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Thoughts for the C-Suite: Why is my business struggling and maybe failing? A question of execution – Part II

Published by CME Manitoba on October 05, 2017

By Kevin Lusk, CME Advanced Manufacturing & Senior Executive Leadership Champion

In the previous newsletter, we talked about business plan and strategy execution. Great execution is not rocket science. It’s very straightforward stuff. As I outlined in my last article, the main requirement is that you, living in the C-Suite, have to be deeply and passionately engaged in your organization. Execution is not about delegating. It’s not about micro managing. It’s about you managing through leadership. It’s about accountability. It’s about asking the right questions at the right time. It’s about being honest with yourself as leader with resource investment, knowing the why, what and who is causing the business plan to come unglued and doing something about it. There are many facets to great execution beyond what this column is designed for. However, for the sake of making the point – reflection and making you as C-Suite occupant think – let’s take a deeper dive into two “about points.”


About Point #1

In the end, there are only three reasons for the lack of execution of a strategy, a business plan or a vision. 

(1) Either the organization is not capable of making the strategy happen; and/ or

(2), the C-suite has misjudged the present business environment, the timing and their leadership ability; and/or

(3) the true costs and capacity required in execution terms of talent and money to make the plan happen have been unrealistic. 

Apart from entirely misreading the market, the business climate and applying the wrong strategy, business plans most often fail because they aren’t executed well; period. Point #1 therefore, is that to truly execute well at the C-Suite level, leaders have to live their business. Companies that don’t execute well usually have a C-Suite that is out of touch with the day-to-day realities. To be sure the C-Suite gets lots of information, but it’s usually filtered. It’s presented with agendas or gathered by persons with their own perspectives, which get added into the report. As C-Suite occupant, the onus is on you to make sure the information you receive is relative. Therefore if you’re not where the action is, or if you’re not engaged in the business, you won’t really know your organization’s strengths and weaknesses fully. 

You won’t be able to separate the B.S. from the actual. Also, your people won’t really know you either, whether you’re serious, and whether you’re actually with them in the struggle or not. In not being involved where the action is means that you’ve created at best a mediocre execution capable team. Things that are supposed to happen won’t. Great C-Suite execution therefore is predicated on the CEO A) knowing his/her people and their business, B) insisting on realism, C) setting very clear goals and follow through with you cheering and leading the team, D) creating rewards for your top performer doers to even perform better, E) expanding the team’s capabilities and F) not kidding yourself as to your leadership effectiveness. 


About Point #2: 

There is an old proverb about counting the cost before you begin to build. Especially younger C-Suite leaders and manufacturing business owners generally stumble right at the beginning by creating their business plan, their strategy or their vision without first putting serious consideration and thought into their execution capacity, capabilities and cost. As per point #D, they kid themselves. This ignores the reality that there is simply no way to create a successful business strategy if you don’t first make sure that your organization has or can get what’s required to execute the strategy in the first place. This means that you will need the right people instruments and the right resources in place to successfully execute before you begin to execute. It might mean seriously shaking up the organization with training versus sending the present troops out with the same tools and expecting different results. It might mean that some faces have to go and new faces (talents) have to be brought in to accommodate the realities of a shift in business direction or climate. 


Here is a common circumstance:

Sam’s company has been successful. But now Sam’s business is shifting. He needs to build more sold to order, versus to inventory. In response, Sam agrees with his executive team to shift his business strategy, move to an online marketing and sales strategy as well as to re-structure to plant process and layout to single piece flow. After all, the margins seem better, the times are changing and they have to do something to remain successful. But, he ultimately calls the shots. This is his C-Suite decision. Question? Despite the recommendations, what makes Sam think that his present loyal and successful team, who has managed production and also marketing and sales through distribution and dealer channels, has the capability, expertise, knowledge and change adaptability to execute in the new environment and do it successfully? 

Sam’s tough C-Suite leadership choice ought to be that training and a ton of planning either has to occur before execution starts, and, does the team actually have the skills to move forward to match the business direction? Invariably, mediocre execution or outright failure will occur because Sam is reluctant to commit adequate investment in marketing skills upgrades and technologies to meet the execution requirements of the business plan or, sees the deficiencies and doesn’t want to engage in the messy business of potentially terminating some employees and adding others. The thing is when the business plan or execution strategy begins to fail, people invariably get fired or shifted elsewhere. The finger points starts. But in reality, where and with who, reader, would you point your finger as to the underlying fault for failure to execute well?

CME has both direct and indirect expertise in providing C-Suite executives confidential guidance into both business plan and strategy execution. Sometimes before pulling the trigger on the plan an outside the company perspective can be exceptionally helpful in improving business plan execution outcomes. Think about it.  

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