Strategic initiatives can fail due to a whole host of reasons. The list below contains a list of the most common reasons for failed initiatives. Typically,’ the reason’ will be a mix of reasons rather than just one. These risks should be identified and monitored by the implementation unit. By asking intelligent and well-timed questions, this unit will surface these risks, which means they can be dealt with.

Weak Recommendation

The quality of the recommendation affects the quality of implementation. 10 common reasons recommendation:

Weak analysis
Focusing on wants
No detailed plan
Unclear/unconvincing reason for the change
Politics and power consequences have been misunderstood.
The psychological aspects of any change have been ignored.
Insufficient support processes in place
Inflexibility in approach
Mistaking compliance for commitment
Change does not always fit with culture and character.

Weak analysis and too narrow or subjective opinion

If the recommendation is based on weak analysis or subjective opinion, it may contain factual errors that impede implementation. Often, the recommendation taken with a wide impact is based exclusively on the top and middle managers’ views. Opinions of the external stakeholders such as customers and suppliers and those lower down the hierarchy are not sought or validated. Implementation fails because the stakeholder buy-in is not obtained, and this provides easy ammunition for those who resist change.

An acid test is to ask, “Who is contrived by the change, and to what extent have they been consulted?” If the affected have not been consulted, then the risk of implementation failure increases.

Focusing on wants, not needs

Another classic fault is that solutions focus on the unit’s wants, not their needs. A typical scenario could be the commissioning of a strategy assignment, where they want a new corporate strategy. However, the fundamental need could relate to the fact that the team is fiercely territorial, divided, and unable to gain consensus. The recommendation of an elegant and logical strategy may well stumble as the fundamental need for the team to be trained and united has not been addressed. Indeed, Strategic business analysts can become a part of the problem rather than being a part of the solution.

A good question to be asked is what led to a Strategic business analyst’s need in the first place, as the reasons stated in the answer may contain the rocks on which the implementation will fail. The ‘five whys’ is a good technique to understand real needs. Ask ‘Why?’ to every response/answer five times to get five levels down into detail.

No detailed plan or consideration of consequences

During recommendation, stakeholders spend too significant time on what needs to be done and too little time on how it can be done. A detailed plan or consideration of consequences has not been taken into account. Recommendation looks at the ‘what’ 90 percent of the time and at the ‘how’ only 10 percent of the time.

And the rocks that can make implementation fail are 90 percent of how things are done and 10 percent of what is done. The classic situation is the time taken to define what’s to be done takes up the patience for action, and so once it’s clear, the implementation starts. However, because no clear plan has been devised and agreed upon, and because the consequences of the implementation have not been understood, implementation soon fails. Therefore action planning (and all that entails) slips between the two tools of recommendation and implementation. It results in the former being a waste of time, the latter being a disaster, and all those involved feeling disappointed and frustrated.

The recommendation is important, both in the way it is done and what it includes. However, be wary. Planning and analysis, if taken to excess, can lead to paralysis! So, there is a balance of these factors needed within the recommendation if the risks of implementation are reduced.

Unclear/unconvincing reason for the change –why?

During recommendation, significant time is spent on looking at ‘what’ needs to be done and, if it is well thought out, the ‘how.’ However, the changes to be implemented will include others who may not have been involved in the recommendation. Even if they have been, the recommendation may have been done well without building a clear case for change. Not building a clear case for the change is a common reason for failure.


Another common mistake is building a case for change that is convincing for those who structured it but not for the wider range of target audience. When stakeholders ask why they need to implement a recommendation, do not expect them to be overly motivated by a misty ‘To increase shareholder value’ as the reason for implementation.

The best-formulated plan is usually thorough, in detail, the consequences of not implementing the advice. In other words, both ‘gain’ of the change implementation and ‘pain’ of the non-implementation are clearly defined in a way that appeals to the emotions of the people involved. It is not a coincidence that the successful implementation of changes, which have resulted in quantum improvements, have usually been preceded by some crisis.

So, make sure that a clear, compelling case for change has been made before implementation begins, one which appeals to the instincts of those involved, and that includes both the ‘gain’ of the recommendation and the ‘pain’ of non-implementation.

Politics and power consequences have been misunderstood.

Corporate politics can kill a very desirable change. This is best handled during the Recommendation phase, rather than it being left to the Implementation phase. A starting point is to understand which stakeholders will be seen as ‘winners’ and which stakeholders will be seen as ‘losers.’ Resistance to implementing a change often comes from stakeholders who think they have something to lose if the advice is implemented. Unless such stakeholders are identified and a specific plan is made to ensure that their perceived loss is managed positively, then the risk of failure increases. If the human consequences of what the solutions bring are not taken into full account within the Recommendation stage, then implementation will be even harder. Do not mistake this issue for acceding – it’s not about being ‘nice’; it’s about being effective.

Psychological aspects of change have been ignored.

Implementation invariably means change. If change is imposed, the reaction moves from shock to denial, depression, anger, and then gradually to realization and acceptance for the change. The secret is to allow the change to happen rather than denying it. Implementation problem arises as those seeking to impose change react ungainly to what they think is unnatural reaction such as denial and anger.

Another aspect of the issue is the typical experience of those implementing the solution. Many go from feeling ‘uninformed optimism’ to ‘informed pessimism,’ especially when the implementation gets tough. Then they reach the ‘check-out zone’ where they typically ‘cop-out’ by either absenting themselves physically or by going with the motions. Implementation stalls and then fails as a result. The visible support from the top management for those charged with the implementation is a simple remedy to this, but sadly it is mostly lacking.

Insufficient support processes in place

Implementing a new solution invariably means altering something, either by replacement or by supplement. Often, this requires new skills and resources as well as implementation know-how. Often, because the focus is mostly on ‘getting it done,’ this is ignored.

A classic issue, which does not get sufficient attention, is the training of the new skills that are needed. Many implementation process depends on project teams. These are often scribbled together and then told to get on with it in a very ’empowering’ way, but the empowerment falls short in delivering stakeholders the right training, such as project management. Few stakeholders have been in a project team who understand what a critical path is another area of training not typically noticed is team dynamics. Implementation depends on the successful functioning of teams, yet many receive little or no training at all. Again, implementation stalls as the team dynamics get in the way of the implementation.


The upturn of inadequate planning is exhaustive planning; planning that is so detailed any flexibility is ruled out from the start. This can lead to implementation failure. Any recommendation phase is predicated on assumption. However, making an exhaustive plan and then sticking to it no matter what assumes a static world. This is not a sensible way of implementation.

Thus, an implementation strategy has to be adaptable successfully, or else inflexibility will surely lead to failure. Although there is ‘what’ can be fixed, there has to be flexibility in the ‘how.’ One way to ensure proper implementation is to do some contingency or scenario planning while planning the implementation. Such an implementation will ‘plan in’ flexibility, as well as utilize those responsible for the implementation of inflexible thinking. The latter is probably more important than that of the former one as many a scenario has yet to conform fully to reality!

Mistaking compliance for commitment

For the implementation to ‘stick,’ those involved need to have believed in the formulated strategy. This belief should necessarily be emotionally based on a rational, logical framework of understanding. In other words, it is not simply to get intellectual agreement during implementation. For it to stick, Strategic business analysts need to get emotional belief. Without that, it is hard for stakeholders to give commitment. Those who agree but do not believe may comply with it, but as time goes, compliance may not necessarily lead to commitment, so the implementation comes unstuck. And in units with an overbearing ‘hire and fire’ type of culture, the compliance may even be based on fear rather than agreement. As the implementation unfolds, not many measure the aspect of commitment, and so the changes do not last, and the desired results are not achieved.

Change does not always fit with culture and character.

Every unit has its own unique culture, and there are many ways of defining and mapping culture and individual character. Characters within a unit will shape their culture. When implementing a recommendation is undertaken, failure often occurs because the cultural aspects of a company are not considered.

Another example would be a managing director who is very empowering and new to the unit. He would be frustrated when he tried to introduce changes involving stakeholders taking more responsibility in a unit that has been top-down and very centralized. In such a unit, stakeholders would not be ready to take responsibility too quickly, and, thus, the changes would need to be moderate to take into account the cultural dimensions.

At the end of the day, the implementation is driven and delivered by stakeholders. The more tools and techniques Strategic business analysts have to map culture and character types, the better armed Strategic business analysts can be implementing. They will provide Strategic business analysts with insights that enable Strategic business analysts to be more aware of the unit’s nuances that are often ignored yet are crucial to success.

This blog is authored by business analysis team at Adaptive US.

Adaptive US is the world’s #1 leading IIBA EEP. It is the only training organization that provides IIBA certification training with Success Guarantee. Adaptive is a World Leader in CBAP training, IIBA ECBA training, IIBA CCBA training, IIBA CBDA training, IIBA CCA training and IIBA AAC training.