The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment


The creators of the revolutionary performance management tool called the Balanced Scorecard introduce a new approach that makes strategy a continuous process owned not just by top management, but by everyone. In The Strategy-Focused Organization, Robert Kaplan and David Norton share the results of ten years of learning and research into more than 200 companies that have implemented the Balanced Scorecard. Drawing from more than twenty in-depth case studies--including Mobil, CIGNA, and AT&T Canada--Kaplan and...
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The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment

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The creators of the revolutionary performance management tool called the Balanced Scorecard introduce a new approach that makes strategy a continuous process owned not just by top management, but by everyone. In The Strategy-Focused Organization, Robert Kaplan and David Norton share the results of ten years of learning and research into more than 200 companies that have implemented the Balanced Scorecard. Drawing from more than twenty in-depth case studies--including Mobil, CIGNA, and AT&T Canada--Kaplan and Norton illustrate how Balanced Scorecard adopters have taken their groundbreaking tool to the next level. These organizations have used the scorecard to create an entirely new performance management framework that puts strategy at the center of key management processes and systems.

Kaplan and Norton articulate the five key principles required for building strategy-focused organizations: 1) translate the strategy into operational terms, 2) align the organization to the strategy, 3) make strategy everyone's everyday job, 4) make strategy a continual process, and 5) mobilize change through strong, effective leadership. The authors provide a detailed account of how a range of organizations in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors have deployed these principles to achieve breakthrough, sustainable performance improvements.

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What People Are Saying

Clayton Christensen
"The Strategy-Focused Organization is a great example of how practical management concepts grounded in solid research grow in usefulness. History will judge this to be one of the most important books on strategy ever written because it bridges the chasm between concept and implementation. Every manager should read it."
—(Clayton Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business School, and Author, The Innovator's Dilemma)
James H. Goodnight
James H. Goodnight, President & CEO, SAS
Kaplan and Norton chronicle the long-overdue shift from management 'by the numbers' to a performance management process that places well-articulated, knowledge-based strategies at the center of every employee's activities. Given the pace of change in the new economy, strategy-focused processes that are measurable, repeatable, and supported by superior information are the only true sources of sustainable competitive advantage. Organizations that ignore this reality do so at their own risk.
Gary Locke
Gary Locke, Governor, State of Washington
The Balanced Scorecard is an innovative performance management tool that provides enormous help in tackling the tough job of managing state government for results.
Dieter Huckestein
Dieter Huckestein, Hotel Division President, Hilton Hotels Corporation
Kaplan and Norton's framework is clearly taking hold as a business model for today and tomorrow. Our own Balanced Scorecard journey has allowed us not only to 'tell the story of our strategy' and deliver positive results for our stakeholders, but to unite our team members around a system that measures, rewards, and motivates performance based on achieving goals that move our company forward.
Dave Ulrich
Dave Ulrich, Professor of Business Administration, University of Michigan
The Strategy-Focused Organization recognizes and reinforces organization issues and moves the Balanced Scorecard from a strategic imperative to a business result. Leaders in all functions-and at all levels-will find it a useful blueprint for turning strategy into action.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578512508
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2000
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 625,081
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert S. Kaplan is the Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development at Harvard Business School.

David P. Norton is the President of the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative, Inc.

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Read an Excerpt

1. Creating the Strategy-focused Organization

The ability to execute strategy. A study of 275 portfolio managers reported that the ability to execute strategy was more important than the quality of the strategy itself.' These managers cited strategy implementation as the most important factor shaping management and corporate valuations. This finding seems surprising, as for the past two decades management theorists, consultants, and the business press have focused on how to devise strategies that will generate superior performance. Apparently, strategy formulation has never been more important.

Yet other observers concur with the portfolio managers' opinion that the ability to execute strategy can be more important than the strategy itself. In the early 1980s, a survey of management consultants reported that fewer than 10 percent of effectively formulated strategies were successfully implemented.' More recently, a 1999 Fortune cover story of prominent CEO failures concluded that the emphasis placed on strategy and vision created a mistaken belief that the right strategy was all that was needed to succeed. "In the majority of cases-we estimate 70 percent-the real problem isn't [bad strategy but] . . . bad execution," asserted the authors.' Thus, with failure rates reported in the 70 percent to 90 percent range, we can appreciate why sophisticated investors have come to realize that execution is more important than good vision.

Why do organizations have difficulty implementing well-formulated strategies? One problem is that strategies-the unique and sustainable ways by which organizations create value-are changing but the tools for measuring strategies have not kept pace. In the industrial economy, companies created value with their tangible assets, by transforming raw materials into finished products. A 1982 Brookings Institute study showed that tangible book values represented 62 percent of industrial organizations' market values. Ten years later, the ratio had dropped to 38 percent.' And recent studies estimated that by the end of the twentieth century, the book value of tangible assets accounted for only 10 percent to 15 percent of companies' market values.' Clearly, opportunities for creating value are shifting from managing tangible assets to managing knowledge-based strategies that deploy an organization's intangible assets: customer relationships, innovative products and services, high-quality and responsive operating processes, information technology and databases, and employee capabilities, skills, and motivation.

In an economy dominated by tangible assets, financial measurements were adequate to record investments in inventory, property, plant, and equipment on companies' balance sheets. Income statements could also capture the expenses associated with the use of these tangible assets to produce revenues and profits. But today's economy, where intangible assets have become the major sources of competitive advantage, calls for tools that describe knowledge-based assets and the value-creating strategies that these assets make possible. Lacking such tools, companies have encountered difficulties managing what they could not describe or measure.

Companies also have had problems attempting to implement knowledge-based strategies in organizations designed for industrial-age competition. Many organizations, even until the end of the 1970', operated under central control, through large functional departments. Strategy could be developed at the top and implemented through a centralized command-and-control culture. Change was incremental, so managers could use slow-reacting and tactical management control systems such as the budget. Such systems, however, were designed for nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury industrial companies and are inadequate for today's dynamic, rapidly changing environment. Yet many organizations continue to use them. Is it any surprise that they have difficulty implementing radical new strategies that were designed for knowledge-based competition in the twenty-first century? Organizations need a new kind of management system-one explicitly designed to manage strategy, not tactics.

Most of today's organizations operate through decentralized business units and teams that are much closer to the customer than large corporate staffs. These organizations recognize that competitive advantage comes more from the intangible knowledge, capabilities, and relationships created by employees than from investments in physical assets and access to capital. Strategy implementation therefore requires that all business units, support units, and employees be aligned and linked to the strategy. And with the rapid changes in technology, competition, and regulations, the formulation and implementation of strategy must become a continual and participative process. Organizations today need a language for communicating strategy as well as processes and systems that help them to implement strategy and gain feedback about their strategy. Success comes from having strategy become everyone's everyday job.

Several years ago, we introduced the Balanced Scorecard.' At the time, we thought the Balanced Scorecard was about measurement, not about strategy. We began with the premise that an exclusive reliance on financial measures in a management system was causing organizations to do the wrong things. Financial measures are lag indicators; they report on outcomes, the consequences of past actions. Exclusive reliance on financial indicators promoted short-term behavior that sacrificed long-term value creation for short-term performance. The Balanced Scorecard approach retained measures of financial performance, the lagging indicators, but supplemented them with measures on the drivers, the lead indicators, of future financial performance.

But what were the appropriate measures of future performance? If financial measures were causing organizations to do the wrong things, what measures would prompt them to do the right things? The answer turned out to be obvious: Measure the strategy! Thus all of the objectives and measures on a Balanced Scorecard-financial and nonfinancial-should be derived from the organization's vision and strategy. Although we may not have appreciated the implications at the time, the Balanced Scorecard soon became a tool for managing strategy-a tool for dealing with the 90 percent failure rates.

Several of the first companies that asked us to help them adopt the Balanced Scorecard-Mobil Oil Corporation's North America Marketing and Refining Division, CIGNA Corporation's Property & Casualty Division, Chemical Retail Bank, and Brown & Root Energy Services' Rockwater Division-were underperforming; they were losing money and trailing the industry. Each organization had recently brought in a new management team to turn performance around. Each new management team introduced fundamentally new strategies in an effort to make their organizations more customer-driven. The strategies did not simply rely on cost reduction and downsizing; rather, they required repositioning the organization in its competitive market space. More important, the new strategies required that the entire organization adopt a new set of cultural values and priorities. In retrospect, we had been asked to introduce the Balanced Scorecard into four worst-case scenarios: failing, demoralized organizations that needed their workforces of up to 10,000 employees to learn and understand a new strategy and change behavior that had been imbedded for decades...

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Table of Contents

1 Creating the Strategy-Focused Organization
2 How Mobil Became a Strategy-Focused Organization
Part One: Translating the Strategy to Operational Terms
3 Building Strategy Maps
4 Building Strategy Maps in Private Sector Companies
5 Strategy Scorecards in Nonprofit, Government, and Health Care Organizations
Part Two: Aligning the Organization to Create Synergies
6 Creating Business Unit Synergy
7 Creating Synergy through Shared Services
Part Three: Making Strategy Everyone's Everyday Job
8 Creating Strategic Awareness
9 Defining Personal and Team Objectives
10 The Balanced Paycheck
Part Four: Making Strategy a Continuous Process
11 Planning and Budgeting
12 Feedback and Learning
Part Five: Mobilizing Change through Executive Leadership
13 Leadership and Mobilization
14 Avoiding the Pitfalls
Frequently Asked Questions
About the Authors
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    I have not actually finished the book yet but I do think that this is a book that anyone in a leadership role in thier organization could use to update the strategic planning process. The concept of focusing the whole organization toward common goals helps it succeed. As I continue to read this book I am looking for suggestions in order to include all of the employees and help motivate them to achieve the organizations overall goals. Instead of it being a one time event, I think it will also help us keep the strategic plan in front of us as we work through it this year for not only the board of directors but the staff as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2005

    Highly Recommended!

    The fact that executives keep trying new strategic initiatives despite their abysmal rate of failure is, like second marriages, a triumph of hope over experience. Or, it may indicate just how much pressure top managers face to improve their profits. By one estimate, nine out of ten companies fail to execute their strategic visions. Yet, CEOs - who witness a world in constant flux - continue to introduce change initiatives. Are they trapped in the operational definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Or, are they just ready for this book? Authors Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton offer wise counsel to help executives break the cycle of strategic flops. They advise executives to transform their companies into 'Strategy-Focused Organizations' using the 'Balanced Scorecard' and 'strategic mapping' tools. With these initiatives, CEOs can ensure that every employee pays attention to strategy implementation. Kaplan and Norton, the all-star co-author team who wrote 'The Balanced Scorecard' and 'Strategy Maps', have done it again, in this well-organized but somewhat dry volume. We strongly recommend this book to any manager who is responsible for designing or implementing a strategic change initiative.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2000

    Basic Training for the New Business Environment

    First and foremost, this book is an ¿interim report on the authors concept, the Balanced Scorecard (introduced in 1992 and described in the book of the same name, published in 1996). The authors provide the reader with definitive guides for entertaining change, leadership and success for today¿s nimble organizations and businesses. When Intel executives heard that Ford Motor Company, and Delta Airlines would give PC¿s to all their employees to use at home, they got into the trend as well. (See ¿The Home Field Advantage¿ CIO, May 1, 2000, page 50) The timing was perfect since Intel had launched a virtual private network to support remote access for its workers. This is a perfect example of what the authors call an enormous improvement in the communications process that spell the difference between success and failure for any business or organization. The Balanced Scorecard is applied to those areas where a business action produces an effect that will either be beneficial or bad for that company. This can spell agility or molasses, making rapid project developments a success, ergo increased profitability. The book¿s premise is to show ¿how to implement new strategies¿. And while some companies may not have to move as quickly as Intel did, every company is facing an increased rugged landscape it has to map in order to survive. Both authors through 'The Strategy Focused Organization' imply that all companies are fighting guerilla warfare. In a conventional war- like the old days of strategic planning, the generals spent a lot of time reviewing the plans. In the current war, you don¿t have the same degree of control. Yet there is the potential to be even more successful than before in the new and ever-changing business environment, if companies employ the Balanced Scorecard.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2000

    Best Practices in Organizational Communication

    The Strategy-Focused Organization clearly deserves more than five stars. It is one of the ten most important business books of the past decade. The book successfully outlines an enormous improvement in communications practices for making important changes in for profit and nonprofit organizations. The communications stall is the most one in most organizations. Application of the authors¿ ideas can bring about a significant improvement in our society. This book is an interim report on the application of the authors¿ concept, the Balanced Scorecard (introduced in 1992 and described in the book of the same name, published in 1996). The purpose of the book is to provide ¿a roadmap for those who wish to create their own Strategy-Focused Organization . . . [by employing the Balanced Scorecard].¿ If you don¿t know what the Balanced Scorecard is, let me briefly describe it for you. A Balanced Scorecard adds several important measures to the ones normally found in the accounting system, designed to measure those areas where performance most directly and powerfully affects strategic position. Such areas include innovation, organizational learning, effectiveness in key tasks, and performance with key audiences like customers. The measures are chosen to reflect the systematic effects of how the organization¿s overall value and performance are improved, and are displayed in a Strategy Map that communicates those ideas to one and all. In doing so, the Balanced Scorecard is the applied solution to many of the issues raised about how to establish a learning organization in Peter Senge¿s The Fifth Discipline. Most new business concepts do not last long enough to warrant a study on their effectiveness. The ones that do, like reengineering a few years ago, usually display more problems than successes. The Balanced Scorecard concept is the exception. The results have been very positive for almost all those who have employed it. The key seems to lie in having everyone in the organization have a more complete understanding of what the organization is trying to accomplish. As such, the authors have actually uncovered something much more significant than a strategy communications process. Harvard Business School Professor and accounting guru (Activity-Based Costing) Bob Kaplan and consultant David Norton have uncovered a best practice in how to communicate any important message in an organization. Although the book does not address that latter point, discerning readers will quickly spot it. Presumably the authors will too at some point, and a future book will begin to address this important application. The focus of this book is on how Balanced Scorecard ¿adopting companies used [it] . . . to implement new strategies.¿ The finding is that with ¿their new focus, alignment, and learning, the organizations enjoyed nonlinear performance breakthroughs.¿ This is quite remarkable because organizations have reported in the past that implementing new strategies is one of the most difficult tasks they ever take on. Studies cited by the authors point to one problem being that most people in the organization are never clear on what the new strategy is. So if careful coordination and purposeful change are required, the speeding relay team may instead drop the baton along the way. The Balanced Scorecard provides for a fundamental strategic control mechanism in the same way that the budget provides an operational control. The Balanced Scorecard is at the center of the organization¿s business planning, getting feedback to improve learning about how to proceed and then translating the organization¿s vision for each employee. This feedback is critical because most initial concepts for strategy are flawed in fundamental ways. As the authors point out, strategies should be treated as hypotheses, rather than as commandments written permanently in stone. Only by uncovering those flaws and correcting them does a new strat

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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