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Minding the Gap Between Created and Realized Strategy

Research findings show that up to 95% of employees are actually unaware of or do not understand their organization's strategy.

Failing to recognize the spatial gap between the door and the train's platform at the station can lead to personal injury. Likewise, too often in organizations, there is a significant gap between the created strategy and the realized strategy that puts the organization's performance at risk. Leaders can learn to mind the gap between created strategies and realized strategies by applying specific leadership competencies.

Intelligence and self-assurance are essential thinking competencies for leaders to develop and apply to improve organizational performance.

"It is impossible to formulate a strategy, let alone a "best" or preferred strategy, without engaging in strategic thinking" (Abraham, 2005, p. 5).

Leaders need to have the intelligence and confidence to make sense of the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous reality that modern organizations operate within. Strategic thinking in an organization needs to be continuous, adapting to the shifting market and organizational capability.

Empathy, energy, and humility are essential skills and abilities for leaders engaged in strategy. Taking a strategy created to realized requires effective communication. It begins with listening to employees for understanding the needs of the business and their motivations and potential concerns that strategy can produce. Also, in the absence of humility, leaders can incorrectly assume they have all the answers from their perspective, leading to significant gaps between created and realized strategy.

Successful organizations are distinctive from their competition, and likewise, their strategies are unique to the culture and the organization. Distinctive means either behaving differently or doing something different than the competition. In addition to core leadership competencies organizations need to consider the organization's differentiated performance.


Abraham, S. (2005). Stretching strategic thinking. Strategy & Leadership, 33(5), 5-12. doi:10.1108/10878570510616834

Hughes, R. L., Beatty, K. M., & Dinwoodie, D. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader: Your role in your organization's enduring success. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Pollitt, D. (2005). Curtis fine papers aligns strategy and leadership style with business priorities: Three pillars of development for top executives. Human Resource Management International Digest, 13(6), 33-35. doi:10.1108/09670730510619312

Thompson, J., & Cole, M. (1997). Strategic competency - the learning challenge. Journal of Workplace Learning, 9(5), 153-162. doi:10.1108/13665629710169611


About the Author:

Jeff's knowledge and expertise include strategic planning facilitation, strategy design, driving change, and workforce strategies to achieve influence and grow organizations in the pharmaceutical, retail, and food and beverage industries. Jeff Doolittle is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI. He can be reached at or by calling (616) 803-9020. Visit to learn more about strategic planning services provided.

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About Dr. Jeff Doolittle

He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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