Fostering change the biggest barrier to good strategy


When it comes to executing strategy effectively, there are a number of challenges which companies face. Often though, the biggest challenges are internal, as firms are forced to evaluate their own direction and then communicate this to the necessary stakeholders.

For many companies, there are a range of challenges facing their implementation of new strategy, which have often be reinforced by years of company behaviour which makes change difficult.

According to Don Campbell, it is these challenges which are holding back the implementation of a lot of company strategy.

For 25 years, Don worked for the Canadian software giant Cognos. When Cognos was absorbed into IBM, Mr Campbell became their Chief Technical Officer for Analytics. In this position, Mr Campbell gained a unique insight into the challenges facing company strategy and the tools needed to overcome these issues.

“When I would go and talk with clients worldwide it was very clear I was getting a very similar message which was: we understand the value of information, it is now a matter of how do we take information that we collect and make it into a valuable part of our decision making both internally and culturally,” said Mr Campbell.

Many of the firms Mr Campbell worked with had struggled to break away from the way they had always performed strategy management, making new approaches a real culture shock for the company.

“Several companies had made the same decisions the same way for generations of leadership, based on how we did it last year and the gut reactions of our senior management team,” said Mr Campbell.

“Driving the business based on information was a new challenge.”

Effective strategy needs direction

Among the dangers which comes from instituting an information-driven approach to corporate strategy is that this data needs to have relevance in shaping company outcomes.

“One of the holes which often occurred in this process was the elements of business intelligence – reporting, analytics score cards, dashboards and all of these interesting technology bits were made operationally available,” said Mr Campbell. “But if that is not really driving a decision that’s in line with where the business wants to go, then its all for naught – there is really no value you are obtaining from it.”

Converting this data into an effective strategy is therefore one of the biggest challenges facing businesses, and this is where Mr Campbell believes a lot of companies are failing to get the most from their information.


[the clients] were seeing very interesting bits of data but just because they can see those bits of data, it doesn’t mean they know how to act on this data,” said Mr Campbell.

Business strategy needs to be top down

When asked about what tactics companies need to consider when implementing effective strategy, Mr Campbell pointed to the importance of top-down communication for a company.

“It [strategy] is hard to do from the bottom-up. It needs support from the executive level, from as high up as possible.”

Mr Campbell also pointed to the importance of having high-ranking staff who can be responsible solely for strategy, like a Chief Strategy Officer.

“Allocating someone to be responsible for the strategy; responsible for both collecting and helping to distribute the value of the strategy back to the business, like a Chief Strategy Officer, I think is a very important and engaging step.”

Strategy must be accessible

The unique approach which StrategyBlocks can offer is that corporate strategy is presented in a way that allows for greater understanding of how a project is moving forwards, with the performance of company strategy recorded in real time, providing much greater oversight from management.

“StrategyBlocks takes a very simple approach – allowing people to, with very little training, take their expertise and be able to feed it into the system,” said Mr Campbell. “The more that we can get employees to participate in the company strategy, the more successful it is going to be.”