Robert S. Kaplan

Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Emeritus

Robert S. Kaplan is the Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School. He joined the HBS faculty in 1984 after spending 16 years on the faculty of the business school at Carnegie-Mellon University, where he served as Dean from 1977 to 1983. Kaplan received a B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from M.I.T., and a Ph.D. in Operations Research from Cornell University. He has received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Stuttgart (1994), Lodz (2006), and Waterloo (2008).

Kaplan’s research, Executive Education teaching, and consulting focus on linking cost and performance management systems to strategy implementation. His current research focuses on two topics: measuring and managing organizational risk and, in a joint project with Michael Porter, measuring the cost of delivering health care and linking patient costs to outcomes.

Kaplan was co-developer of both activity-based costing and the Balanced Scorecard. He has authored or co-authored 14 books and more than 150 papers including 23 in Harvard Business Review. Recent books include The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage, the fifth Balanced Scorecard book co-authored with David Norton, and Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing with Steve Anderson. His previous books with Norton include Alignment, Strategy Maps, named as one of the top ten business books of 2004 by Strategy & Business and amazon.com, The Strategy-Focused Organization, named by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young as the best international business book for year 2000, and The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action, which has been translated into 24 languages and won the 2001 Wildman Medal from the American Accounting Association for its impact on practice. He also co-authored Cost and Effect, Implementing Activity-Based Cost Management, and Relevance Lost: The Rise and Fall of Management Accounting, which received the American Accounting Association Seminal Contributions to Literature Award in 2007.

Elected to the Accounting Hall of Fame in 2006, Kaplan received the Lifetime Contribution Award for Distinguished Contributions to Advancing the Management Accounting Profession from the Institute of Management Accountants in 2008, and the Lifetime Contribution Award from the Management Accounting Section of the American Accounting Association (AAA) in 2006.  He received the Outstanding Accounting Educator Award in 1988 from the AAA, the 1994 CIMA Award from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK) for "Outstanding Contributions to the Accountancy Profession," and the 2001 Distinguished Service Award from the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) for contributions to the practice and academic community. Kaplan speaks globally on performance and cost management systems.

  1. Videos

  2. The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage

    From HBSP: " In a world of stiffening competition, business strategy is more crucial than ever. Yet most organizations struggle in this area--not with formulating strategy but with executing it, or putting their strategy into action. Owing to execution failures, companies realize just a fraction of the financial performance promised in their strategic plans. It doesn't have to be that way, maintain Robert Kaplan and David Norton in The Execution Premium. Building on their breakthrough works on strategy-focused organizations, the authors describe a multistage system that enables you to gain measurable benefits from your carefully formulated business strategy. This book shows you how to:  Develop an effective strategy--with tools such as SWOT analysis, vision formulation, and strategic change agendas; Plan execution of the strategy--through portfolios of strategic initiatives linked to strategy maps and Balanced Scorecards; Put your strategy into action--by integrating operational tools such as process dashboards, rolling forecasts, and activity-based costing; Test and update your strategy--using carefully designed management meetings to review operational and strategic data. Drawing on extensive research and detailed case studies from a broad array of industries, The Execution Premium presents a systematic and proven framework for achieving the financial results promised by your strategy."
     
     
  3. Mastering the Management System

    From HBSP: " Companies have always found it hard to balance pressing operational concerns with long-term strategic priorities. The tension is critical: World-class processes won't lead to success without the right strategic direction, and the best strategy in the world will get nowhere without strong operations to execute it. In this article, Kaplan, of Harvard Business School, and Norton, founder and director of the Palladium Group, explain how to effectively manage both strategy and operations by linking them tightly in a closed-loop management system. The system comprises five stages, beginning with strategy development, which springs from a company's mission, vision, and value statements, and from an analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, and competitive environment. In the next stage, managers translate the strategy into objectives and initiatives with strategy maps, which organize objectives by themes, and balanced scorecards, which link objectives to performance metrics. Stage three involves creating an operational plan to accomplish the objectives and initiatives; it includes targeting process improvements and preparing sales, resource, and capacity plans and dynamic budgets. Managers then put plans into action, monitoring their effectiveness in stage four. They review operational, environmental, and competitive data; assess progress; and identify barriers to execution. In the final stage, they test the strategy, analyzing cost, profitability, and correlations between strategy and performance. If their underlying assumptions appear faulty, they update the strategy, beginning another loop. The authors present not only a comprehensive blueprint for successful strategy execution but also a managerial tool kit, illustrated with examples from HSBC Rail, Cigna Property and Casualty, and Store 24. The kit incorporates leading management experts' frameworks, outlining where they fit into the management cycle."