Causes of failure to effectively implement organizational strategy

and “project” failure contributions



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia




In Stretton 2018a I mapped some 34 different causes of “project” failure (from an earlier investigation I made in Stretton 2015a) on to an organisational strategic framework which I originally developed in Stretton 2017l, and which I continue to use with only slight modifications. The sources of these causes of “project” failure were far from representative of projects at large, but were all I could find at the time.

Later, in Stretton 2018k, I separately mapped two sets of causes of “project” failure from Jenner 2015 onto this strategic framework. One set of eight causes he cited derived from NAO/OGC (National Audit Office/Office of Government Commerce) (OGC 2009). The other set of eight derived from Jenner’s own identification of other causes. At that stage I did not attempt to amalgamate these fifty causes.

However, I was aware that many causes of “project” failure cited in both listings were not attributable to project management per se, and appeared to be more broadly related to failures in strategy implementation at large. More recently, I have come across two sets of causes specifically concerned with unsuccessful strategy implementation – namely Verweire 2018, who nominates five root causes for unsuccessful strategy implementation, and Beer & Eisenstat 2000 (via Dalcher 2018b) who set down six major barriers to strategy implementation.

This has prompted me to revisit causes of “project” /strategy-implementation failure, and to try and map all the sixty-one causes/barriers on to the strategic management framework, to see if any insights might emerge. To cope with the large number of causes, I will split the amalgamation in two. I start by mapping the eleven causes/barriers re strategy implementation, plus the sixteen causes from Jenner 2015, onto the organisational strategic management framework. These will be divided into seven groups of causes/barriers. I will then map the thirty-four causes from Stretton 2018a into what appear to be the most appropriate groups.

It will be seen that there are many duplications and near-duplications, and also that some causes have relatively specialised areas of application. Overall, I hope to summarise the most important and generally applicable causes of failure in strategy implementation that emerge from all these listings, and relate them to the basic organisational strategic management framework. But before launching into this detailed work, we first look at some broader attributes of strategy implementation.


Many large organisations struggle to implement their strategies effectively

As I discussed in Stretton 2018g, many large organisations struggle to implement their strategies effectively. The very low success rates quoted by various authors in that article included:

  • Fortune Magazine – less than 10% of business strategies are effectively delivered. (Butler 2008)
  • Australian Institute of Company Directors – 70% CEOs who fail, do so not because of wrong strategy, but because of poor execution. (Butler 2008)
  • …. multiple studies indicate that between two-thirds and three-quarters of large organisations struggle to implement their strategies. Similar figures are regularly quoted in most strategy textbooks. (Sull et al 2015, quoted by Dalcher 2018)
  • less than 10% of all organisations successfully execute the strategy (Sealy 2018)
  • Yet studies have found that less than 10 percent of effectively formulated strategies carry through to effective implementation. (Bucero 2018)

In discussing problems associated with strategy execution, Dalcher 2018 also pointed to another factor which appears to be related to poor performance in strategy implementation, namely poor coverage in the literature.

Strategy implementation is not well covered in the literature

As recorded in Stretton 2018g, Dalcher quotes from Sull et al 2015, as follows.


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How to cite this paper: Stretton, A. (2020). Causes of failure to effectively implement organizational strategy, and “project” failure contributions; PM World Journal, Volume IX, Issue III, March.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/pmwj91-Mar2020-Stretton-Causes-of-failure-to-effectively-implement-organizational-strategy.pdf



About the Author


Alan Stretton, PhD     

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)



Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 200 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at alanailene@bigpond.com.au.

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.