Beer Eisenstat

Successfully implementing strategy by Diederik Zunneberg

Larry Alexander studied problems of strategy implementation in medium en large US firms. He determined problems that occurred most frequently while implementing a strategic decision (1985).

Ten most frequent strategy implementation problems:

  1. Implementation took more time than originally allocated
  2. Major problems surfaced during implementation that had not been identified beforehand
  3. Coordination of implementation was not effective enough
  4. Competing activities and crises distracted attention from implementing this decision
  5. Capabilities of employees involved were not sufficient
  6. Training and instruction given to lower level employees were not adequate
  7. Uncontrollable factors in the external environment had an adverse impact on implementation
  8. Leadership and direction provided by departmental managers were not adequate enough
  9. Key implementation tasks and activities were not defined in enough detail
  10. Information systems used to monitor implementation activities were not adequate

In order of frequency of substantial / major problems.

Companies that were most successful in implementing strategic decisions experienced five new problems.

  1. Inadequate communication by top management
  2. Inactive role of formulators of strategic decision makers in implementation
  3. Unclear roles and responsibilities of key employees
  4. Lack of understanding of overall goals of strategic decisions by employees
  5. Supporters of strategic decision have left the organization during implementation

O’Regan and Ghobadian studied small and medium sized UK firms in electronic and engineering sectors (2007). They identified in- and external barriers to strategic planning implementation.

Eight major barriers limiting strategic planning implementation:

  1. Inadequate communication
  2. Implementation took longer than anticipated
  3. Shortfall in employee capabilities
  4. Overall goals of strategy not well enough understood by staff
  5. Co-ordination of implementation nog effective enough
  6. Crisis distracted attention from implementation
  7. Unanticipated external problems
  8. External factors impacted on implementation.

The last three elements can be overlapping; are not mutually exclusive.
Beer and Eisenstat studied senior US management. They identified six key barriers to strategy implementation (2000).

Six barriers to strategy implementation:

  1. Top down or laissez-faire senior management style
  2. Unclear strategy and conflicting priorities
  3. An ineffective senior management team
  4. Poor vertical communications
  5. Poor co-ordination across functions, business or borders
  6. Inadequate down-the-line leadership skills and development.


Alexander L. Successfully implementing strategic decisions. Long Range Planning 1985; 18 (3): 91-97.

Beer M. Eisenstat R. The silent killers of strategy implementation and learning. Sloan Management Review 2000; 41 (4): 29-40.

O’Regan N. Ghobadian A. Formal strategic planning:annual raindance or wheel of success, Strategic Change 2007; 16: 11-22.