Do You Have a Strategy Problem or a People Problem?

bigstock--158944250In a recent article from Harvard Business Review, Peter Bregman talks about how to solve the biggest strategy problem most organizations face. The issue, he posits, is NOT about “strategic thinking,” but rather about “strategic acting.” In other words, the best strategy in the world will be completely ineffective and will fail to achieve desired results without committed, skilled employees driving the execution of that strategy.

I’ve seen this time and time again in my work with clients. In my experience, the best and brightest executive team can hammer out a great strategy and plan (factoring in all the risks, opportunities and financial components) without really defining how to get the organization behind it. Bregman argues that most organizations over-rely on communications to make this happen; I completely and totally agree. Simply having an “if you build it they will come” mentality is a common mistake that can leave you frustrated and puzzled about why people seemingly haven’t bought in.

From a practical perspective, I’ve seen a number of barriers and obstacles that block successful execution. Some examples of typical barriers include:

  • Structural barriers – too many organizational silos, lack of systems and tools, process inefficiencies and lack of cross-functional communication
  • Cultural barriers – rewards and recognition systems that encourage the wrong behaviors, too much hierarchy that gets in the way, heavy bureaucracy that slows you down, unstated protocols that discourage risk-takers and original thinkers
  • Talent barriers – lack of effective leadership, management and teamwork; missing key skills/competencies, performance management systems that are mis-aligned
  • Engagement barriers – lack of understanding of the impacts of the change in strategy, no compelling “why,” employee resistance to change, shaky sponsorship, lack of input from frontline employees and customers

The good news? There are many simple, effective and practical levers you can pull to address each of these challenges. The key is to ensure that you understand where your challenges lie and the root cause behind each – and ensure that you have a proactive, effective plan in place to address them.

The full Harvard Business Review article can be found here.

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sbPResults.