Author: Tim Ohai

How to NOT execute your revenue strategy: Part 3

Welcome our guest thought leader: Tim Ohai is a leading growth consultant. He is the Founder and Principal of Kupu Solutions, and previously served as Global Director of Sales Effectiveness for Workday and other sales enablement roles at Shell Oil and Pennzoil. Connect with him and follow his wisdom hereAnd catch his latest podcast season of How to NOT Execute Your Strategy (and what to do about it) for more.

Napoleon Hill famously said, “Plan your work and work your plan.”

To be fair, the concept is likely older than Mr. Hill. It is considered timeless advice for the power of hard work and extra effort.

However, the problem with executing our revenue strategy (as we covered in the last article) is not the plan. The real problem is the many obstacles that get in the way of making great decisions.

Therefore, when execution is bogging down in real-time, every leader needs to start there — at the obstacles to decision-making.

Assuming the first obstacle to great decision-making (a lack of clarity) has been properly addressed, the second obstacle to focus on is a lack of empowerment.

Think about it. We can make everything abundantly clear. Everyone can nod “yes” when asked if they understand the strategy, plus their prioritized goals and roles to achieve it. There can even be zero questions when we ask for them.

But then the strategy STILL struggles to execute.

Adoption from the salesforce stalls. Support from key stakeholders shuts down. Revenue numbers start being missed.

What is happening? Is this a case of people not working hard enough to execute the plan? Most likely, the answer is no — even though it is one of the most common answers I hear from leaders who aren’t seeing the strategy being executed well enough. That is when I press in to explore the lack of empowerment.

“Has everyone been given exactly what they need to be successful? More specifically, have they been given the people they need, the time they need, the energy they need and the resources they need?”

This is when it can get a little uncomfortable, because — more often than not — the leader has only provided a plan with time and target goals fully fleshed out.


To execute the strategy, everyone needs to be empowered with the following:

  • People: This means we have enough of the right people with the right skills. Launching a strategy without being fully staffed is foolish. Of equal importance, launching a strategy without being fully skilled is also foolish.
  • Time: This means we have enough time to not only get things done but to turn progress into momentum. Strategic plans that end with a launch date — and no timeline for reinforcement / adjustment / adoption — are doomed to unwanted chaos as well.
  • Energy: This means we have enough mental and emotional capacity to make good decisions and execute — that we are not wrestling with confusion, fatigue, resistance and such. Energy also includes the full emotional support of leadership for the players on the field. Leaders must be empathetic to the players, not critical of them.
  • Resources: This means we have the right budget, equipment / technology and even the physical space to get the job done. When strategic plans assume the initial resource estimates are 100% correct (and do not keep something extra in reserve for use later to drive reinforcement / adjustment / adoption), success is guaranteed to be limited.

Now, if we have provided both clarity and empowerment and execution is still stuck in a slog, we can tackle the third obstacle to executing our revenue strategy: engagement.

In the simplest of terms, engagement describes the state where an organization’s people buy into / believe that what they are doing is good for the organization AND good for them personally. An engaged workforce hums with self-motivation.

If engagement is missing — even if we have injected clarity and empowerment — we get apathy. Nothing really matters. And while there may be a flurry of action on the surface (meetings, emails, projects, etc.), none of it actually goes anywhere because the decisions being made are not tapping into the full capacity of the players making decisions. And the lack of engagement ruins execution.


Let’s assume for a moment that people are generally motivated to do meaningful work. This desire can become blocked by de-motivation — a state where internal motivation is buried beneath layers of restriction. The most common restrictions I see are:

  • Isolation: A sense (real or imagined) of being separated from all support
  • Information overload: Becoming overwhelmed by too much communication and data
  • Task difficulty: Struggling to do something that is currently beyond personal ability
  • Unrealistic expectations: Being held accountable to do something that cannot be achieved realistically

As leaders, we cannot motivate our players. Motivation comes from within. However, we can seek and address the factors that are de-motivating our players — especially when we might be the actual cause of the factor(s) involved.

This is not to say that it is easy work. Engagement is a complex and highly organic concept. There are many factors that generate it. But when we put our efforts into minimizing (and even eliminating) de-motivation, we create an environment where motivation can flourish and engagement can surge.


Please allow me to offer one further piece of advice: Go in order.

If the revenue strategy is struggling to execute …

  1. Start with creating clarity. Make sure that goals and roles are clear, aligned, and prioritized.
  2. Then, address empowerment. Everyone should have the people, time, energy and resources they need to fully execute — not just launch — the plan.
  3. If execution is still struggling after clarity and empowerment have been assured, dig into engagement. Seek and address de-motivation to release the team’s full capacity.

The good news is that execution can be corrected using these principles. The even better news is that we can embed these principles into our execution from the very beginning.

How to NOT execute your revenue strategy: Part 2

Welcome our guest thought leader: Tim Ohai is a leading growth consultant. He is the Founder and Principal of Kupu Solutions, and previously served as Global Director of Sales Effectiveness for Workday and other sales enablement roles at Shell Oil and Pennzoil. Connect with him and follow his wisdom here. And catch his latest podcast season of How to NOT Execute Your Strategy (and what to do about it) for more.

The goal is simple: execute the revenue strategy.

Well, as the old adage says, it is easier said than done.

As leaders, we do everything we can to make sure that the strategy is clear. We do everything we can to make sure that strategy is understood. And we do everything that we can to make sure that strategy is launched successfully.

But once the revenue strategy launches, why is execution such a roll of the dice?

Allow me to let you in on a poorly-known secret … execution has nothing to do with the plan.

Do plans matter? Absolutely. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”

But as I described in my previous post, the execution of our revenue strategies rely on too many variables than any single plan can account for. There is no way for one plan to cover every stakeholder, every dependency, every obstacle, and every change that will be involved as the revenue strategy implements over time. Factor in the idea that our customers have their own strategies to implement — with their own stakeholders / dependencies / obstacles / changes — and we wind up with an incredibly complex scenario that plans cannot manage.


Decision-making holds greater weight over your strategic plan. More specifically, making decisions in the moment as the strategy is being executed will influence your ultimate success.

If you know Henry Mintzberg, you know that strategy is ultimately a decision-making discipline. More succinctly, the decisions that are made in the pursuit of a targeted outcome is the real strategy. Therefore, strategic execution is the discipline of setting up and enabling great decision-making, the discipline of eliminating the triggers for poor decision-making.

So, what is the most common trigger for poor decision-making (and thus poor execution)? A lack of clarity.

As you have likely experienced yourself, a lack of clarity can show up in many ways. No clear goals, no clear priorities, no clear roles. Or as more commonly experienced, competing goals, competing priorities, and competing roles. Then there are components like processes, systems, and old-fashioned interpersonal dynamics that produce chaos. It’s no wonder poor decision-making occurs. All of these factors, left unchecked, become a breeding ground for poor decision-making — and poor execution.


The good news is that a lack of clarity is a relatively easy problem to address. Start with establishing goal clarity. What does success look like? I recommend defining the goal with the following three parts:

  1. The targeted outcome(s): What is the specific objective that the strategy is asking for? There may be more than one objective, but be cautious with adding too many targets to hit.
  2. The metrics that will be used: How will we know if the outcome has successfully been achieved? This should be a solid combination of both leading and lagging indicators. And again be cautious using too many metrics.(Side note: Far too often, metrics are confused with the outcome. The goal of “10% revenue growth” is a metric, not an outcome. Define the outcome — like launching a new product line — so that revenue growth measures how well the launch did.)
  3. The requirements that must be included/addressed: What expectations must be met in the pursuit of the outcome? This can include timelines, stakeholders to involve, budget concerns, etc. The caution here is to make sure it is all on the table up front so that people are not blindsided by unexpected expectations.

The key is to get everyone on the same page for all three of these parts. In other words, everyone involved should be pursuing the same outcome(s), using the same metrics, and meeting the same requirements. Do this and the resulting clarity will “magically” clean up so much of the poor decision-making that is generating poor execution. Prioritization and role clarity can be addressed. Resources (like budget and staff) get appropriately assigned. Processes naturally align. And interpersonal clashes organically go away.



Do you want to test the clarity of your revenue strategy? Ask your stakeholders to define what success looks like for your revenue strategy. Do they give you an aligned definition of outcome(s), metrics and requirements? If yes, celebrate because you are ahead of the rest of your peers. You can eagerly look forward to the next article in this series.

If not, this is exactly where you need to begin. While you’re at it, consider giving the Mereo Solution Management Expert Workbook a read.



It’s likely that the majority of your customers need some sort of help in creating their own clarity. When you and your sales team talk with them, you can generate credibility and trust by helping them get clear on what their own success looks like. Ask them questions like:

  • Do they have an aligned definition of outcome(s), metrics and requirements?
  • Would they like help in getting that?
  • Can you introduce them to some of your other customers who are dealing with the same challenges?
  • Would they find value if you shared how you and your company helped others create clarity?
  • The conversation can be incredibly empowering for everyone involved. And it is far more relevant than talking about features and benefits.

With that said, I offer one final caution: Be careful trying to create clarity with customers if you and your team have not already done your own work in this area. In other words, if we cannot do this for ourselves, how can we expect to do this with our customers?

How to NOT execute your revenue strategy: Part 1

Welcome our guest thought leader: Tim Ohai is a leading growth consultant. He is the Founder and Principal of Kupu Solutions, having previously served as Global Director of Sales Effectiveness for Workday and other sales enablement roles at Shell Oil and Pennzoil. Connect with him here.

In conversation after conversation with senior revenue leaders, I keep hearing the same thing: “I’m not sure my team is executing our strategy.”

Now, factor in the research that Robert Kaplan and David Norton published in 2005: “… On average, 95% of a company’s employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy.”

Is it possible, even 15+ years later, the 95% benchmark has not changed?

Based on what I am seeing and hearing, the answer is depressing. And it’s affecting the lifeblood of any revenue leader’s business.

Marketing campaigns fail to deliver against their promises. Sales initiatives stumble to even launch properly. And, per Dr. Howard Dover of the University of Texas, the massive amounts of technology spend over the last few years have not improved the effectiveness of our sellers. The revenue strategy is not coming to life.

It’s just as frustrating on the buyer’s side of the table. Remember, 95% of those people are also struggling to understand their own business strategy. They have their own failed initiatives, technology waste, and a surge of quiet quitting that is affecting every decision-making experience.

I would go so far as to propose that a major reason that 40% of deals end in no decision (Challenger, Inc.) is rooted in a lack of understanding the company strategy.

Read that last sentence again.

I see a fundamental lack of strategic understanding that is causing almost half of all qualified sales cycles to end with literally no decision being made. People are making decisions — or not making decisions — that do not align with the strategic outcomes of the organization. Somehow, they have either created their own definitions of what the strategy is, or they have bogged down all decision-making with their lack of clarity and confusion. Mix these two dynamics together (especially in complex sales cycles) and the end result is simply chaotic.

Furthermore, if we add in the potential deals that never get qualified and the deals with the customer regretting their final choice … well, the 40% number of lost opportunities starts to look small.


In the next four posts, I am going to walk through a model that challenges the entire mindset about how we both execute our revenue strategies and help our customers navigate their own complexity. This model will help you, as a revenue leader:

  1. Diagnose and pinpoint where your own execution is breaking down.
  2. Generate quick successes to unblock your execution.
  3. Tailor your value proposition for your customers based on what will help them most.

And if you and your team can do that, imagine how much of that 40% benchmark will shrink.