Authors Say: Create a Culture of Performance

Editor’s note: – Sept. 3, 2009 –
Post-publication, a reference to Microsoft partner Catapult Systems was changed.

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 3, 2009 — Microsoft employees Joey Fitts and Bruno Aziza surveyed the business-book landscape and found it lacking. There seemed to be two approaches to books designed to help people and companies improve their performance. Some detailed the seemingly magical success of companies such as GE and Toyota, but they always left readers without prescriptive guidance on how to replicate the magic. The other approach was the polar opposite — technical treatises providing solid insights drowned in a sea of jargon.

“Drive Business Performance” has cracked’s top-50 list for business titles and has become the best-selling title in the Microsoft Executive Leadership Series.

Fitts, information worker global partner lead for Microsoft, and Aziza, worldwide business intelligence business architect, decided someone needed to bridge the two. So they started writing. The result was “Drive Business Performance: Enabling a Culture of Intelligent Execution,” released in April 2008 as part of the Microsoft Executive Leadership Series. Says Fitts of the book: “We focused on filling the gap and sharing firsthand accounts of the practices leading organizations follow to achieve competitive advantage.”

They seem to have been successful. A year later, “Drive Business Performance” has been making waves in the business community. It cracked’s top-50 list for business titles and has become the best-selling title in the Microsoft Executive Leadership Series. Luminaries such as Harvard Business School professor Robert Kaplan and management thought leader David P. Norton contributed the book’s foreword. Noted analytics thought leader Tom Davenport says, “If you want to understand, explain, and predict your company’s performance, buy and read this book.” Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell called the book “a must-read for any organization seeking to win.”

Fitts and Aziza said the goal of their book is to provide a deep understanding of how to achieve enterprise-wide performance objectives. They back that up with firsthand accounts from Fortune 500 companies that are winning by building accountability, intelligence and informed decision-making into their organizational DNA. They also explain the competitive advantage experienced by organizations that create and manage what they dub a “culture of performance.”

Using numerous company stories, the book describes the progression that organizations go through as they develop their performance management capabilities. These stories illustrate the six stages of performance management: Increase Visibility, Move Beyond Gut Feel, Plan for Success, Execute on Strategy, the Power to Compete, and the Culture of Performance.

Then, to explain the results, the book delivers prescriptive guidance indicating how to replicate results within the readers’ organizations. Three capabilities organizations must develop to improve their results are detailed: Monitor what is happening, analyze why to understand the factors impacting the organization, and plan how you want things to happen. With this model, and self-assessment tools, the book provides a MAP (Monitor, Analyze, Plan) to develop capabilities, move up the stages and gain competitive advantage.

Joey Fitts (left) and Bruno Aziza say the goal of their book is to provide a deep understanding of how to achieve enterprise performance objectives.

Fitts and Aziza drew upon their extensive experience for the book. Both are regular speakers at business conferences worldwide. Aziza recently presented at a variety of Microsoft events including the U.S. CIO Summit, the EMEA CIO Summit, and the Microsoft CFO conference. He was also a featured presenter at the prestigious Cranfield University Centre for Business Performance in October 2008. Meanwhile, Fitts spoke at CIO Magazine’s CIO Summit with Microsoft CIO Tony Scott, where the two announced the launch of the Microsoft CIO Network. Fitts also had the honor of delivering a joint keynote address with Robert Kaplan in Athens, Greece, for the Microsoft Hellas “Performance Management: The Key to Successful Leadership” event in December 2008, one of the most successful events the company has run with business decision-makers.

Aziza and Fitts have watched as “Drive Business Performance” has become a popular resource with customers, partners and Microsoft field teams, and they often hear about it firsthand. For example, the retail team recently put together a particularly effective executive dinner in the UK. It was small and intimate. “I was sitting next to the CIO at Unilever,” Fitts recalled. “He said to me, ‘You know, this is the type of thing we’ve been missing. I’m a champion for Microsoft, but, frankly, you guys make it hard for me. The competition has teams and resources they provide to the rest of my executive team, so they are always getting your competitors’ story. Then my colleagues wonder why I’m utilizing Microsoft, because they don’t have anything from you that they can relate to. This book gives me something to show them.’”

Partners of all sizes have used the book and the authors in marketing. The list includes Microsoft Partner of the Year winners Mariner and Catapult Systems, Microsoft partner Quilogy, and Microsoft global partners such as Infosys.

Because the book takes a global perspective, “Drive Business Performance” has been used by Microsoft marketers, sellers and partners as a giveaway or promotion in marketing activities worldwide. In addition to the global organizations cited in the book, sales activities with Philip Morris, Bank of England, Securitas France, Legrand and LEGO have actively incorporated the book and the authors into their programs. Fitts said the Microsoft field organization seems to appreciate how the book focuses on business value rather than product features and functionality.

“If a customer asks for a hole, vendors typically show up to tell them about their shovels,” he said. “But the customer just wants a hole dug; they want the outcome, not the discussion about trowels, spades, shovels or backhoes.”

Fitts said a goal of the book was to help bridge the gap between business and IT teams. Following one customer presentation, a technical architect explained to Fitts how he uses the book to help sell his business stakeholders on the technology initiatives he has been proposing. “He said, ‘It gives me a way to explain why they should care. I can point to all of these company examples and say, “See, they did it. Look at how it’s helped their company.”’”

More than a year after publication, Aziza and Fitts continue to be asked to speak about their book. The authors have recently delivered workshops for different corporate training programs, including the Leadership Development Group and the Microsoft Finance Forum. In September, the pair will present at the Quality and Business Excellence Forum to lead a discussion about how the concepts in “Drive Business Performance” can be applied to deliver better quality for Microsoft customers.

The authors have been extremely pleased with the response to their book. “You hope it will resonate with the audience, but you never know when you’re writing it,” Fitts said. “We’re happy it’s been so well received.”

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