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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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 prevalent one in most organizations...
Published on 3 Feb 2001

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read if you have read the previous books
Kaplan and Norton continue the exploration of the balanced scorecard with a good exposisition of the balanced scorecard in strategy implementation. The ideas of the text are good and the examples sound. There are only two areas of possible weakness. The first is the need to understand the previous book - having not read it in a year I found it useful to refer back, the...
Published on 5 Dec 2000 by elizabeth lockett


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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Practices in Organizational Communication, 3 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment (Hardcover)
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 prevalent 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 strategy have a good chance of succeeding.
The book features a lot of case histories that explain what the most successful organizations have done to apply the Balanced Scorecard. These are particularly valuable for making the key elements of the Balanced Scorecard clearer. For example, the book contains many pages of Strategy Maps for different organizations. These maps connect financial, customer, internal process, and learning objectives in an explicit description of how improvement in each area is connected to each other one, and to the organization's overall objectives. Without these detailed examples, it would be very hard to grasp the heart of the communications process involved here.
These financial and nonfinancial metrics can then be used to create personal objectives for each person in the organization for contributing to the ultimate success. Management by objectives measures and compensation systems can be connected to the new strategy in this way.
The research emphasizes several important themes:
(1) Translate the strategy into operational terms
(2) Align the organization to create necessary synergies
(3) Make strategic initiatives everyone's everyday job
(4) Make strategy a continuing process
(5) Mobilize change through executive leadership
I especially found the surveys helpful for describing what was different about the effectiveness of organizations using the Balanced Scorecard. They outperform the other companies by about 100 percent in having everyone in the organization understand what the organization's strategy is.
The book also contains a very helpful section of frequently asked questions about the Balanced Scorecard.
Let me be sure that you understand what the limitation of the Balanced Scorecard is. If you conceptualize a strategy that is not as good as one that your competitor develops, you will still be vulnerable to losing ground until such time as you reconceptualize your strategy. The Balanced Scorecard can help you realize that that task is needed and provide some clues, but this process will be most helpful to those who excel at conceiving of pre-emptive strategies that their organizations have advantages in implementing.
After you have finished reading, sharing and applying these lessons, I suggest you think about where else people need better communications processes. Then abstract the elements of this model to apply in those circumstances as well.
Get where you want to go more rapidly!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read if you have read the previous books, 5 Dec 2000
By 
elizabeth lockett (leeds, w yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment (Hardcover)
Kaplan and Norton continue the exploration of the balanced scorecard with a good exposisition of the balanced scorecard in strategy implementation. The ideas of the text are good and the examples sound. There are only two areas of possible weakness. The first is the need to understand the previous book - having not read it in a year I found it useful to refer back, the second is the focus of industries - which are by on large manufacturing, while in a consultancy environment the score card is a useful tool
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Practices in Organizational Communication, 22 Aug 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 122,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment (Hardcover)
The Strategy-Focused Organization clearly deserves more than five stars. It is one of the ten most important business books of the past ten years. 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 prevalent 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 companies used that resource to implement new strategies. The finding is that with the Balanced Scorecard, nonlinear success usually followed. 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 strategy have a good chance of succeeding.
The book features a lot of case histories that explain what the most successful organizations have done to apply the Balanced Scorecard. These are particularly valuable for making the key elements of the Balanced Scorecard clearer. For example, the book contains many pages of Strategy Maps for different organizations. These maps connect financial, customer, internal process, and learning objectives in an explicit description of how improvement in each area is connected to each other one, and to the organization's overall objectives. Without these detailed examples, it would be very hard to grasp the heart of the communications process involved here.
These financial and nonfinancial metrics can then be used to create personal objectives for each person in the organization for contributing to the ultimate success. Management by objectives measures and compensation systems can be connected to the new strategy in this way.
The research emphasizes several important themes: (1) Translate the strategy into operational terms (2) Align the organization to create necessary synergies (3) Make strategic initiatives everyone's everyday job (4) Make strategy a continuing process (5) Mobilize change through executive leadership.
I especially found the surveys helpful for describing what was different about the effectiveness of organizations using the Balanced Scorecard. They outperform the other companies by about 100 percent in having everyone in the organization understand what the organization's strategy is.
The book also contains a very helpful section of frequently asked questions about the Balanced Scorecard.
Let me be sure that you understand what the limitation of the Balanced Scorecard is. If you conceptualize a strategy that is not as good as one that your competitor develops, you will still be vulnerable to losing ground until such time as you reconceptualize your strategy. The Balanced Scorecard can help you realize that that task is needed and provide some clues, but this process will be most helpful to those who excel at conceiving of pre-emptive strategies that their organizations have advantages in implementing.
After you have finished reading, sharing and applying these lessons, I suggest you think about where else people need better communications processes. Then abstract the elements of this model to apply in those circumstances as well.
Get where you want to go more rapidly!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 26 Nov 2013
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This ebook is on my I-Pad and I cross reference the exaplanations and cases to some of my advisory work and research. Whilst it was written a while ago, it is based on sound fieldwork and cases. A great business reference book. Also read the latest book by Kaplan and Norton - The Execution Premium for an update on how strategy links to operation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It does exactly what is says on the jar, 20 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment (Hardcover)
Have a look at how "portfolios of Measure", a scorecard can help you focus on the key aspects of success, in na team, group, division or department as well as a Company.

Some of the "strategy" Views are being superseded and his views on Value are dated ,
but essentially its a Key Guide to the use of Measurement to DRIVE performance not just to spread sheet failure!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Perilous "Journey" to Breakthrough Performance, 25 July 2006
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment (Hardcover)
If you have not already read Kaplan and Norton's The Balanced Scoreboard, I presume to suggest that you do so prior to reading this book. However, this sequel is so thoughtful and well-written that it can certainly be of substantial value to decision-makers in any organization (regardless of size or nature) which is determined to "thrive in the new business environment." Research data suggest that only 5% of the workforce understand their company's strategy, that only 25% of managers have incentives linked to strategy, that 60% of organizations don't link budgets to strategy, and 85% of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy. These and other research findings help to explain why Kaplan and Norton believe so strongly in the power of the Balanced Scorecard. As they suggest, it provides "the central organizing framework for important managerial processes such as individual and team goal setting, compensation, resource allocation, budgeting and planning, and strategic feedback and learning." After rigorous and extensive research of their own, obtained while working closely with several dozen different organizations, Kaplan and Norton observed five common principles of a Strategy-Focused Organization:

1. Translate the strategy to operational terms

2. Align the organization to the strategy

3. Make strategy everyone's job

4. Make strategy a continual process

5. Mobilize change through executive leadership

The first four principles focus on the the Balanced Scorecard tool, framework, and supporting resources; the importance of the fifth principle is self-evident. "With a Balanced Scorecard that tells the story of the strategy, we now have a reliable foundation for the design of a management system to create Strategy-Focused Organizations."

After two introductory chapters, the material is carefully organized and developed within five Parts, each of which examines in detail one of the aforementioned "common principles": Translating the Strategy to Operational Terms, Aligning the Organization to Create Synergies, Making Strategy Everyone's Job, Making Strategy a Continual Process, and finally, Mobilizing Change Through Executive Leadership. Kaplan and Norton then provide a "Frequently Asked Questions" section which some readers may wish to consult first.

There are many pitfalls to be avoided when designing, launching, and implementing the program which Kaplan and Norton present. These pitfalls include lack of senior management commitment, too few individuals involved [or including inappropriate individuals at the outset], keeping the scoreboard at the top, too long a development process (when, in fact, the Balanced Scorecard is a one-time measurement process), treating the Balanced Scorecard as an [isolated] systems project, hiring consultants lacking sufficient experience with a Balanced Scorecard, and introducing the Balanced Scorecard only for compensation. When organizations experience one or more of these pitfalls, their key executives can soon become impatient, confused, frustrated, and ultimately, opposed to Balanced Scorecard initiatives. It is imperative to understand both what the Balanced Scorecard must be (e.g. cohesive and comprehensive) and what it must not be (e.g. fragmented and episodic). Kaplan and Norton correctly note that the journey they propose "is not easy or short. It requires commitment and perseverance. It requires teamwork and integration across traditional organizational boundaries and roles. The message must be reinforced often and in many ways." Those who are determined to achieve organization-wide breakthrough performance are fortunate to have Kaplan and Norton as companions every step of the way during what is indeed a perilous "journey."
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced Scorecard, 21 April 2003
This review is from: The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment (Hardcover)
This, and its predecessor, are two of the fundamental management books of all time. A 'must read'. As a bonus, they are even pretty readable!!!
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