Three Barriers That Hold Back Business Success

Richard Shrapnel's

Often, the floodgates to success can be opened not by pushing harder but by stepping back and removing the barriers that are holding success in abeyance. However, this requires that you know where those barriers may exist.


Active Knowledge Question:

Do you routinely scan your business for common barriers to success to ensure they are not holding your business back?


Just Keep At It

Some would say, ‘Success requires perseverance, commitment, focus and, in many instances, endurance. You just have to keep hammering away until the walls come down.’ 

Often leaders do not have the strength to endure and win successes that are just around the corner (well, potentially around the corner) and they give up too soon. Sometimes you can try too hard to bring success about and what was actually needed was a bit of patience and space. Time is sometimes the solution to winning.

There are many views on success, however, what you must always ensure is that you are not fighting against barriers that you yourself are creating or allowing to exist.

You can become so focused on what needs to be done to win, that you simply cannot see the obvious blockage right in front of your eyes. Often, you simply may not have the perspective to see what everyone else can likely see.

Success requires not only knowing and doing what it takes to win but also constantly removing the barriers and impediments that will commonly arise to distract you, slow you down or stop you dead in your tracks.

In business, these barriers to success will continuously be born and take shape. If your business is competitively fit and your competitive engine is the core of your performance efforts, then these barriers will likely not get a chance to take hold. However, it is still worthwhile adopting the habit of pausing and searching out these common barriers to ensure none have emerged.

If the competitive engine is not the core of your performance efforts, then cleansing must be a regular activity so that you are not continuously fighting against yourself in trying to be successful.


What Is A Barrier To Success?

A barrier to success is a self-imposed impediment, which is stopping your business from moving forward to achieve the goals and successes it is pursuing.

They are not external challenges or obstacles to be overcome. For example, how to establish a presence in a new city or country. These are challenges that any business wishing to enter that market will need to work their way through.

The barriers to success in your business will be and are unique to you. You, your business, and the people within it have created them in their own unique way. We can categorise them under headings that will apply to every business, but the identity of the actual ‘beast’ that is holding you back: that’s all yours.

Therefore, in searching out and cleansing your business of these barriers you will need to look for the telltale signs of these barriers; the impacts you can see in your business. Then, find their causation and remove them.

It may sound, at this point, complex and messy to find these barriers but once we unpack the categories and telltale signs, you will have no problems in recognising and removing them.

I believe there are three common categories of barriers that cover all the agents that are holding your business back. They are:

  • Paradigms– ways of thinking that block new possibilities and opportunities.
  • Bureaucracy– processes, regulations and layers of authority that do little to support customer focus, customer value, efficiency or effectiveness in delivery.
  • Self-interest– a me-first attitude that places the ‘self’ above others in an unfair manner that weakens the business motive to compete.


Removing Barriers

Your effort to unearth and remove barriers to success in your business should be a routine task that is best undertaken by always being alert to the signs of their existence, as described above. Find them and remove them.

Your competitive engine, if well-tuned, will in itself be self-cleansing and working to stop these barriers from forming in the first place and removing them if they take hold. Bear in mind, also, that if you discover one category of barrier then it is likely others will be present as well – they seed and feed each other.

In addition, an output of your strategy development will be the design of your organisation, one which supports the competitive posture that you have crafted. Good design also acts as a defence against barriers forming.

It should be remembered that strategy and structure are interdependent. The old premise that you develop your strategy and then design the organisation to deliver it is nice in theory but simply doesn’t work in practice.

In crafting the perfect design for your business there are two design aspects that you must consider – functionality and alignment.

Wrapping these two design aspects into a single outcome means:

  • The business has crafted its competitive posture, that is how it intends to compete to win.
  • A goal achievement plan (GAP) has been developed to ensure delivery of all the actions required to achieve the competitive posture.
  • The way in which the business operates (its structure) has been attuned to focus on the key aspects of the competitive posture.
  • All decisions are made with reference to the GAP and the actions detailed therein.
  • The culture within the business is aligned with the personality traits required to underpin the attributes inherent in the competitive posture.
  • Performance measures are focused on the key metrics, which reflect delivery of the GAP and achievement of the competitive posture.
  • Finally, rewards are adjusted to only encourage aligned behaviour and outcomes. Again, these are focused on the delivery of the GAP and achievement of the competitive posture.

And the catalyst sitting behind all of this is your competitive engine.



An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel