Biggest organisational barriers to success | Xquadrant

Biggest organisational barriers to success

In the spring and summer of 2018 xquadrant surveyed over 150 senior business leaders in order to understand their top business goals and the organisational challenges that were limiting their ability to execute.

In the first article, we saw who completed the Organisational Leadership Survey and revealed their top business priorities.

In this article we dive a little deeper and examine what leaders found are the biggest roadblocks to attaining those strategic objectives.

Part 3: Barriers To Success

We asked respondents to choose which organisational barriers were the biggest roadblocks to achieving their #1 strategic objective for the business.

3.1 Top barriers to growth

Growth-oriented leaders are consistently maxed out. The overriding barrier citied by leaders in high-growth contexts is that they and their team are permanently maxed out (47%). This is prevent the strategic thinking needed to get the organisation to the next level.


We are heavily resource-constrained at the moment, and the goals of the organisation are very much sales oriented. This conflicts with my ability to get my team to start thinking strategically and changing the game.

- VP, Global IT Services Firm

This is unsurprising. In our work helping leaders at tech and digital firms manage situations of hyper-growth, we repeatedly see the need to multiply skills across the organisation rapidly, remove skills bottlenecks and help everyone step up to a higher level. 

Alignment and Execution come in as second-level concerns for growth-mode leaders, with around 24% of growth-mode execs highlighting these.

What we typically see here is that when leaders are maxed-out, communication and listening suffer, and leaders often fail to do the necessary work of building true agreement within the exec team around a “rallying cry” - the #1 priority for the quarter - and communicating that to their teams.

The result? Frustration and a real sense of dissatisfaction knowing that execution could be so much more effective.

Cross functional communication issues are exacerbated by geographical distances. We need to better document routines and share them internally as well as with the new recruits we need as we scale.

- CEO, Scale-Up Telecoms Firm

3.2 Top barriers to Transformation

Leaders in transformation or turnaround contexts struggled with a larger number of organisational issues.

Alignment issues, execution challenges and a sense of complacency are each major issues for a third of leaders focused on organisational transformation.

A significant number of senior leaders are spending too much time doing and managing and not enough time leading.  Some of them rarely take the time to step back and spend time on true development of teams and individuals. There’s too much emphasis on short term delivery.

- Country Manager, Fortune 500 Firm

PART 4: Game-changers

In the final part of the survey, we asked leaders what the biggest ‘game-changers’ would be for them, and what strategies they are adopting to overcome their top organisational roadblocks.

This is where we get practical, so the next articles in the series will each explore one of the top three ‘game-changers’ identified by execs in either hyper growth mode or transformation mode.

We’ll unpack the idea a little, and give some pragmatic implementation advice.

>> No time to read this now? Concerned you’ll miss the insights from the rest of the series? Get the entire series in ‘bite sized’ emails + a convenient consolidated report.

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Richard Medcalf

Richard Medcalf is Founder & CEO of Xquadrant. Having held senior positions in both the professional services and tech sectors, he's committed himself to improving the quality of leadership and organisational performance around the world. The way to his heart is through curry.