Organisations identify their objectives and goals, which they seek to achieve through a course of action that they draft out. This course of action, the strategy, can only be achieved as intended if every participant acts as required in executing his or her roles (Clemens & Bakstran, 2010, p. 393).
As Beer et al. (2005, p. 446) assert, organisations have to ‘fit’ themselves with the environment, including the strategies, leadership skills, as well as capabilities if they seek to achieve effective operations. This research carries out an extensive analysis of all possible barriers to strategy implementation and offers a remedy for each of the barriers.
It borrows from theories and models suggested by scholars, including the silent killers of strategy implementation, organisational fitness, and critical questions that can help managers to address the barriers (Beer et al., 2005, p. 446).
Critical Questions to help in the Attainment of Objective Business Model
Is the interaction within the organization effective?
Within the organisation, the leadership plays a critical role in providing direction, offering protection, managing conflicts, as well as shaping norms and conducting orientation (Heifetz & Laurie, 2001, p. 131). However, the most important role of leaders in an organisation should be to enhance adequate interaction through practicing strategic leadership to ensure that barriers to strategy implementation are overcome.
As Beer et al. (2005, p. 450) point out, the organisational commitment, as well as purpose is lost when there is poor interaction within the organisation.
Managers must promote dialogue with the rest of the organisation’s members to develop common purpose, which is needed for instilling the necessary commitment required to convert purpose into action. This should purposely be geared towards encouraging commitment from every participant in the organisation (Malewicki, 2005, p. 141).
Effective strategic leadership that promotes interactivity should focus on five hierarchical levels. These levels include highly capable individuals who make their direct contributions through knowledge, talent, work habits, and high-level skills. The second level should comprise of contributing team members that target achieving the objectives of the group and working effectively within the group.
The third level of the hierarchy should include competent managers (Kerr & Werther, 2008, p. 112) whose main ability and contribution are in organising people and resources of the organisation, while the fourth level hierarchy should involve effective leadership. This mainly targets the adherence to the vision of the organisation, as well as the maintenance of the needed performance standards.
The fifth and final strategy level involves the executive, with the specific quality being an endurance of greatness by way of professional will and personal humility (Watson & Wooldridge, 2005, p. 147).
The organisation’s leadership must have these characteristics as contained in the five hierarchies enumerated. Collectively, these qualities and values enable the management to develop a common purpose of communicating downwards to their subordinates, who are the actual executor of the strategic requirements (Allio, 2012, p. 24).
The sufficient vertical communication provides the employees working in the department with the understanding about the actual organisational strategy and the directions that are needed concerning the daily decisions that are expected of them. It also enables them to understand about the exact priorities that will be needed by them as they collectively work towards ensuring that the organisation achieves its objectives.
Organisational Power Games and Politics: Are they Useful?
All organisations have their unique internal politics and power games, which consequently affect the likelihood of the organisation to implementing its strategy as intended (Peng & Litteljohn, 2001, p. 360). Managers are particularly responsible for this kind of barrier, mainly because their overriding personal interests and ineffective resource allocation on their part or respective departments.
Adequate resource allocation is an important strategy implementation aspect because lack of resources eventually impedes successful strategy performance and activity (Brauer & Schmidt, 2006, p. 205). Strategies are actually implemented by means of operational budgets and capital in general.
However, internal politics threaten to derail this because it mainly involves a clash between the manager’s personal interest or that of his respective department, on the one hand and the interests of the organisation, on the other hand.
The structural arrangement of the organisation plays a contributory role in fanning the internal organisational politics as departments or functions may begin to view themselves as exclusive entities that are in competition with the other departments or functions (Stuart, 1998, p. 469). It, thus, results in resistance, power struggles, and even a pursuance of non-fitting interests, which eventually affect the achievement of strategic objectives.
The most critical question for managers in a bid to address the issue of politics and seeking to determine answers to the question is to establish whether there is a clear understanding when it comes to resource allocation.
Apart from the allocation of monetary resources, managers must also be aware of the important role of allocating physical resources, including equipment, plant, geographic location, as well as raw materials in general (‘Business Policy and Strategy Conference Paper Abstracts’, 2004, p. 1).
Managers should constantly realise and appreciate the fact that the availability of resources is often scarce to effectively and fully cater for the entire needs of the organisation. Thus, self-interest should never contribute towards the allocation of resources.
Managers must not commit themselves too quickly in allocating resources as they target projects and goals that deem to satisfy their own interests or personal performance (‘Business Policy and Strategy Conference Paper Abstracts’, 2004, p. 1).
The decision-making role of managers concerning resource allocation must, therefore, be done in a way that purely seeks to front the organisation’s interest and agenda.
Leaving the decisions and behaviour of managers unchecked is detrimental to the organisation because while it may ensure that their personal objectives are met, the organisation may end up suffering in the process (‘Business Policy and Strategy Conference Paper Abstracts’, 2004, p. 11).
Eliminating this barrier requires that the decision-making process be made a collective function such that managers from all the departments and functions of the organisation make their individual contributions.
This way, the collective responsibility would put a check in their irregular decision-making even though individual managers may still have the urge to pursue their personal agenda (‘Business Policy and Strategy Conference Paper Abstracts’, 2004, p. 18).
How important is Organisational Learning?
Organisations must continually remain and promote learning as a way of sustaining new ideologies and methods. However, managers and employees might feel the urge to resist change and new working procedures at some point. This often occurs as a result of the individuals feeling threatened. Employees, therefore, devise defensive mechanisms that they feel would comfortably protect their old practice of doing things.
For organisational learning to occur, healthy communication in all directions must be encouraged and tolerated (Vänttinen & Pyhältö, 2009, p. 47). Managers must feel free to communicate among fellow managers and to the senior executive management concerning the overall running of the organisation.
Downward and upward communication must also occur such that no one in the organisation feels left out in the strategy implementation plans (Vänttinen & Pyhältö, 2009, p. 47).
Encouraged communication provides managers with the chance to notice challenges in strategy implementation and raise the matter early enough to help in finding solutions. Managers do not also feel threatened because they understand the fact that it is not their personal objective they are protecting, but that of the organisation (Forman & Argenti, 2005, p. 245).
Thus, they do not view their colleague managers as competitors, but as important partners whom they can learn from as they also are a valuable source of knowledge to their other colleagues.
Employees, who are very important because of their role in implementing strategy, also participate actively in the organisational learning process if the organisation promotes and allows free communication (Olson, Slater, & Hult, 2005, p. 47).
They would be able to notice challenges within the system and quickly act by raising the issue with their immediate supervisors or managers, who would in turn act by providing a solution to the impediment or barrier. Where an organisation does not promote free and easy communication, the general learning process is also affected.
People may not feel comfortable in pointing out at mistakes, especially where they believe or know that the mistake is contributed by their superiors (Olson, Slater & Hult, 2005, p. 47). For fear of being vilified, the employees would better maintain their silence and wish that their supervisor or manager discovers it on his or her own.
Thus, an impediment to strategy implementation that would have otherwise been discovered and dealt with at an opportune time is allowed to continue wrecking damage to the entire organisation, thereby slowing its resolve to achieve its set objectives (Hendry, Huang & Stevenson, 2013, p. 69).
In addressing this aspect of organisational knowledge and learning, employees must be skilled and educated enough to enhance their ability of implementing strategy. It is not enough for information to be allowed to flow freely only, but that it should also flow freely to people who understand and realise how to put it into good use (Ramanigopal, 2012, p. 17).
Without learning, it is not possible for change to be experienced or witnessed in the organisation. Increased knowledge through learning helps the actors in their effort to engage successfully in the overall implementation process. Individual experience, though it is a critical aspect of goal achievement within the organisation, should not be confused with learning.
Should Resistance to Change be encouraged?
The external environment influences the way in which organisations operate in their quest to achieve their objectives. The environment acts as a barrier, particularly when the internal management of the organisation fails to realise some of the best strategies required to address the external environmental challenges.
Decisions need to be made almost immediately to reflect on the changing external environment condition (Barton & Ambrosini, 2013, p. 721). However, this is a challenging area because the changing environmental conditions can never be easily anticipated. Experienced management is required to determine the way forward on what steps the organisation should take.
The major mistake that managers often commit while facing external environmental challenges is making decisions that rely on an old mental form. This mainly occurs where the management is also ill experienced to tackle and address such challenges. This is further worsened by the inexistence of honest feedback as well as discussion.
This is itself an impediment when it comes to learning about similar models. Resistance to change particularly occurs where managers feel threatened by a certain phenomena and focus their attention on fighting it, instead of seeking for solutions (Barton & Ambrosini, 2013, p. 723).
Although experience is important in addressing such challenges that arise from external business environment, organisations must also work towards making themselves as centres of knowledge. In other words, solutions to external business challenges must be formulated from within the organisation itself to give it adequate ability to respond (‘Organization Development & Change Conference Paper Abstracts’, 2005, p. 1).
The organisation is directly affected by the changing circumstances and it understands uniquely how best to react. Internal understanding and knowledge is promoted and sustained by allowing all participants in the organisation, including employees, to contribute towards providing suggestions on the way forward.
The collective contribution by participants offers a wide range of alternatives from which the management can pick the best.
This gives continuity to the organisation, especially in the face of new challenges that cannot be compared to past challenges. Because managers have a large pool from where they can obtain fresh ideas and suggestions, their unique solutions to challenges ensures that barriers to strategy implementation are effectively addressed.
The quality of the ideas and management plans is also effective as it is provided by the actual implementers of the strategy, who understand all the challenges that they face in the process (‘Organization Development & Change Conference Paper Abstracts’, 2005, p. 6).
Organisational Fitness and Silent Killers
Beer and Eisenstat (2000, p. 29) have introduced a new phenomenon that seeks to empower managers even more as they participate in ensuring that their organisation fits with the strategy. The Strategic Fitness Process (SFP) comprises of high-potential managers that sit in a task force aimed at enhancing value-addition in the running of the organisation.
The task force operates in coordination with the management of the organisation through issuance of feedback messages. In general, the SFP reveals up to six common barriers that hinder organisations from attaining their objectives and goals (Beer & Eisenstat, 2000, p. 9).
The barriers include unclear strategy that comprises of conflicting priorities, a top management team that is ineffective, a style of leadership that is too rigid in its top-down framework or one that is too laissez-faire, and lack of coordination across functions, geographic regions or businesses.
Other common barriers identified include poor vertical communication and an inadequate leadership skill that also affects the nurturing of down-the-line leaders (Eisenstat & Dixon, 2000, p. 52).
What are the causes of unclear strategy?
An unclear strategy implies a course of action that does not clearly identify an objective or one that identifies an objective, but fails to enumerate clearly the needed set of actions by the workers and management. Lack of clarity of a strategy may result from various causes, including a senior management team that is ineffective in its operations and a too disengaged or too controlling leader.
While it is possible that the strategy of the organisation will be well designed and targeted towards achieving specific objectives, the leadership may lack a common focus towards attaining (Ketzenberger, 1998, p. 84). Communication is also paramount in this regard as it determines the quality of information flow.
If the strategy intent is constantly communicated, all the participants will realise what their role is and will work towards making it actual. On the other hand, poor flow of information denies the workers the ability to determine what their actual role and contribution should be (Ketzenberger, 1998, p. 84).
Remedy for unclear strategy
Addressing unclear strategy, therefore, requires that information flow within the entire organisation is improved to a greater extent. The senior teams must be able to issue relevant instructions to the lower level managers and subsequently to the employees who engage directly in executing the strategy (Ketzenberger, 1998, p. 84).
Consequently, feedback information must also flow freely from the employees through the lower-ranked managers all the way to the top management.
This way, all the participants are constantly reminded of the actual strategy that they are pursuing. It also empowers everybody to notice early enough and signal the senior management of any underlying barriers that could be working against the organisation and its resolve (Ketzenberger, 1998, p. 84).
What are the influences of Ineffective Management?
The management of an organisation is considered ineffective, particularly where it is unable to make quick and accurate decisions concerning the organisation. Additionally, ineffective management arises as a result of functional or departmental managers operating as though they were competing against each other.
This leads to lack of cooperation between the managers, with vital information that would have otherwise helped the entire organisation to speed up its performance being kept away from individual managers (Majer & Bell, 2011, p. 62).
The top management of an organisation must get involved in all the decision-making processes and steps in order to develop fully and test the whole processes sufficiently.
Because of the top management’s usefulness in the entire process of making strategy, any ineffectiveness on their party is likely to result in unclear strategy, as well as priorities and affect the top-down relation or interaction within the organisation (McGuinness & Morgan, 2005, p. 1306).
This ends up curtailing the ability and possibility of the organisation to achieve its strategy effectively as desired. Quick and accurate decisions can only be achieved when a wider team or group of members within the organisation participates in providing solutions to challenges that affect the organisation (Majer & Bell, 2011, p. 62).
It improves the quality of decision making because all the areas in the organisation get equal representation in the decision-making process. Equally, all the managers feel as though they are a part of the organisation, especially when they witness their contributions being integrated by their employer.
Remedy for ineffective management
All the senior management team must get involved in the strategy process. They should participate in strategy development, perform organisational diagnosis together, as well as conduct action planning and participate actively in communicating and monitoring the change.
In other words, the top management team must combine efforts and work together as one in their quest to lead the organisation towards achieving objectives (Dervitsiotis, 2007 p. 21). There should be higher interactivity, close discussions among the managers, and high tolerance within the group.
This kind of arrangement will help in speeding up the learning process in the organisation. Individual managers will get to understand how exactly they can stop from being an impediment to the rest of their organisation through the solitary decisions that they make (Dervitsiotis, 2007 p. 21). It will help in creating a good rapport among the managers, thus increasing the participation of each individual.
Collective decision-making eliminates the need for rushed conclusions that individual leaders may fall prey to, particularly when their departments or functions fail short of performing as required and expected.
Limited Top-Down/Laissez-Faire Style of Leadership: How does it affect strategy?
Managers may have their own preferred management styles. The styles might be critical in impeding the organisation’s achievement of strategy and objectives. Limiting interaction to a top-down kind of flow only provides for managers to issue directions and instructions to the employees.
It does not support a more interactive kind of interchange where the employees may also contribute towards strategy formulation and implementation (Skogstad et al. 2007, p. 80). In essence, a strict top-down interaction only emphasises the fact that employees are ignored by their managers and their contributions are not really considered as being worth.
This affects the entire process because employees play a critical role in implementing strategy. Employees know the areas that are challenging to them when it comes to implementation and ignoring them means that the manager may never get to realise what kind of remedy may be required.
On the other hand, a laissez-faire style of management is not important in helping in the implementation of the strategy. Managers, while they should promote participative interaction with their employees, also need to be at the forefront leading. A lenient kind of leadership does not rein-in the followers or employees.
Instead, the employees may feel as though they have a lot of freedom and get the temptation to indulge in other activities (Skogstad et al. 2007, p. 83). This is in, itself, a barrier to strategy because the organisation needs to have a common purpose in its focus on achieving strategy objectives.
A limited top-down or laissez-faire leadership style creates an environment where conflict thrives between the departments or functions. The top divisional heads only concentrate on issuing orders and instructions that affect their areas of jurisdiction, but they fail to recognise the importance of operating as a unit with the rest of the functional heads.
Managers must work towards forming partnership with their employees in order to address this impediment effectively.
Managers must realise and appreciate the fact that employees are important players in the entire process, instead of considering the employees as being an impediment or barrier to strategy. Their contributions are important and should help the management in the decision-making process (Fredberg & Norrgren, 2012, p. 34).
Poor Functional Coordination: How is it a barrier?
Organisations ought to integrate their activities effectively around the consumers, markets, and even products across the diverse functions of the organisation. However, lack of functional coordination is a recipe for competition within the organisation, where functions consider each other as competitors and not as contributors of the same cause.
It is difficult for proper coordination across the functions to be realised unless the organisation sets up initiatives that cover the entire organisation and require the collective responsibility of all the managers. Responsibilities for the managers must also be defined properly and in clear terms to avoid clashes between the managers.
Each manager must understand the contributory role that he or she must play in the organisation to create the much needed functional coordination. Another important aspect that must be taken into account when seeking to address the challenge of poor cross-functional coordination should be the question of hiring the right people.
Managers with the right skills will find it easier and possible to work with each other, irrespective of their varying functions, and help in implementing the strategy.
The organisation’s traditional structure and approach to management could be the main reason hindering the cross-functional coordination within the organisation. In such an instance, the best remedy for the challenge should involve restructuring the organisation to promote coordination.
It is important that the management should transform its existing internal structures and model because the external business environment keeps changing, thus continually offering new challenges to the organisation. This transformation is necessary in order to fit properly with the existing environmental challenges.
This would, in turn, result in the alignment of different organisational parts, thus providing an accurate mechanism for promoting effectiveness in the running of the organisation.
What is the role of leadership skills?
Organisations have varying management levels that are expected to work together towards making objective achievement easier and less demanding.
While the top leadership of the organisation is directly responsible for formulating and determining strategy, the subsequent management levels play a critical role in enforcing and ensuring that the strategy is achieved as intended.
However, organisations must have adequate leadership skills to ensure that this objective is attained. New opportunities need to be continually created, especially by the top-level management, to offer a learning opportunity for the low-level managers. This will provide a practical experience from where the lower-level managers can build upon their skills.
Apart from availing practical experiences, the organisation should arrange for just-in-time coaching, training sessions, as well as targeted recruitment. The idea is to continually help the managers to attain the appropriate knowledge and skills to enhance their contribution in strategy formulation and implementation.
Although the top-level managers may formulate the best fitting strategy for the organisation, the lower level managers who participate in the direct implementation may turn out to be the actual strategy barrier. Their lack of knowledge and skills may end up hindering the organisation from attaining its goals and objectives.
Having determined how important the contribution of the lower-level managers is, it is important that the organisation only acquires individuals who are capable of performing the role.
Where a middle-level manager is not able to measure to the challenge, the organisation should move with speed and replace them with other qualified and able candidates. Appraisals can be conducted on a more regular basis to measure and ascertain how effective each of the middle-level managers are in performing their roles.
Relevant Theories and Models
Organisational Fit and Fitness: Integrated Analytical Framework
The SFP identifies an effective diagnostic framework that allows managers to link their respective organisational business strategy together with the competitive environment with the capabilities of the organisation. As Beer (2002) notes, organisations must ensure that their strategies fit within the competitive environment in which they exist.
Three basic areas define the organisational fitness model, which include the organisational levers, organisational capabilities, and the goals. An organisation must carefully align the three important aspects with specific consideration to the external competitive environment before seeking to implement it.
The organisational levers mainly involve the internal systems that the organisation adopts in its effort to ensure that it functions effectively. They include the leadership team, which comprises of the senior executive management, and other managers within the organisation, including functional and departmental heads, as well as line managers (Dervitsiotis, 2008, p. 709).
Leadership is a critical aspect because it determines, through the shaping of policies and opinions, the actual decision that the organisation will follow.
Work systems consist of the actual methodologies that the organisation applies as it executes its roles and functions. Management processes, on the other hand, have a direct influence on the performance of the organisation because they determine the decisions and the course of action to be applied by the organisation.
The quality of an organisation’s overall leadership and management depends on its management processes because it identifies the roles and participation of individual managers in making decisions (Kostopoulos, Spanos & Prastacos, 2013, p. 1430).
The human resource system identifies the quality of employees that the organisation acquires in terms of their skills, experience, and knowledge. It also determines the skill development path for the workers by integrating external business environment components within the training framework.
The organisational principles and culture affect the entire operations of the organisation. It affects the way interactions within and outside the organisation take place. These organisational levers must be aligned such that they result in organisational capabilities that would enhance goal achievement.
Organisational capabilities comprise of the ‘7Cs’, which include coordination, competence, commitment, and communication. Others include conflict management capabilities, creativity, as well as capacity management.
Coordination results in effective cooperation between different individuals and functions or departments of the organisation, which need to combine efforts towards implementing goal realisation (Hanna, Crittenden & Crittenden, 2013, p. 18). Competence focuses on developing and utilising the appropriate skills.
This leads to the achievement of desired objectives and goals. Quality leadership entails competence as it requires individuals to understand how to relate and integrate with colleagues (Heide, Grønhaug, & Johannessen, 2002, p. 217).
As the organisation targets to achieve its set out objective using the available resources and within the stipulated period, it has to ensure that both the management and the employees are committed fully to realise the objective. The individual contribution of each employee is critical in building and enhancing the commitment.
Failure or lack of commitment, on the other hand, results in employees directing their efforts toward different directions. This makes it difficult for the strategy to be followed and the objective be attained. Communication is needed for relaying information, thereby improving the quality of interaction within the organisation.
Managers must communicate with their employees, but they also need to communicate with their peers in the other departments (Heide, Grønhaug, & Johannessen, 2002, p. 217).
This improves coordination within the organisation, while also promoting learning. On the other hand, upward communication must also be encouraged to enable employees give their feedback details to the management for appropriate action to be taken.
The focus of the management should be to devise appropriate ways of addressing conflicts because conflicts are inevitable in any society (Heide, Grønhaug, & Johannessen, 2002, p. 217). Competition between individuals and their personal interests should be put in check as this is a major source of politics within the organisation.
However, individual creativity should never be curtailed as a result. The competitive environment where the organisation operates demands the identification of unique ideologies that can attract the market and create a competitive edge against the rivals.
The effective alignment of the organisational levers eventually results in the achievement of the capabilities (Heide, Grønhaug, & Johannessen, 2002, p. 217).
The organisation can direct its efforts towards goal achievement once the appropriate capabilities are achieved. The framework forms an important learning loop, which is a continuous cycle that can revert to the organisational levers or capabilities in case the objectives fail to be met.
Summary and Recommendations
The success of any organisation’s operations depends on how effective its strategy has been formulated and how efficient the implementation is executed. The organisational setup exists in a complex business environment. This requires that the fitness of the strategy is maintained all through to enhance the achievement of the objectives.
However, several factors within the organisation act as barriers in the execution of strategy and they need to be addressed to enhance overall organisational performance. These factors include unhealthy internal power struggles and politics. These could see managers pursue their own personal interests at the expense of the organisation’s interests.
They could also see managers allocate resources in an ineffective way, where the basis of their actions would be on their own interests and goals. Lack of organisational purpose also forms a barrier to strategy implementation, where the organisation lacks an effective communication system. The rest of the participants may lack the necessary commitment to push through the objective.
Resistance to change also occurs within the organisation, where managers resort to formulating defensive routines, while the employees in departments opt to remain silent even where they notice difficulties. Another barrier to strategy implementation involves the prevention of organisational learning by the managers.
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