top of page

90% of Strategic Plans Fail…

The Other 10% Live Their Strategy!

If you are engaging in a strategic planning process in the coming year, be on guard. According to the experts, 67% to 97% of such efforts fail! This is consistent with the reports we hear from many clients who are frustrated at their organizations propensity to generate great ideas… and fall short on implementation.

In our strategic planning work with clients we focus on six key steps that lead to successful implementation, to people living the plan:

  1. Simplify it

  2. Lead it

  3. Measure it

  4. Own it

  5. Integrate it

  6. Live it!


1) Simplify it!

Many plans are complicated, multi-page documents with way too many areas of focus. This results in them getting “put on the shelf” or in a folder in the cloud and forgotten about.

Keep your plan to one page. The discipline of boiling it down to one page ensures that it can command the sort of focus required for periodic monitoring and effective implementation.


2) Lead it!

The product or output of most strategic planning processes is a set of strategies, initiatives, measures, etc. that are written down in a document. The document is seen as the “deliverable” from the strategic planning process. As we see it, the output of an effective process is that each member of the organization adopts the goals of the plan as their own goals.

The job isn’t to write a plan. The job is to enroll people across the organization in the plan.

Leadership, as we define it, is to “generate a future that people take on as their own.” The strategic planning process is a platform for leadership, an opportunity to evoke personal commitment throughout the organization. The plan becomes a “grass roots” movement because once people take the goals of the plan on as their own, they will begin to take actions on their own that forward the plan.


3) Measure it!

Only after people have taken the plan on as their own can measures be developed. And they must be developed because if people have taken on the qualitative goals of the plan as their own goals, they will see the measures as a way to document progress toward something they see as important. And great leaders create an enthusiasm within their teams where everyone is excited about the future that the strategic plan will help make possible.

We have all heard, “what gets measured gets managed.” This is particularly true for implementing new strategies. Declaring key performance indicators that measure the outcome or results of the strategy is critical.

Many organizations use process indicators that measure compliance with or the efficiency or effectiveness of a process. Process indicators can be very informative and powerful if used in conjunction with or in the context of outcome indicators that reflect the outcome or results.

Measuring results is the only real gage of effectiveness, as results inform users of their progress toward the organizations mission, departmental goals and strategic goals. Measuring only process goals may feel safer to some because people can be assured that “I am doing it right” but only outcome measures really inform users as to whether they are “getting the job done.”

Any initiative to develop effective KPIs should always begin with outcome measures. There are 2 distinct types of outcome indicators: lagging indicators and leading indicators.

Lagging indicators measure the ultimate success or failure of the goal at the conclusion of activities. Leading indicators measure the potential success or failure well in advance of the ultimate (lagging) outcome measure.


4) Own it!

Every strategic goal and initiative within the plan must be owned by one champion who is accountable and is given the requisite authority for effective implementation. Typically, it is a member of the executive team.

When two people are accountable, it doesn’t double that accountability, it dilutes it by at least 50%. If no one is accountable, individually, your chances of a successful implementation are reduced to almost zero.

The champion then must generate understanding of the strategy and commitment to it throughout the organization. People throughout the organization must see how their function is impacted and how it improves their ability to be of service. They must own it too. In this way, the strategy comes to life throughout the organization.


5) Integrate it!

Any plan that gets developed must become part of the operating plan that guides daily accountability and activity. The measures must be integrated with the organization’s budget, annual targets and plans. Then it must be broken down and incorporated into each manager’s performance measures. Failure to fully integrate the operating plan will produce confusion rather than clarity.


6) Live it!

Following the steps outlined above will lead to people within the organization living the plan… adopting it as their own and creating real and effective change within the organization. Once such a plan is in place and “living” it must be revisited periodically (and not just a review of accountability for the measures).

As time goes by two things happen:

  1. experience with the strategy creates new insights for the team and

  2. the environment changes.

Therefore, the living plan must be an iterative process, it must be continually challenged, vetted, and modified to remain relevant and viable.


We’d love to help. We’re happy to review your existing strategic plan and provide complimentary (i.e. free) feedback. Or if you want to learn more about our unique approach to strategy, shoot us an email or schedule a call.



Core Idea:

In order to make your teams stick to a plan, it's important to practice the 6 steps for effective implementation: simplify it, lead it, measure it, own it, integrate it & live it.

Key take away:

The job isn’t to write a plan. The job is to enroll people across the organization in the plan.

About the author(s):

Tom Willis is a Co-Founder and Partner with Phoenix Performance Partners. He had the great honor of serving as CEO for Cornerstone; a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers; and an engineer with the Intel Corporation. His life is all about helping others uncover their talents so they can reach their unlimited potential and their organization can thrive.

| Linkedin: Tom

Brad Zimmerman is a Co-Founder and Partner with Phoenix Performance Partners. Zimmerman turned to organizational coaching more than 26 years ago following a successful career in sales and operations. Today, he helps businesses, nonprofits and other organizations develop cultures that transform work environments so people grow and the organizations thrive.

| Linkedin: Brad


Subscribe to our newsletter

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page