Execution, execution, execution. The current issue of the on-line newsletter Knowledge @Wharton has a thought provoking article on why good strategies fail.
It is usually pretty obvious why bad strategies fail, but diagnosing what sinks good strategies is a little trickier. An example cited in the article is that execution of a strategy is often derailed because the focus of the strategy is allowed to shift over time. The attempt by Hewlett-Packard, after it acquired Compaq, to compete with Dell in PCs through scale is a classic example of goal-shifting — competing on price one week, service the next, while trying to sell through often conflicting, high-cost channels. The result: CEO Carly Fiorina lost her job and HP still must resolve some key strategic issues.
The article’s key premise is that the challenge of execution is synchronization–getting the various elements of an organization “in-sync” with one and other primarily through clear and consistent communication of a strategic objective, and not allowing the strategy to shift over time.