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Pharmaceutical industry is quite fond of making strategies. Most strategies are focused on business growth; however, some strategies may be aimed at organizational development, culture transformation, and change management. Once in a while, there may be strategies for expansion and/or software installation. The success rate of most strategies is quite poor. Marketing strategies do not deliver desired growth, HR strategies do not bring about organizational change or development, and culture initiatives wilt halfway down. Software installation has been a huge heartbreaker in every organization, because the timelines keep extending and the amount of labor keeps increasing.
Whenever a strategy fails to deliver partially or fully, the usual reaction is to go back to the drawing board and see what was wrong with the strategy. This approach is flawed because strategies do not fail due to their inherent design, but rather fail to deliver the desired results due to a combination of internal factors. Understanding these factors can help organizations anticipate challenges and take proactive measures to increase the likelihood of successful strategy implementation.
Here are some key reasons why even sound strategies usually fail. I would like to club these under five major heads.
No number of questions is too much to ask while making a strategy. Doing it because someone or many others are doing it, is completely out. The classical case in point is SAP acquisition and implementation. The organization readiness, evolution phase, resources were not taken into consideration. The inspiration was to show to the world that we work on SAP, which is the lamest excuse to do it.
Many of the companies who have spent enormous sums of money on such other projects without getting clear on the five W’s – What, Why, Where, When, and Who – have all lost precious time, money, and morale.
A well-crafted, clear strategy requires a an equally clear implementation plan. Without clear steps, responsible parties, timelines, and milestones, execution can become haphazard, leading to inconsistent results.
Clear accountability is also part of the implementation plan. When no one is held accountable for strategy execution, tasks may fall through the cracks, and progress monitoring becomes difficult. Proper accountability ensures that responsibilities are met.
A strategy may fail if it’s not communicated effectively across the organization. Without a shared understanding of the strategy’s goals, priorities, and expected outcomes, employees may struggle to align their efforts.
Strategies are framed, discussed, and finalized at relatively higher level. For implementation, it must be communicated at all related levels. This is where the importance of communication comes in. The way it is presented, and whether questions are handled appropriately, and ensuring that the strategy is ‘sold’ to the stakeholders/implementers determines the success and failure of strategies.
Pushing a strategy down the line and reinforcing it with official writ is counterintuitive and counterproductive. Strategies are not ordinances which can be promulgated, these must be shared, evolved, and built from bottom up. Only good communication can ensure that all or most people shall come on board.
Another aspect of communication is training people who will implement it to make them clear and confident about it.
Resources include both human and material resources. In most private enterprises, the effort is to maximize output of people. I have seen it in the Middle East also where surplus people are not kept due to high cost. Developed countries also maximize output of everyone but they have learnt to do it properly over time. In our case, we do not maximize output by adding more in the same portfolio; here, multiple portfolios are added to one person. The result is that the poor guy feels very important but cannot contribute much.
This is most often seen in government departments. I read a news today that Mr. Ali Jan, Secretary of Specialized Health & Medical Education wrote a memo to Mr. Ali Jan, Secretary Primary & Secondary Health about some issue. He is the same gentleman holding two very important and large portfolios, and he is forced to act in this bizarre way. It is not his fault; it is the government who has done it.
Even the best strategy will falter if it lacks the necessary resources—financial, human, technological—to be executed effectively. Resource constraints can lead to compromises or delays. Even when human resources are allocated, financial resources shall be in short supply, and technology support shall be missing altogether. Lots of companies are trying to run modern softwares on outdated computers running on pirated softwares. The results are as expected.
Human resource must also be most appropriate. Many times, plum assignments are given to most favored person, not the most competent one.
No one wants change, as it challenges the comfort zone, and causes discomfort. The resistance to change may be so severe that it could doom the strategy. But the most serious resistance is the one which works insidiously. You cannot pinpoint it, but it keeps thwarting change efforts.
Resistance may show up in many forms. The most common is lack of time because so many other engagements are going on, so it would be very difficult to start a new initiative. Resistance also shows up in material resources because finances or other materials are already in limited supply, so cannot stretch further. There may still be so many other reasons as an excuse to not change.
Resistance is severe when it comes into conflict with the vested interest of some people or groups. Vested interests are usually linked to monetary benefits also and therefore hurt deeply.
It is not easy to break resistance, but it can be done with firmness and perseverance. There should be good arguments in support but most of all, standing firm on a position is the most important factor.
Resistance can also be mellowed through teamwork, leading from the front, and frequent, open discussions.
Any strategy will fail if the management is not committed to it, and it is not uncommon to see it happening. The initiative is launched with great fanfare, and then gradually the senior management start disappearing. They do not actively disown it, but they do not actively own it either. The middle and lower tiers pick up the change and actively sabotage the strategy.
Why does the commitment wither so often and so quickly? First it has to do with believing in the strategy. Many seniors do not agree internally but let their staff do it anyway. They take a calculated risk; if it works, they will take credit; if it doesn’t, they can quickly disown it and retract their support. In other cases, the seniors do not want to allocate adequate resources but agree initially. Since the resources are not allocated, the project dies naturally.
The management does not want the change, particularly, if it threatens their own conventional techniques. They never commit to change but keep urging people to generate more ideas.
Strategies are the lifeline for growth, development, expansion, and achievements. However, most strategies fail on the way due to above factors. When you plan a strategy next time, please take measures so that your strategy is implemented, supported, and gives desired results.
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