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Why Do Strategic Plans Fail? (And How To Avoid These Mistakes)

A strategic plan defines who you are as a business and lists concrete actions to achieve your goals. Strategic plans are complex and varied; and they can have many causes for failure. Often, there is usually more than one reason. In this article, we list some common contributors to strategic plans failing and how to avoid these mistakes.

Why do Strategic Plans Fail?

1) Goals vs. Objectives vs. Action vs. Strategy

Make sure your apples are apples. Often, an organizations priorities are not aligned. (in this example we see an organization reporting on a metric at a goal level).

Strategic plan definitions

Check out our blog on Strategic Plan Development for more clarity on terms and purposes of these critical elements.

In short goals, objectives, strategies actions an metrics are different things.

Here is an example of a goal from a recent client's existing plan: “To achieve $1 million in revenue in year 1”.

First of all, this is not a goal; this is a metric. But it can be reverse engineered. Consider this as a target and measure the actuals related to it. Then ask yourself why do you need that specific amount in those specific timeframes and you might start to derive some strategies and objectives.

Each company is unique, and these will likely not apply to you, but here are some of the outputs from our session:


  • Be fiscally sustainable


  • Maintain sufficient cashflow

  • Comply with legislation/tax requirements

  • Retain critical suppliers and contractors

  • Be profitable for shareholders

Each objective will have strategies underneath them.

Strategies for Maintain sufficient cashflow:

  • Financial management strategy

  • Marketing strategy

  • Business development strategy

  • Lead generation strategy

Actions or Projects fall under each Strategy/Portfolio, under Financial Management:

  • Develop financial management plan

  • Develop cashflow forecast

  • Develop capitalization table

  • Investor relations

Now that there is line of sight from the action to the goal we can select where the performance measures are located. Existing goal; To achieve $1 million in revenue in year 1, was then transformed to a financial metric. The metric 'consistently earn $85,000 in revenue per month' was placed into the financial management plan. With the intent of providing critical information as part of the overarching reporting framework.

Our Solution:

Get it right from the beginning, When undertaking roll-up reporting, if your data points (or apples) are not on the same scale of impact, your reporting and priorities will become skewed toward less important parameters. When developing your strategic plan, ensure that there is consistency across the board. Alternatively, hire a strategic consultant. They have the knowledge and expertise to help you define critical parameters.

2) Lack of focus and support

Another common reason why strategic plans fails is that the company fails to focus resources and efforts to support the strategy; in other words, they continue doing what they were doing before because longer range strategic goals need to be integrated into the operating plan.

Our Solution:

  1. 1) Get management buy-in (this extends past the senior executive team which mostly likely were the ones that created this strategic plan. Lack of management buy-in is one of the most common reasons why initiatives fails.

  2. Get ambassadors for this strategy (and these do not necessarily need to be management). Engaged junior employees that truly understand the strategy can be a great support to ensure the strategic plan is carried out.

3) Your teams do not understand the strategy

Sometimes the strategy is there, but the team that executes does not understand it clearly. Without the strategy guiding the team's actions, plans are sure to fail. Shockingly, a study by Harvard Business Review found that 95% of a company's employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy! If the employees are unaware of the strategy, they surely cannot help the organization implement it effectively.

Our Solution:

Frequent check-ins, team meetings, and individual feedback conversations can ensure that all team members are "rowing in the same direction". Bonus: these are also great to boost employee engagement.

4) Execution fails

There is a common saying: "a poor strategic plan well executed will outperform an excellent plan poorly implemented.” While a strategy may be solid, execution can fail for a number of reasons. This includes talent (point #2), resources (point #3), poor management, and poor company culture just too name a few.

Our Solution:

Understand the potential reasons why your strategic plan may fail. This can help you adjust your strategy to be proactive, instead of reactive if you do hit some bumps in the road.

5) The strategy is the wrong one

Plain and simple reason why strategic plans fail is that the strategy that was created is wrong. If your organization is developing a strategic plan but no one has the expertise, hiring an experienced strategic consultant is vital. One common example we see of a strategy going wrong is the one-dimensional mindset that is often taken: “If we execute action X, we will dominate the market.”

Our Solution:

Hire a strategic consultant. There are many benefits in hiring a strategic consultant, notably saving an organization time & money, having the expertise and knowledge, and bringing objectivity and transparency to decision making.

6) The market conditions used as assumptions for the strategy have changed

Markets change, and objectives & strategies will have to be adapted accordingly.

Remember that a strategic plan becomes effective when:

a) It is put into action as planned

b) Reviewed on a regular basis

c) Correction is made to adjust the changing dynamics

d) Has reasonable amount of time to be completed.

Our Solution:

Review the strategic plan often. Make changes accordingly. Ensure that your teams are aligned with these changes.


We hope that the tips provided within this article will help you achieve your strategic goals! If you are looking for business strategic consultants, feel free to contact iota consultants. We have a world class team that can help you optimize your strategic plans and business plans.

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