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Strategy to Execution

Services: Leadership Development – Strategy to Execution

Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage

Companies often manage strategy in fits and starts. Though executives may formulate an excellent strategy, it easily fades from memory as the organization tackles day-to-day operations issues, doing what HBS professor Robert S. Kaplan calls "fighting fires."

A new book due in August by Kaplan and David P. Norton aims to make strategy a continual process. The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage (HBS Press) shows managers how to weave organizational principles into a more effective management system that respects the differences between strategy and operations yet integrates them in a powerful way. Kaplan and Norton introduced the Balanced Scorecard, a performance measurement system, in 1992. The Execution Premium is their fifth book as co-authors. Kaplan recently explained the ideas behind The Execution Premium and how they bridge the common divide between strategy and operations.

Q: What particular issues around execution need to be better addressed in business?

A: There are two key issues. First is leadership. Without strong visionary leadership, strategy will not be executed effectively.

The second key issue is to recognize that strategy and operations (or tactics) are both important but different. The normal course of events is for companies to focus on day-to-day operations and short-term problem solving. Management meetings focus on fighting fires and fixing problems. Often little time and few resources are committed to strategic issues. We don’t advocate abandoning an intense focus on operations and their improvement. But we do advocate that planning strategy, not just describing it, is important. The senior management team needs to have regular, probably monthly, meetings that focus only on strategy. We describe in the book the different roles, frequencies, participants, and agendas for operational review meetings and strategy review meetings.