A failure to launch: 5 failures to avoid in implementing strategy


Strategy is not enough

Rocket Launch
via NASA Images

I have been in a lot of meetings which produced strategies geared toward moving the organization closer to its goals. More often than not, the strategies that came from those meetings did not produce the desired result. In a very small percentage of the cases, the failure could be ascribed to a bad strategy, one that was out of touch with reality.

The far larger percentage of the time, the strategy failed, not because it was a poor strategy, but because the strategy was not implemented well.

Compared to implementation, strategy and planning are easy. But when the implementation becomes difficult, or if we encounter those who do not want the new strategy to work, inertia often takes over and the drive for change gets absorbed into the never ending morass of “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

Causes of poor implementation

Here are five causes of poor strategy implementation in an organization:

  1. Failing to define success. What does success look like for the organization and how are we going to measure it?
  2. Failing to understand the cause and effect relationships within the organization. How does work get done and how do the personalities involved see their role in the work?
  3. Failing to determine what training must need to be done so that the individuals involved have the required skills to accomplish the tasks. The gap between what the team needs to do and what they are currently able to do must be assessed. The assessment must be followed up with training to close the gap between required skills and current skills
  4. Failing to understand where the road blocks to implementation will be and how do we remove them or go around them.
  5. Failing to communicate the vision to the group at large so that they are excited about where the organization is going and want to participate in its success.

Strategy in the church

Strategy implementation in churches have often fared no better. A change in strategy that is exciting when it is announced can wind down into the same operational rut with little real change.

Church leaders should not run the church as a business and the method of responding to these five causes should be different in the church. That being said, the five causes do have to be addressed when contemplating a change in strategy.

In response to the five causes of failed strategic change, I would offer these considerations for how church leaders should respond.

  1. The definition of success in the church must be understood in the context of the mission that God has given us to make disciples.
  2. Church leadership must take into consideration the gifting of the people involved in ministry. We must seek God as to how he has gifted the people that he has brought together with the assumption that God will arrange the people and gifts so that they are complementary and fit together in a healthy organization.
  3. In the church setting, it is incumbent upon the leadership to show what skills and training will be required for the strategy to be successful and then provide the required teaching and skill building opportunities.
  4. Too often leaders in the church run over or squelch those who offer a dissenting voice. In some cases, there are those who are trouble makers, but it is more often the case that the “road block” is a well meaning individual who does not understand and is nervous about change. Those in the latter group need to be treated with respect and leaders must work doubly hard to bring them on board in support of the new strategy.
  5. The vision and strategy need to be clearly communicated and must be continually reinforced. If the new strategy is supported by Scripture and is truly the leading of God, then people will get on board and become excited about the strategy. This may take some time so consistency in the message is important.

Good strategy + bad implementation = MESS

Always keep in mind that a good strategy with bad implementation becomes mess. Not only must the vision be clear, it must be communicated and the people who need to implement the strategy must be informed, trained and in agreement for the strategy to move forward.

Does anyone want to share examples of how a good strategy fell flat because of poor implementation? (without naming names if possible)