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  • Writer's pictureMark Hefner

How Many of Your Strategic Initiatives Deliver Expected Results?

Updated: Mar 16, 2019

My guess is that your answer is less than half or at least “not enough of them.” 

Delivering expected results on strategic initiatives on time, every time, is the hallmark of organizations that are best in the world at executing strategy, and they’re rewarded with a premium put on the value of their company. 

Organizations that can’t deliver on their strategic initiatives fail at executing their strategy, and organizations that fail at executing strategy will not survive. It is just that simple. Improving how your organization delivers strategic initiatives increases your ability to execute strategy and, therefore, should be one of your organization’s top business imperatives. 

Defining Strategic Actions 

Strategic initiatives are those high-priority actions taken by organizations to close the gap between their current performance and their future vision. These critically important initiatives generally meet the following criteria: 

1. Action(s) taken to move the organization towards achieving stretch goals defined in their future vision and strategy

2. Is expected to achieve significant/breakthrough improvement to business results and contribute to increasing the value of the organization 

3. Is a major change and departure from the current way of doing


4. Impacts a majority of stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, management) who will need to adapt to change for the initiative to be successful.

5. Has a temporary life: there is a defined start and completion date 

6. Requires significant investment of time, money, and people 

Companies invest billions of dollars every year on strategic initiatives that meet these criteria with less-than-impressive results. More than half of these are abandoned when failure appears to be inevitable. Only 4 in 10 add value beyond the investment made and the ROI on strategic initiative portfolios (the collection of strategic actions) typically delivers 60% less than originally expected. 

Strategic Intent Mindset 

Why? We believe it is because many organizations approach the planning and implementation of these strategic initiatives with a “field of dreams” mindset: “Build it, and they will come.” This way of thinking (installation) drives an approach that is focused on building and installing the right solution followed by a belief (leap of faith) that people and results will naturally follow. While that might work in Hollywood, I doubt you would want to bet your company’s future on it. 

Organizations that consistently deliver strategic initiatives and successfully execute strategy demonstrate a “results focused, strategic intent” mindset that drives an approach that is very different. A strategic results oriented mindset drives planning and implementation with a relentless focus on defining victory and achieving strategic outcomes.

This results-orientation leads to investing time at the beginning of every strategic initiative to be clear on intent in definable and measurable terms.

This, in turn, drives an approach to planning, managing, and implementing strategic initiatives that is not just focused on installing a solution, but also on what is required to realize the full intent behind the solution. This approach delivers strategic actions that produce breakthrough, sustainable results. 

What is the Prevalent Mindset in Your Organization (Four Pillars of Strategic Initiative Delivery)

So what is the mindset applied to managing strategic initiatives in your organization?  Take this little test, below we have provided a quick diagnostic to help you answer this question. We have organized a series of statements based on Power Navigation’s four pillars of strategic action delivery. These statements are expressed in the opposite direction desired to clearly illustrate the difference between an installation vs a results oriented mindset. If the statement describes how your organization approaches strategic initiatives, give yourself a score of 10. 10 represents high risk. If your organization approaches strategic initiatives in the completely opposite direction give yourself a 1, low risk.

Initiative Intent  

1. There is little or no strategic intent/value/business outcomes defined for the initiative 

2. There is not a clear and well articulated vision for the desired future “to be” realized  

3. Key leaders or key groups are not aligned and committed to the intent of the initiative 

4. There will be little or no pressure to compromise the intent of the initiative  

5. There are not any controls or process to prevent/manage “intent drift” 

Organizational Change Management 

1. Initiative plans do not include tasks to manage people through change  

2. The organization’s leaders are not prepared to be active and visible sponsors  

3. People in the organization are suffering from initiative overload and this has not been taken into plan consideration 

4. Key stakeholders who must support initiative realization have not been engaged  

5. Success requires substantial change to people’s mindset and behaviors, but an approach has not been identified to accomplish this.

Portfolio and Program Management  

1. Aggressive rollout plans provide no chance/time to focus on realizing sustained value  

2. Integration and interdependency issues associated with other strategic initiatives are not managed 

3. Iterative and rapid delivery approaches (agile) are not followed  

4. Adequate resources are not deployed (another night job) to realize results on schedule from initiatives 

5. Inaccurate, infrequent, inconsistent status reporting 

Governance and Risk Management

1. Teamwork and collaboration amongst leaders, initiative teams and key stakeholders are insufficient for success 

2. There is a lack of integrated participation from the business and support area leaders in providing oversite for strategic initiatives 

3. There is a lack of discipline to commit to a regular cadence of executive oversite meetings by the right level of leaders

4. Focus of governance activity is limited to budget, time, milestones and deliverables only 

5. Risks to realization of expected results are not understood, measured or proactively managed

What is Your Score?

I suspect your results from this quick assessment has identified that your organization has a little of both mindsets when it comes to managing strategic initiatives successfully.  The key to success is identifying where you have gaps and then making a conscious decision to close them. Whether your organization is facing the implementation of one major strategic initiative or a portfolio of them designed to achieve your business strategy, you can dramatically increase your success by adopting the results orientedmindset and focusing on the four pillars of strategic action delivery.  

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