On Change and Organizations

An organization is a social arrangement which pursues collective goals, which controls its own performance, and which has a boundary separating it from its environment. The word itself is derived from the Greek word ἔργον, meaning work or deed, having the same root as the word organism. Both organisms and organizations are separate from their environments, but totally dependent upon them. And the environment for every organization is changing. The organization that fails to anticipate or respond to change in its environment is destined to fail.

So every organization attempts to change. Some are good at it, most aren’t very good. Most of the effort in the modern enterprise is towards optimizing the status quo, which really means getting better at doing the same thing. Becoming something different may be necessary in the long run, but challenges the comfort and satisfaction of those invested in the present state. Every organization must manage the tension between those whose resist change, and those who try to make it happen.

On Balanced Scorecard

Most of us at Tenacious Tortoise and its affiliates have deep expertise with Balanced Scorecard (BSC); many of us have worked directly in the firms founded by the authors, Kaplan and Norton. In the hundreds of BSC implementations we’ve led, facilitated, and diagnosed, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. While it is a powerful tool for strategic management, many BSC efforts fail.

The majority of those BSCs fail to get off the ground; buzzword-driven leaders in search of quick fixes take shortcuts and find it easy to under-invest in the time and resources necessary. Some consultants feed off this impatience and offer to facilitate ‘express’ BSCs. These efforts are like bottle rockets. Lots of flash, nothing to show for it. But the failure of even those BSC efforts that achieve initial results is most likely the result of flagging management commitment. Leadership tenacity is needed to sustain a BSC program to fully enable the organization to grow and sustain its ability to change.