12 November 2009 • 7:00 am

The Strategy-Focused Organization Concept is Still Robust

read this book

read this book

Most popular ideas in the domain of organizational management have a limited shelf-life. Those that gain widespread attention usually do so on the strength of a published work. My bookshelves are filled with titles that in their time, were purported to be the next ‘big idea’ in management, but have since faded into relative obscurity. This pattern is as much a function of the audience for the ideas as the ideas themselves; executives and managers crave the easy answers and magical insights that are promised by these works. So when an idea remains relevant and applicable for more than a few years, it stands out. 

Of course, balanced scorecard has been an exceptionally durable concept. The idea of a scorecard (a collection of measures) as a tool for management has been around for decades, and is thought to have originated at General Electric during the 1950s. Kaplan and Norton elaborated the idea of a scorecard as a tool for strategic management beginning with their first Harvard Business Review articles on the topic in 1992 and 1993, and their book The Balanced Scorecard in 1996. The BSC articles and original book were extremely popular, and remain so today.But I never recommend Kaplan and Norton’s first BSC book to anyone embarking on a journey of strategic management.

17 July 2009 • 7:00 am

Scorecard Blues (plus Three Other Colors)


To my chagrin, the term ‘scorecard’ is widely used in both the disciplines of performance management and strategy execution, and without further qualification, has an imprecise variety of meanings. To some, it may mean a large collection of indicators of operational performance. To others, it is an ambiguous shorthand for ‘balanced scorecard,’ which is a well-developed set of related ideas and practices around strategy management and execution. Ambiguity comes from the fact that to some, the term ‘balanced scorecard’ means simply a collection of measures that has been balanced according to some real or imagine scheme. On far too many occasions, I’ve been approached by a conference attendee with a request to review and comment on his so-called ‘balanced scorecard,’ only to find that the proud offering is a only collection of operational measures with no connection to strategy. This is the basis of my Scorecard Blues. So let me be blunt: if a set of measures has been selected without the prior development of a strategy map, it cannot be properly called a balanced scorecard.

Even without the qualifier of ‘balanced,’ a ‘scorecard’ is seen as a group of measures, and / or the visual representation of those measures, and / or the tool for managing measurement data. Many software tools called ‘scorecards’ have been developed to facilitate the collection, analysis, and presentation of scorecards, both for operational and strategic use. Because the term ‘scorecard’ has so many diverse meanings and uses, it simply cannot be used alone without further explanation. But there is one trait that attaches to nearly every individual’s own definition of the term ‘scorecard.’

The lowest common denominator of nearly all ‘scorecards’ is the ubiquitous red – yellow (amber in Europe) – green summary indicator scheme (hence RYG). more

9 July 2009 • 7:00 am

Performance Advocates Lead Strategy Execution

Much has been written about the process of creating a balanced scorecard (BSC), and much more has been written about the overall process of strategy management that the BSC facilitates. Far less had been written about best practices for strategy review meetings in 2005 when my colleague Jay Weiser and I wrote an article on the topic that has been especially helpful in organizations getting started with BSC strategic management. In this and future posts, I’ll touch on some of our key points.

Strategy review meetings are the necessary venue in which leaders periodically evaluate the progress of the change program. more

22 June 2009 • 7:11 am

Cascading Conundrums – Part III

In Parts I and II of this topic, I asserted that cascading a balanced scorecard (BSC) across an organization is a process that requires careful planning, and thoughtful answers to the ‘When’, ‘Why’, and ‘Where’ questions. I cautioned that hastily planned cascading can derail the entire change program. Here, we conclude with the final three questions a leadership team should consider before cascading strategy across the organization.

19 June 2009 • 12:29 pm

Cascading Conundrums – Part II

In Part I of this topic, I asserted that cascading a balanced scorecard (BSC) across an organization is a process that requires careful planning, and thoughtful answers to the ‘When’ and ‘Why’ questions. I cautioned that hastily planned cascading can derail the entire change program. Here, we continue with the next question every leadership team should consider before cascading strategy across the organization.


18 June 2009 • 12:24 pm

Cascading Conundrums – Part I

Cascading is a term that has been used in the balanced scorecard (BSC) community to describe the process of propagating the BSC across an organization. Although the term implies a downward movement (through the organization’s hierarchy), propagation in any direction has come to be referred to as ‘cascading.’ Some people mistakenly apply the term to the strategy communication process; after all, they reason, communication of strategy also cascades through the organization, and is certainly related to BSC propagation. But I believe that cascading and communication are two separate processes, especially since communication is absolutely essential to the change process, while cascading is not always necessary or beneficial. And poorly-planned cascading can derail the change program.


12 June 2009 • 12:21 pm

Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of Strategy – Part II

In my earlier post on strategy map design, we examined the basic structure of strategy maps as originally described by Bob Kaplan and Dave Norton in their early work on balanced scorecard. While their four-perspective model has been effective in designing strategy maps in for-profit organizations, there has been much variation in the perspective (vertical) dimension of strategy maps in government and non-profit organizations. At the same time, there have been a number of approaches to organizing the thematic (horizontal) dimension of strategy maps, with no one approach having emerged as consistently effective. Today, I propose a generalized structural approach for both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the strategy map.


9 June 2009 • 1:00 pm

Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of Strategy – Part I

In their early work describing and promoting the balanced scorecard as a tool for strategic management, authors (and my former bosses) Bob Kaplan and Dave Norton presented their four perspectives (Financial, Customer, Internal Business Process, Learning and Growth) from which to measure business performance and motivate behavior in an organization. While the four perspectives were presented as a framework for selecting performance measures, there was little said about the physical presentation of these perspectives, the strategy map.


8 June 2009 • 11:36 am

The Motivating Power of Measurement

Practitioners and fans of the balanced scorecard concept understand that measurement has the power to motivate behavior. The great challenge in driving change in any organization isn’t just to change the culture, but to change the behavior of individuals and groups inside the organization. Performance measurement doesn’t just tell us how well we’re doing at achieving a desired outcome, the very process of measurement and communication of measure results actually changes behavior.


4 June 2009 • 1:37 pm

Planning Change Communication – Part II

In the previous post on the topic of planning communications for an organization’s change program, I outlined a sequence of five messages that are a key dimension of the planning framework. The five messages provide a basis for determining whatto say about change, independent of the determination of with whom the messages are to be shared. The audience dimension addresses this, and is the next part of the planning framework. 

Audience segmentation is the process of first defining the universe of stakeholders, and then dividing that universe into groups according to the intended approach to the communication of the messages.