4 Signs You have a Bad Strategy


Strategic Lens. Strategic Plan. Corporate #Strategy

Business leaders are always talking about strategy – and for good reason. A good strategy can help you capture the most market share or ensure you weather the storms of recession. Having a strong, clear #businessstrategy means organizations can focus their actions, put them into coherent steps and do away with work that doesn’t align.

So why do so many companies have bad strategies? There are a variety of reasons why organizations end up with bad strategies despite often having excellent leaders and strong holds on the marketplace. Most often it’s because leaders confuse strategy with objectives and goals.

In this article, we’ll talk about why organizations end up with bad strategies and teach you what to watch out for – maybe even making you a hero in your organization.

What Makes a Bad Strategy

Here are four signs to watch out for, according to the book Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt:

Sign #1 – Too many buzz words

The ‘strategy’ is full of inflated, abstract and unnecessary words. Some people call this “fluff” – on the surface, it sounds fancy and looks intelligent – but it’s actually really vague and impossible to action.

“We will be on the leading edge of the next-generation paradigm with systems-wide decentralized integration; built on synergy, transformation and results”

Errr… *sweats profusely*

Instead, the strategy should be written in a straightforward manner so that anyone who reads it will understand exactly what you’re trying to achieve.

Sign #2 – Ignoring or missing the actual challenge

The ‘strategy’ states the organization will increase revenue, enter new markets, reduce costs, etc without first understanding what the company’s most serious problems are. The weakest link theory exists here – you’re only as strong as the weakest part of your company.

Here’s an example: you have experienced sales staff but your customers have been complaining about poor product quality. You ignore this and build a strategy to increase market share. Then you’re flooded with expensive returns, bad reviews and decreased revenue.

Instead, part of your strategy development must be to truly diagnose your organization’s challenges and then address them. Hint: ask your staff closest to the operations what they’re seeing.

Sign #3 – Mistaking performance goals for strategy

The ‘strategy’ only lists organizational performance goals and corresponding revenue projections. Which, fair, are super important! But your strategy should be to eliminate the challenges at hand which in turn will improve organizational performance.

Here’s an example: if your problem is product quality, your strategy would be to figure out why and then fix it asap. Your corresponding performance goals might be to diagnose the issue by Q1, improve product design by Q2 and test the new product in the market by Q3. Your performance goals should NOT be to capture increased market share until you know the product is well-received.

Sign #4 – Following it all up with bad objectives

The ‘strategy’ includes a corresponding set of objectives that’s a laundry list of random to-do’s. Bonus points if the objectives are (a) not actionable, (b) difficult to achieve or (c) drafted before the strategy.

Clear actions – ones that stem directly from the strategy, vision and mission – are the only way to ensure staff understand what they’re doing and how they contribute to the efforts of the larger organization. Actions must be SMART: specific, manageable, achievable, realistic and timebound.


Any (or all!) of these #badstrategy signs could exist in your organization – even if it’s led by experienced leaders. Knowing what they are and how to spot them is a great way to help your organization avoid them.