5 Strategy Mistakes That Will Derail Your Business

April 24, 2017

These are common mistakes organizations make with their strategic plans that hurt their ability to execute.

Once a year (at least), the leaders of an organization usually meet to set their strategy for the next 12 months or so.

These are important conversations. Because the decisions that come out of those meetings will directly impact the day-to-day life of nearly every employee within the organization, as well as where resources and new headcount will be allocated.

So you want to get these strategic planning sessions right. But, too often, these sessions devolve into analysis by paralysis or become too cumbersome or, worst of all, a plan is created but never actually followed.

How do you ensure that doesn’t happen? It comes down to recognizing when your strategic planning is becoming unproductive and then course correcting.

To help you, Instructor Mike Figliuolo, in his LinkedIn Learning course Strategic Planning, listed five telltale signs that your strategic plan is getting off-track. If your strategic plan has any of these five qualities, it might be time to rethink things.

Those signs are:

1. Initiative proliferation.

This can be summed up as trying to do too much.

Is the list of initiatives you want to accomplish for the year longer than a page? Than you are almost certainly trying to accomplish too much, which will likely mean you'll accomplish nothing at all.

That’s not to say there aren’t many areas your organization could improve in. But the reality is your organization can only take on a handful. So it comes down to ruthless prioritization.

Which are the absolute most important initiatives your organization can take on? While there’s no set amount and it can vary depending on the size of the tasks, five or is a good number. That’ll allow your team to focus in on those five and knock them out of the park, as opposed to doing twenty things half-heartedly.  

2. Thinking too small.

The whole point of strategy sessions is to take a step back to determine what’s really important for the business moving forward. So yes, you obviously want to increase sales by 5 percent, but your people are likely already trying to do that.

Instead, it’s time to ponder bigger questions: are you going after the right people? Do you need to build a new feature to widen your market? Do you need to change the way you are running marketing campaigns?

Every day, your people look to get better at their core tasks. Strategy should be about questioning what their core tasks should be and seeing if there are some big bets you can take to really amplify your business. Bottom line, if you are accomplishing all your strategic goals each year, they probably aren’t big enough.

3. Thinking too big.

Here’s the other side of the spectrum. Yes, it would be great for Oprah, Lebron James and Leonardo DiCaprio to stand in the middle of Times Square, shouting how great your product is.

But is it realistic?

Ideally, your strategic plan should have a couple of big bets. But if your strategic plan is nothing but big bets that have a low likelihood of succeeding, you are going to demoralize your people and ultimately accomplish nothing.

The key is finding a mixture of one or two big bets coupled with several other smaller ones, as that’ll maximize your chances of accomplishing them.

4. “Starving the children.”

Say you have a successful product, along with several smaller strategic bets. The easy money is to invest heavily in the successful product line, as those dollars have the most predictable and likely ROI.

The problem with this approach, as Figliuolo describes it, is it’s “starving the children.” Yes, that approach might make your strong product stronger, which is important. But it also caps your company’s total addressable market (TAM) and limits its growth.

Of course, you don’t want to go the other way either and risk your bread-and-butter being lost to disruption. But, if are making strategic bets, it’s critical you fund them accordingly. Otherwise, you might as well not make them at all.

5. Falling prey to the “random initiative generator.”

You might have a list of initiatives that all seem to make sense on their own. But then it’s time to sit back and ask yourself, do they make sense together?

In other words, is there a central theme or two that tie up all your initiatives? Because if there isn’t, those initiatives can actually work against each other.

For example, say you want to reach a new market while also getting more ROI on your marketing budget. While both make sense in a vacuum, the reality is to open up a new market, you are going to need to test several marketing strategies. And that testing will work against your other goal of getting tighter on ROI, as testing by definition requires trial and error.

Additionally, the market doesn’t see your company as a collection of parts. Instead, it sees it as one monolith, regardless how many business lines or products you have. Therefore, you want the message to customers across all your product lines be consistent, or else you’ll likely have no message at all.

Tying it all together

Strategy is hugely important. But you know what’s just as important?


In other words, sometimes the ideas aren’t as important as how well you execute those ideas. But if you have too many plans, the plans are too grand or not grand enough, the plans have no central theme or the plans ignore key parts of your business, it’s going to handcuff your ability to execute your strategy.

This list can help you avoid that. By focusing on a few, aligned tasks, you greatly increase your chance of actually getting your plan done.

Want to learn how to effectively plan strategy for your organization? Watch Figliuolo’s full course, Strategic Planning Foundations.