The Disconnect Between Strategy and Implementation

Retreat WEBAhhh, the corporate retreat, a chance to get away from the office, do a few activates, and get to know our team members better. In many cases, an outside consultant or facilitator comes in and helps executives spark new ideas and conduct strategic planning. At the end of the retreat the executive team is all aflutter with those new ideas and secure in that finally plans have been made to fix some processes, that creative ideas for growth have been discovered, and the morale of every single person in the organization will be lifted to new heights. Now picture a camera moving through the empty, black, cold, silence of outer space. This, unfortunately, is the state of strategic planning just a few months after the retreat. Why is there such a dark chasm of disconnect between the strategic retreat and implementation?

There are plenty of models to follow for strategic planning and making change happen. There is enough information out there on strategic planning and its implementation that would probably circle the globe numerous times. However, there are some strategies that need to take place even before placing the reservations for your retreat.

Pre-Strategic Planning

In her article, Strategic Implementation, Erica Olsen Co-Founder of offers suggestions before taking off to build your strategic plan.
Establish a strategic planning committee. This should not be an already existing committee that gets additional work dumped on it. Limit membership from six to 10 people and ensure a nice mix of levels from the organizations such as the one the College at Brockport assembled. Membership ranges from the president of the college, to deans, directors, and even an alumnus and a student. This is the same idea behind Steve Van Remortel’s Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream program.

Committee Tasks

Of course, these can vary, but here are some ideas:

  • It’s a good idea to review both the successes and failures of the previous plan.
  • Focus on the future
  • Examine obstacles that need addressing both before, during, and after the formal strategic plan is designed and implemented. We all know that even if a strategic initiative is a good one, change often creates more problems.
  • Examine any budgetary concerns Robynne Berg, Director of Berg Consulting Group suggest that one reason for strategic plan failure is that “60% of company budgets are not linked to strategy.” Certainly, budgetary concerns should not be the only criteria in designing strategy. Indeed, Kaplan and Norton suggest that doing so would be a recipe for failure. However, if the budget is not considered, how will you know if you will have the fiscal resources to meet your goals?
  • Be sure the committee understands trends that may be developing over the life of your strategic plan.
  • This committee can develop the strategic plan or bring their suggestions back to the board or executive committee for them to take on that task.


Again, there are lots of models for the implementation of strategic plans. Holding a retreat to do strategic planning and to discuss your plan’s implementation is a good idea. However, the rub is that the beginning of the implementation process doesn’t go far enough. For example, several items that typically wind up on the shelf along with the plan are:

  • Deciding on clear objectives
  • Defining and assigning tasks
  • Laying out both short and long-term steps
  • Developing clear accountabilities – a lack of ownership is a main cause of failure for strategic plans
  • Establishing a project management plan with firm follow-up
  • Building a communication plan that
  • Is concise
  • Can be understood at every level of the organization. In other words, complicated technical, business speak doesn’t cut it for everyone
  • Is heard often
  • Tells the story of the why for the changes
  • Ensures people know how they contribute to the plan

Strategic plans and change initiatives don’t solve every problem. However, with just a little extra effort on everyone’s part, plugging the disconnect between planning and implementation can make the difference between success and failure. Furthermore, plugging your plan into every level of your organization ensures that it will stay out of the clutches of the darkness of outer space and off the shelf and make that retreat payoff!

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like to chat about your change initiatives, call 404-320-7834, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or visit

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