Execution Excellence: A book review by Bob Morris

Execution ExcellenceExecution Excellence: Making Strategy Work Using the Balanced Scorecard
Sanjiv Anand
John Wiley & Sons (2016)

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” Thomas Edison

David P. Norton and Robert S. Kaplan co-authored an article, “The Balanced Scorecard: Measures That Drive Performance,” published in the January/February 1992 edition of Harvard Business Review. The material was later developed into a book, The Balanced Scorecard Card: Translating Strategy into Action, published by Harvard Business Review Press (1996). Basically, when Kaplan and Norton first introduced the BSC concept, companies were busy transforming themselves to compete in the world of information; their ability to exploit intangible assets was becoming more decisive than their ability to manage physical assets. The scorecard allowed companies to track financial results while monitoring progress in building the capabilities needed for growth. The tool was not intended to be a replacement for financial measures but rather a complement—and that’s just how most companies treated it. The term “balanced” is critically important: it refers both to the sources of data, and, to the data themselves

As I worked my way through Sanjiv Anand’s narrative in Execution Excellence, I was again reminded of two observations: by Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all”; and by Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” They correctly stress the importance of focusing on the right question to answer, the right problem to solve, as well as having a strategy that drives whatever must be done to answer that question or solve that problem.

I agree with Anand: “it is clear that the real world is different than what [some] books make it out to be. In some markets, the strategy can be complex. In other markets, the strategy is simple because the market is simple. Irrespective of the complexity of the market or the strategy, what matters is the execution. It’s about getting the strategy executed, within the timelines you have, with the resources you can bring to the table to achieve the results you desire. That’s execution excellence.” And it presupposes that the given strategy is appropriate to the given objectives.

These are among the subjects of greatest interest and value to me in Part I:

o The unique challenges posed by the global business environment in today’s flat world
o The evolving role of strategy in a VUCA marketplace
o How to build a strategy that “works” both internally and externally

NOTE: Keep in mind Drucker’s comment that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The best strategy is “for all seasons.”

o Why execution is implementation at all levels and in all areas
o How to manage the business planning process

Anand shifts his attention to the BSC in Part II; examines the challenges of design in Part III; the challenges of implementation in Part IV; and then in Part V, he shares his concluding thoughts, then provides five substantive appendices, three of which are mini-case studies of generic industries (banking, textiles, and travel/tourism).

The Balanced Scorecard concept is more relevant and more valuable today than it was when first introduced more then twenty years ago. Why? Because the global marketplace is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous now than it was at any prior time that I can remember.

Perhaps I am channeling Porter when suggesting, also, that the BSC is not a crystal ball or a telescope or an MRI scanner. Business leaders need sufficient quantities of the right data to “keep score” so that the best decisions can be made when pursuing the right strategic objectives.

Sanjiv Anand is to be commended for the wealth of information, insights, and counsel he provides in this volume. He offers most business leaders just about all they need to help their organization achieve execution excellence

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I urge you check out the resources here:

Sanjiv’s website link

The Wiley link

The Amazon US link

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