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What Does Successful Strategy Execution Look Like? (Part 1)

by Kent Smack on December 4, 2019

successful strategy execution

I've passionately explored the ways organizations manage strategy and achieve success over the past 20 years of my career and have learned so much from our clients and the Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame companies, many who were not our clients.

I remember Ann Taylor sharing a strategy board game they invented for their employees to play to have fun and learn about their strategy. Lockheed Martin produced pens with their strategy printed on a piece of card stock that pulled out of the pen. The pen in every employee's hand served as a constant reminder of their strategy.  A major pharmaceutical client hangs their strategy map in "strategic" locations in bathrooms to engage their captive audience!  

As I reflect on these two decades, I recall specific moments in our organization's work where Drs. Kaplan and Norton, Balanced Scorecard co-creators and founders of our company, as well as many of my former and current colleagues, had break-through ideas. These ideas were studied, refined, and implemented in thousands of client organizations. As our clients achieved success, we codified the methodology and authored new articles in the Balanced Scorecard Report, co-published with Harvard Business Publishing. I feel it's time to revisit some of these best practice articles and share them with our ESM community.

"Successful Strategy Execution - Part I: What Does It Look Like," by David P. Norton, is one of my favorite two-part articles. In Part I, Dr. Norton writes on the fundamentals of why the Balanced Scorecard system works, drilling into the role of financial and customer execution and achievement measures, including examples from Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame Companies. Dr. Norton begins with the story of Roger Bannister and his successful quest to run a sub-four minute mile. Roger clearly articulated his target, created a sense of urgency, and went for it.

I had a similar personal experience with my quest to become an Olympic rower. It was they year 2000 and my TV watching of the Sydney Olympics had just concluded. With Athens four years away, I dreamed of making the US Olympic Team. I set the stretch target and wrote it down so I could see it. As outlandish as it seemed at the time, I renamed my training log: "Journey to Greece." I created my own sense of urgency, measured my progress, and executed my initiatives to put me in the best position come the 2004 Olympic trials.

Strategy starts with a passionate leadership team, one that is prepared to put down on paper KPIs that define success and work hard to articulate their successful strategy execution plan(s) through financial, customer, internal, and people/culture perspectives. For those of you looking for a simple framework to organize your strategy execution process and then take that leap of faith to put it down on paper, share it with employees and report on it, read on.

Successful Strategy Execution Pt. 1

Topics: Strategy Strategic Planning Strategy Management

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