In my work with mid-market companies across New Zealand and Australia, I am often asked to help solve problems related to business strategy. Through my experience, I’ve identified three common frustrations that mid-market business leaders typically experience. These include:
- Lack of Alignment with Vision and Strategy:
One of the most common concerns encountered is when business leaders have a strategy and vision for their company, yet they struggle to get their leadership teams aligned and on board. They say to me:
“Leigh, I have a strategy; I have a vision. However, my leadership team does not understand it and cannot see it. How do I get them aligned to my strategy and on board with the strategy”.
SalesStar shared this frustration as they experienced rapid growth without proper direction, then eventually saw their growth plateau. Read Case Study.
- Uncertainty in Navigating the Path to the Vision:
Another common frustration is when business leaders have a clear vision for the future of the company but feel uncertain about how to reach it. Many senior leadership teams grapple with the path forward and the steps required to translate their vision into reality. I often hear:
“Leigh, I have a vision for my company in the future. However, as a leadership team, we are uncertain of how to get there”.
This held true for Touchpoint Group. Whilst the leadership team agreed on the long-term strategy for the company, there were vastly differing opinions on how to achieve that vision. Read Case Study.
- Results Falling Short of Expectations:
A third frustration centres around executing a strategy that seems solid on paper, but the actual results fall short of expectations. Despite your team’s confidence in executing the strategy, the anticipated outcomes are not happening as they should. I often hear:
“Leigh, we have a strategy, and we feel we are good at executing it. However, we are simply not getting the results that we expected. What have we not got right?”
Why Do These Challenges Arise?
Based on my experience and interactions with CEOs and mid-market business leaders, I’ve identified several shared underlying factors:
Lack of Senior Leadership Involvement in Strategy Setting
One core issue I’ve uncovered is the lack of direct involvement from the senior leadership team when it comes to shaping the company’s strategy. This can create big challenges in the future.
When your leadership team collaborates and works together to set the strategy, it ensures that everyone understands and commits to the plan. This alignment makes execution smoother and more effective.
Your leadership team is also close to the market and your customers. They have a deep understanding of the market and obstacles in the way of achieving the growth and vision. Their involvement adds value to the process.
Note: Setting strategy is not a role for the board of directors. While your board of directors play a vital governance role, crafting the strategy requires a deep understanding of market dynamics that your senior/executive leadership teams are best positioned to provide.
Fluffy and Ill-Defined Strategy Elements
The next challenge arises when the strategy lacks specifics and is built on assumptions rather than solid research, facts, and data. The work that should have been done to understand these elements may not have been carried out or done well.
This results in a business strategy that is vague and influenced by personal agendas, rather than one that is grounded in facts and made with a clear understanding of the company’s challenges.
Confusing Plans with Strategy
The third challenge happens when business leaders confuse plans for strategy.
I am often told that company has financial goals and targets and have created goals or priorities to achieve them. This is a plan, not a strategy.
Good strategy begins with recognising the challenge the company has in achieving its vision. Then understanding the obstacles that need to be overcome or removed to achieve the vision.
Strategy provides long-term, medium-term, and short-term direction for a company, establishing a line of sight into the future. A strategic approach clarifies what the company should be doing, what they should not do, what difference the company is making in the world, and how the company differentiates itself from its competitors.
I discuss strategy in more detail in my monograph Radical Alignment to a Core Strategy.
Gauge the effectiveness of your strategy.
You know your company strategy is working, when with good execution, the strategy is driving top-line revenue growth and influences strong bottom line profit results above your industry average.
Ask the questions below of your company or organisation, with a yes or no.
- Does my company’s strategy offer a distinctive and valuable market position that can be stated in a single phrase?
- Is the competitive landscape map both up-to-date and visually illustrative of the organisation’s key differentiators?
- Do we have a map of key activities which shows the alignment of operational systems, processes, and sub-activities.
- Has the company’s core economic engine been clearly identified for successful scaling?
- Has the company’s core competencies, which represent its strengths and strategic advantages, been defined and are they continuously refined?
- Are these competencies, resources, and capabilities difficult for competitors to replicate, imitate, or acquire?
- Have the qualitative and quantitative targets for the next 10+ years and 3 years been identified and communicated to internal stakeholders?
Developing and implementing a strategy isn’t a quick process; it requires time, effort, and dedication. However, the returns on these investments can be substantial. While some companies might grow without a strong strategy, most experience average results, see growth slow, stop, and in some cases decline over time.
If you find your company facing challenges such as those described above, or if your strategy fails to drive revenue growth and industry-leading profits, it’s a sign that it’s time to revisit your strategy.