Purpose: Although the implementation process involves employees from different hierarchical levels, previous research on the implementation topic focused mostly on a top management perspective, omitting the perspective of lower hierarchical levels. We believe that employees from different hierarchical levels perceive differently the way the implementation process is carried out because of many intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Considering the primary role of lower hierarchical levels during the implementation process, we decided to include lower levels of management and operatives in our research. Methodology: We investigate the way employees from different hierarchical levels perceive the implementation process. The implementation process in our research was evaluated using four implementation factors: 1) People, 2) Resources allocation, 3) Communication, 4) Operational planning & control. We sent the questionnaire to all large Croatian enterprises (396) and gathered 208 questionnaires from 78 enterprises. Findings: The research findings confirm that the evaluation of key implementation factors differs significantly between hierarchical levels in two of the four identified factors: 1) Communication and 2) Operational planning & control. Frontline managers and operatives mostly consider the instructions for implementing the strategy too vague and unclear, their suggestions not taken into account, the communication generally too slow, what creates confusion and reduces the efficiency in coordinating operational tasks and introducing potential changes. Implications for theory and practice: Although we proved the statistically different perception about two out of four implementation factors, we contributed in a way to point out that this stream of research, with multiple factors and multiple respondents from different hierarchical levels, should be taken into consideration in future research about strategy implementation. Top managers should include feedback from lower hierarchical levels in order to grasp the pitfalls of strategy implementation. This study highlights the operational problems that might occur such as vague or slow communication, budget discrepancy, inadequate definition of timeline for activities and its dynamics, and ways to measure performance during strategy implementation. We believe that the research results are beneficial for academics and consultants when creating teaching and training programs for future managers about strategy implementation. Originality and value: Based on the analysis of the literature review and the research findings, we develop a new implementation model with questionnaire to analyze the way employee from different hierarchical levels perceive the implementation process.
Keywords: strategy implementation process, key implementation factors, hierarchical levels, employees’ perspectives on the strategy implementation process, large Croatian enterprises.