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Strategic Planning and Management Insights

Top 3 Strategic Problems and How to Address Them

[fa icon="calendar"] May 25 / by Grace Lu

The first step that any effective strategy facilitator takes when working with an organization is to understand their problems. Each organization's problems are unique, and we always take that into account. However, we’ve gathered data on 500 people and their biggest strategy roadblocks. Over 75% fall into three key buckets: Understanding the process, getting alignment and setting and keeping strategic goals. As understanding the problem is the first step to productive problem solving, this post highlights them and offers tips to help. 


30% of professionals are stuck on getting started and following the process

A third of professionals we surveyed said that they are stuck in the planning process, often at the beginning. Due to the immense undertaking of changing strategies, the management can feel very overwhelmed. This sentiment leads to delays, inconsistent efforts, and lack of tangible action.

Here are the most common problems we hear from people who have trouble getting started:

It’s impossible to get everyone together

If your strategy is broken, no one is producing to their full potential. It is therefore the leadership’s task to communicate the priority in having a functional strategic plan. We recognize that this process is like herding cats. An effective strategy is to target a function’s pain points, whether it is inefficiencies, disorganization, or gaps in communication. Then, make and communicate a commitment to incorporate these pain points in your strategy. Motivated by solving their pain points, the team is much more likely to buy-in.

Here's a more in-depth video walkthrough of the strategic planning process:


I’m too busy working in my company to work on my company

A well written and executed strategic plan is costly and time-consuming, and will always require review and revision. However, each step of the process, from research to implementation, will give you a better understanding of your own company. We’ve helped leaders realize that all industry success stories have a clear strategy to follow their vision. If you know you’ll need one eventually, you know that you’re better off closing your e-mail inbox and starting today.

There are too many stakeholders

Large companies like Facebook and Google would never be able to gather everyone for strategic planning. Facebook is split into two operational halves managed by Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Instead of meetings, Zuckerberg makes decisions after talking to smaller groups and hosting office hours. Facebook has weekly Q&A meetings to understand his company’s concerns and resolve confusion. His employees trust that their interests are being taken into account, and Zuckerberg makes sure to communicate with smaller units to keep everyone on track. All of these components of Facebook’s strategic success can be replicated in your growing business.

There are many resources on the internet to creating a strategic plan, but many do not take into account the dynamic and varying needs of each business. We’ve developed a starter kit that runs you through the process, helps you identify and answer your own problems, and gives you all the tools along the way. Instead of perpetuating costly delays or use valuable resources on “figuring it out”, this package is the investment you need to get started.

25% of professionals aren’t sure how to foster alignment

Alignment occurs between people, strategy, and purpose. A large part of our practice is helping management find this alignment in their company, and here are the most common root causes we’ve discovered.

An unclear or inaccessible strategy

You’ve heard that strategy should be a living document within the organization. A dozen page document sitting on a desk in the CEO’s office does not equate to a strategy.  Moreover, your employees have enough problems in a day without having to discern what role they play in that multi-page document. The clauses in your strategic plan should be clearly actionable, with the roles of each department easily understood.  

Poor communication channels for the strategy

No matter how good your new strategy is, sending it attached to a daily employee e-mail is not going to get you any buy-in. Your employees need to realize the weight of executing a strategy, and that it isn’t just another document sitting in their inbox or a meeting they have to get through. Choose your communication channels that best help your organization get the point across.

Failure to incorporate the interests of all parties into the strategy

One of our most useful documents in our strategic planning starter kit is a strategic planning survey to ask your team. If a strategic plan doesn’t work to serve them, they will reject the extra work needed to implement it. Taking time to understand a team’s needs, whether through observation or surveying, will pay off when getting the buy-in.

We acknowledge that getting buy-in is the hardest and most time-consuming part of writing and implementing a plan. This is why our aligned strategy development is fully focused on filling this need. Read about how having a facilitator will help you achieve alignment.

20% of professionals struggle with setting and focusing on goals

If you don’t know what your goals are, it is very likely that your strategy is not doing anything to fulfill them. As this is often the first step to an effective strategy, we outline the top problems we’ve seen with goal-setting.

Different people in the organization have different priorities

There are almost always certain goals that should precede others. Use this to create cascading goals. First, take into account every team’s priorities, and analyze the process needed to achieve them. You will find that one goal will be more actionable once another is achieved. Using this model to set your organizational priorities will help your team understand why some goals are being put on a lower priority.

Goals are unmeasurable

Goals that do not have clear performance indicators are like baking a cake without measuring cups. The best way to create measurable goals is to look at past data and dig into what numbers align your past successes and failures. Take time to define measurable numbers, method of monitoring progress, and dates to review and reassess.

None of these three problems occur in isolation. You can finish the process of creating a strategic plan and find that you did not have alignment to execute, or have your goals set but are unaware of the next steps on your way to a strong strategy. While a strategic plan is meant to improve the process, it requires a process itself. If you’re reading this, it is unlikely that I have to stress to you the important of an effective strategy. While for some companies it works great to just do things themselves, for many others it may save you time and money to hire someone who has had years of experience. 


Developing your strategy?
Our starter kit will guide you through every step of the strategic planning process:


Topics: Strategic planning, Business strategy, Leadership

Grace Lu

Written by Grace Lu

Grace is a summer strategy analyst studying at the Ivey Business School at Western University. When not researching about strategy pains and gains, Grace can be found eating, picking up languages, and watching dog videos.

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