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Five Mistakes That Kill Your Strategy

We’ve all seen it before. A new initiative, a new project, a brand spanking new strategy to go along with it all. Then a few months go by, the project is sideways, and that great strategy document your team put together is buried under a stack of forgotten coffee cups and that sweatshirt you use as a pillow for late nights at your desk trying to get things back on track. We’ve all been there.

What went wrong? How did you go from the promising start, to the middling results, to an emergency U-turn? We’ve compiled five common mistakes that will kill your strategy.

  1. You don’t actually have one.
    This one is actually more common than you might think. What passes for a strategic document now is actually relatively flimsy. Not sketching out the entire strategy from branding, to publishing, to engagement, to measurement likely means that you have a gaping hole somewhere that’s going to end in tears.
  2. You’re not measuring the right things
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    You’ve got the big idea down, you know how to execute it, but how can you tell if this thing is working? Short of the mythical unicorn that is the runaway-undeniable-we’re-all-buying-houses-on-the-moon-level success measurement is going to be crucial to understanding how successful your strategy actually is. Measuring the wrong metrics can lead you to think things are actually better than they may be, or worse than things actually are, which leads to …
  3. You’re too quick to pull the plug.
    This might be the most common mistake made on this list. You’re six months in to your new initiative and things are going slowly (or not going at all), and the rest of the team is starting to give you the side eye. So you do the natural thing and chuck the plan to the side and try something else — anything else — just to get things moving again. Chances are if you’ve really thought through the strategy, it’s a big idea, or at the very least a slow-moving one. Not giving a plan the time to develop is a surefire way to never know if it was going to work or not.
  4. Paralysis by analysis.
    I love data. I can’t get enough of it. I don’t just want some information, I want all the information in perpetuity about everything ever. Getting bogged down by all the information you can gather about your new plan, and subsequently feeling a need to incorporate every bit of data into your plan, can often lead to bloating. The other issue is slowing your execution of your strategy to examine the minutia in the results in an attempt to fine tune every little hiccup. You have to allow a strategy some breathing room. Let it take its course and allow the execution to actually follow the plan as you laid it out.
  5. You think tactics are strategy.
    A good tactical plan that accompanies an overlaying strategy plan is absolutely crucial. It’s the execution of those tactics that will ultimately allow a strategy to be successful, but mistaking a tactical plan for strategy is shortsighted in the worst way. Pinballing from one idea to another before following further tangents is an excellent way to get lost in the woods without any idea what’s actually going on. Tactics must support strategy — otherwise, what’s the point? Why are you executing tactics if you don’t have any idea what they’re there to accomplish? Keep an eye on the big picture while you work through the day-to-day execution.

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