Balanced Scorecard Basics
- Communicate what they are trying to accomplish
- Align the day-to-day work that everyone is doing with strategy
- Prioritize projects, products, and services
- Measure and monitor progress towards strategic targets
The system connects the dots between big picture strategy elements such as mission (our purpose), vision (what we aspire for), core values (what we believe in), strategic focus areas (themes, results and/or goals) and the more operational elements such as objectives (continuous improvement activities), measures (or key performance indicators, or KPIs, which track strategic performance), targets (our desired level of performance), and initiatives (projects that help you reach your targets).
Who Uses the Balanced Scorecard (BSC)?
BSCs are used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. Gartner Group suggests that over 50% of large US firms have adopted the BSC. More than half of major companies in the US, Europe, and Asia are using the BSC, with use growing in those areas as well as in the Middle East and Africa. A recent global study by Bain & Co listed balanced scorecard fifth on its top ten most widely used management tools around the world, a list that includes closely-related strategic planning at number one. BSC has also been selected by the editors of Harvard Business Review as one of the most influential business ideas of the past 75 years.
BSC Terminology: Perspectives
The BSC suggests that we view the organization from four perspectives, and to develop objectives, measures (KPIs), targets, and initiatives (actions) relative to each of these points of view:
- Financial: often renamed Stewardship or other more appropriate name in the public sector, this perspective views organizational financial performance and the use of financial resources
- Customer/Stakeholder: this perspective views organizational performance from the point of view the customer or other key stakeholders that the organization is designed to serve
- Internal Process: views organizational performance through the lenses of the quality and efficiency related to our product or services or other key business processes
- Organizational Capacity (originally called Learning and Growth): views organizational performance through the lenses of human capital, infrastructure, technology, culture and other capacities that are key to breakthrough performance
BSC Terminology: Strategic Objectives
Strategic Objectives are the continuous improvement activities that we must do to implement strategy. The break down the more abstract concepts like mission and vision into actionable steps. Actions that your organization take should be helping you achieve your strategic objectives. Examples might include: Increase Revenue, Improve the Customer or Stakeholder Experience, or Improve the Cost-Effectiveness of Our Programs.
BSC Terminology: Strategy Mapping
One of the most powerful elements in the BSC methodology is the use of strategy mapping to visualize and communicate how value is created by the organization. A strategy map is a simple graphic that shows a logical, cause-and-effect connection between strategic objectives (shown as ovals on the map). Generally speaking, improving performance in the objectives found in the Organizational Capacity perspective (the bottom row) enables the organization to improve its Internal Process perspective (the next row up), which, in turn, enables the organization to create desirable results in the Customer and Financial perspectives (the top two rows).
BSC Terminology: Measures (Key Performance Indicators)
For each objective on the strategy map, at least one measure or Key Performance Indicator (KPI) will be identified and tracked over time. KPI’s indicate progress toward a desirable outcome. Strategic KPIs monitor the implementation and effectiveness of an organization’s strategies, determine the gap between actual and targeted performance and determine organization effectiveness and operational efficiency.
- Provide an objective way to see if strategy is working
- Offer a comparison that gauges the degree of performance change over time
- Focus employees’ attention on what matters most to success
- Allow measurement of accomplishments, not just of the work that is performed
- Provide a common language for communication
- Help reduce intangible uncertainty
BSC Terminology: Cascading
Cascading a balanced scorecard means to translate the corporate-wide scorecard (referred to as Tier 1) down to first business units, support units or departments (Tier 2) and then teams or individuals (Tier 3). The end result should be focus across all levels of the organization that is consistent. The organization alignment should be clearly visible through strategy, using the strategy map, performance measures and targets, and initiatives. Scorecards should be used to improve accountability through objective and performance measure ownership, and desired employee behaviors should be incentivized with recognition and rewards.
Cascading strategy focuses the entire organization on strategy and creating line-of-sight between the work people do and high level desired results. As the management system is cascaded down through the organization, objectives become more operational and tactical, as do the performance measures. Accountability follows the objectives and measures, as ownership is defined at each level. An emphasis on results and the strategies needed to produce results is communicated throughout the organization. This alignment step is critical to becoming a strategy-focused organization.
The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) was originally developed by Dr. Robert Kaplan of Harvard University and Dr. David Norton as a framework for measuring organizational performance using a more BALANCED set of performance measures. Traditionally companies used only short-term financial performance as measure of success. The “balanced scorecard” added additional non-financial strategic measures to the mix in order to better focus on long-term success. The system has evolved over the years and is now considered a fully integrated strategic management system.
Adapted from Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “Using the Balanced Scorecard as a Strategic Management System,” Harvard Business Review (January-February 1996): 76.
While the phrase balanced scorecard was coined in the early 1990s, the roots of the this type of approach are deep, and include the pioneering work of General Electric on performance measurement reporting in the 1950’s and the work of French process engineers (who created theTableau de Bord – literally, a “dashboard” of performance measures) in the early part of the 20th century.
This new approach to strategic management was first detailed in a series of articles and books by Drs. Kaplan and Norton and built on work by Art Schneiderman at Analog Devices. Recognizing some of the weaknesses and vagueness of previous management approaches, the balanced scorecard approach provides a clear prescription as to what companies should measure in order to ‘balance’ the financial perspective.
Kaplan and Norton describe the innovation of the balanced scorecard as follows:
“The balanced scorecard retains traditional financial measures. But financial measures tell the story of past events, an adequate story for industrial age companies for which investments in long-term capabilities and customer relationships were not critical for success. These financial measures are inadequate, however, for guiding and evaluating the journey that information age companies must make to create future value through investment in customers, suppliers, employees, processes, technology, and innovation.”
BSC Automation and Performance Analysis
Once a scorecard has been developed and implemented, performance management software can be used to get the right performance information to the right people at the right time. Automation adds structure and discipline to implementing the Balanced Scorecard system, helps transform disparate corporate data into information and knowledge, and helps communicate performance information. The Balanced Scorecard Institute formally recommends the QuickScore Performance Information SystemTM developed by Spider Strategies and co-marketed by the Institute.
The Institute’s award-winning framework, Nine Steps to SuccessTM, is a disciplined, practical approach to developing a strategic planning and management system based on the balanced scorecard. Training is an integral part of the framework, as is coaching, change management, and problem solving. Emphasis is placed on “teaching clients to fish, not handing them a fish”, so the scorecard system can be sustained.
A key benefit of using a disciplined framework is that it gives organizations a way to ‘connect the dots’ between the various components of strategic planning and management, meaning that there will be a visible connection between the projects and programs that people are working on, the measurements being used to track success, the strategic objectives the organization is trying to accomplish and the mission, vision and strategy of the organization.
How to Learn More
To learn more about this methodology, see our Professional Certification Programs, which are offered in association with the George Washington University College of Professional Studies, or contact us directly with questions or inquiries about consulting
Contact us to find out how we can help your organization focus on strategy and improve performance.