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28 September 2009 • 7:00 am

The Deliberate Organization

As a mediocre writer and crossword puzzle addict, I am continually amazed at the richness of the English language, and yet surprised at the number of words serving double- or triple-duty; words carrying the weight of multiple meanings. One of my favorites examples is the word sanction, which can either mean a penalty for a violation of law, or explicit permission for some action. Homophonic antonyms, such as raise and raze (e.g. to put up or take down a building) are also especially amusing.

One such word I find myself using often in my writings here is deliberate. Both its verb and adjective meanings (which are sometimes pronounced differently) powerfully apply to our interest in strategy, change, and organizational leadership. Let’s take a closer look.

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17 July 2009 • 7:00 am

Scorecard Blues (plus Three Other Colors)

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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

8 July 2009 • 7:00 am

Taking the Initiative on Initiatives

Expert facilitators of strategy and change programs understand that an important result of the process of strategic management is the concept of the initiative. We use the word initiative perhaps a bit too casually, for the concept of the initiative is the essential ingredient for accomplishing change. But, like many of the terms we use, the definition of an initiative is not self-evident, and means different things to different people.

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30 June 2009 • 7:00 am

How Was Your Flight? A Journey From Concept to Indicator

In our pursuit of a shared vocabulary of measurement, we’ve already considered the ideas of accuracy, precision, and healthy skepticism. Here, we take a step back and look at key terms of measurement concept, dimension, and indicator.

A measurement concept is a mental image that describes an area of interest, such as speed, warmth, or comfort. The key to thinking about a concept is that it springs from an idea; an impression or perception that cannot be directly measured. To conceptualize an idea is to specify what we mean when we use that mental image.

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29 June 2009 • 6:30 am

Healthy Skepticism, Precision, and Measurement Accuracy

Much has already been written here about the process of capturing the change agenda and developing strategy maps. These important tools are valuable for communicating strategy across the organization. But they also serve as the foundation for identifying the performance measures that will motivate the behavior changes needed for strategy execution. And without a healthy skepticism, measures can mislead as much as they inform. Many remember that Mark Twain wrote,

“Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.‘”

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14 June 2009 • 1:42 pm

The IT Change Agenda – Part I: Cost and Quality

In 2001, I developed a model for organizing the change agenda for IT organizations that was published in Harvard Business School’s Balanced Scorecard Report. The model arose from observations of the many IT organizations with whom I had been consulting, and described four broad domains of desired change in IT organizations: Cost, Quality, Agility, and Innovation. I had observed that in older, more traditional IT organizations, the main concern of IT leaders was to lower (or at least manage) costs, and to improve quality. By contrast, in those enterprises where IT was essential to the value proposition (e.g. firms born during the “dot-com” era), IT leaders tended to focus more on the agility of the IT organization and infrastructure, and their ability to innovate with technology on behalf of the parent firm.
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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.

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2 June 2009 • 8:25 pm

Cause and Effect: The Building Blocks of Strategy

Those familiar with strategy maps know that when properly designed, they convey the cause and effect hypotheses of an organization’s strategy. No leader, no matter how gifted, is able to discern the future. But to describe strategy is to describe how leaders believe that value will be created in the future. While some organizations’ leaders may be content to simply say “our strategy is to become the number one producer of widgets in North America,” there is nothing in such a weak statement to help middle managers and front-line employees understand how the organization will become so good at producing widgets. And therein lies the critical need for conveying the hypotheses of cause and effect.

Let’s consider a simple example. In this purely hypothetical example, my wife is judging my performance in our organization (our family) by two measures: the number of calories I eat each day, and the number of days each week I exercise for at least thirty minutes. She’s even established targets for my performance; no more than 2,000 calories in a day, and at least three exercise periods a week. On the basis of those two measures, we can infer that she wants me to eat smart and to exercise. But why is my performance being measured this way? (If you have a good punchline, please leave it in the comments below.)

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