Your Strategic Plans: “Dead Sea Scrolls” or “Magic Carpet”

I had a real ear-bending (that’s a polite English term for arse-chewing) from a CEO a while back when I mentioned he might want to rethink his strategy.  He got all red in the face, jumped up and pointed to a bookshelf filled with documents, all neatly bound. They looked like expensive consulting reports.

“See all those?” he shook his finger at the bookshelf.  “10 years of strategic plans, competitor analyses and market surveys, prepared by the best and brightest consulting firms money can buy.  You don’t want to know how much those cost this firm.”  He sat down and sighed.  “I’m embarrassed to say that while they are probably excellent plans, we haven’t been able to implement very well.  We are still struggling for market share and our new breakthrough products are lost somewhere in ‘never-never-released’ land. So please don’t talk to me about a new strategy!”

There is no strategy without implementation . . .

Sadly, this is not a one-off incident.  I often hear senior executives lamenting about poor execution.  They feel their strategic plans are more akin to the Dead Sea Scrolls than a Magic Carpet.

Over the past three years I have been researching and talking to senior executives about why seemingly good strategies fail to get delivered.  I’ve come up with five or six key barriers to effective implementation.  And the unfortunate thing is, they all seem to be evident at once, creating a “perfect storm” that pushes most execution efforts onto the jagged reef.

You might be familiar with some of these barriers in your organization:

  • Execution is usually an afterthought rather than an integral part of strategy formulation
  • Corporate culture is a major cause of poor strategic delivery
  • Governance of strategic initiatives is notoriously lacking
  • Poor teamwork at the top and “Silo Focus”
  • Too many “disconnected” initiatives increase costs and waste time and assets
  • Less than 5% of employees have knowledge of or understand the strategic objectives

As a result, many companies often look like this; lot’s of activity but not always moving in the same direction.

Want to improve your ability to deliver?  Want to implement the good strategic plans you’ve got?

Spend some time rethinking your business processes, build a culture of execution, and realign the focus of your senior team and you can turn the Dead Sea Scrolls into your own Magic Carpet!

There is no strategy without implementation. . . and there is no implementation without leadership!

Tight Lines . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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