future needs of your existing and future customers. In its absence, the emergence of tell-tale behaviour is you indicator that without clear direction people act in predictable ways.

Your strategy needs work.