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Why Good Strategies -even with Good Execution- Can Still Fail
Randy Silver shares stories where different complications sunk what were originally solid strategies
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If you create a great strategy and communicate it properly, and have good people to execute it, what can possibly go wrong?
Well, as you can imagine, multiple layers of complexities can get in the way.
In this episode, Randy shared two stories where different company intricacies made good strategies fail. The learning will help you view your strategy process from a wider perspective and help you avoid these pitfalls.
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My takeaways from this episode
Strategies need to be funded. Randy had a great strategy, with an 8MM investment and over 20MM returns, but the executive who had to support the cost would not perceive it and was not aligned with the benefits that would be seen in other areas of the organization. This is an extreme case of stakeholder constraint that can make even the best strategy fail.
Between the lines of the first story, Randy shared an interesting truth: sometimes, you need to work more on fixing customer perception than the product itself. It reminded me of some MS Word stories in which customers will yell for not having a feature that, in fact, was already in the product.
As leaders in large organizations, we also need to be conscious of the bigger picture. Even if we have a strategy that delivers positive ROI, our bosses need to select what horse to bet on, and there may be bigger opportunities for them in other areas of the organization. My takeaways are: 1. Don’t get frustrated; complaining at this point would just be a sign of you not seeing the bigger picture. 2. Ask for the bigger picture! If you have clarity around higher-level goals, you can devise a strategy that supports the company-wide strategic bets.
For the build or buy decision, Randy went through a thorough analysis of current use cases and current capabilities. They compare the options: “Do nothing,” “Invest in the current system,” “Retire,” and “Vendor alternatives.”
In the second example, Randy shared a story of a potentially good strategy misaligned with investors and group synergies. In essence, the company wanted to niche down to bring rapid and valuable solutions to one market, but the parent company wanted to tackle their existing customers, which were larger enterprises that required other types of solutions. The crux of the issue was that they never settled down: the team kept executing, and they kept finding resistance, but they never made the hard choice. This is a classical problem of not really facing and deciding the necessary trade-offs and ending up with a half-baked strategy.
In the end, another force was at play: trust. Essentially the parent company did not trust the assessment that their request was not reasonable until someone whom the CEO trusted came and basically said the same.
As a final learning, Randy shared how many misalignments are, in reality, a problem of perspective. Facts don’t always defeat emotions, so aligning perspectives requires constructively collaborating.
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