I find Strategy as a subject, very interesting. It is made up by so many aspects, but more than everything, it is about understanding the environment in which one operates, being adaptive and forward thinking and being able to lead change.

The implementation of strategy is often where the strategy fails. It’s where everything ties together and everyone comes together to execute change. Needless to say, implementing a strategy in an organization is a demanding process and there are many challenges linked to it. In John P. Kotter’s article ´Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fails he brings up how to lead a change process in an organization and why it so easily fails. He does this by talking about the 8 stages in the change process, which are also the challenges and pitfalls.

Let’s tackle them one by one. Starting in this post with the 4 first stages/challenges of strategy implementation:

Before we start, we have to recognize that a process of change is made up by several stages that in total requires time to go through and also that leaving out one of the stages will only be an illusion of time saving and will never yield a good result. Also, any critical error in any one of the stages will have a potential destructive effect for the entire change process.

The very FIRST challenge is to establish a great sense of urgency. Not being able to convince the organization of how important and/or time critical the change is, can potentially put a stop to the entire process before it has even begun.The trick here is to make the status quo seem more terrifying than making a change for the new and unknown.

The SECOND challenge is to form a powerful coalition to lead the change process. If you don’t have this in place, than you will risk that sooner or later, the opposition might try to put a stop to the change process.  In organizations where the change process has been successfully executed, this coalition has often included powerful people in the organisation in the shape of their titles, expertise, rumor or network. One could argue that it is important that this group is powerful both by it’s size and the people included in it.

The THIRD challenge is to have a clear vision. If you don’t have a vision or the vision is unclear, the entire change process might just end up as a list of confusing and incompatible projects that might steer the organization in a completely wrong direction or no place at all. The same problem will occur if you have a vision, but you are not able to communicate it well.

This leads us to the FOURTH challenge, which is communicating the vision. One single meeting or one lousy email will not be enough to communicate a vision. You will need consistent messaging over and over again. The more communication, the better. Resistance often comes from not knowing, which you will be able to minimize with enough clear communication. In addition, one has to remember that the communication of a vision is not only oral or written, it is also shown by action. If the top management act in ways that is inconsistent with the vision, this will cause a feeling of inconsistency and thus jeopardize the entire communication of the vision. Always make sure that whoever is responsible for cascading information downwards in the organization has understood the vision themselves and that they convey a congruence with it, and not just act as a messenger.  It is all about using all available tools of communication,  ensuring that the vision is communicated in a consistent manner and that the leaders all live up to it with their words and actions.

Last but not least – Stay tuned for the 4 next challenges.