Balanced Scorecard

What is a Balanced Scorecard?

A new approach to strategic management was developed in the early 1990's by Drs. Robert Kaplan (Harvard Business School) and David Norton (Balanced Scorecard Collaborative). They named this system the 'Balanced Scorecard'. 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. The balanced scorecard is a management system (not only a measurement system) that enables organizations to clarify their vision and strategy and translate them into action. It provides feedback around both the internal business processes and external outcomes in order to continuously improve strategic performance and results.

As part of our Business Planning services, we fully deploy the balanced scorecard for companies to transform their planning from an academic exercise into the nerve center of an enterprise.

Balanced Scorecard FAQ

What is the Balanced Scorecard approach?

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."

The balanced scorecard suggests that we view the organization from four perspectives, and to develop metrics, collect data and analyze it relative to each of these perspectives:

  • The Learning and Growth Perspective
  • The Business Process Perspective
  • The Customer Perspective
  • The Financial Perspective

The balanced scorecard methodology builds on some key concepts of previous management ideas such as Total Quality Management (TQM), including customer-defined quality, continuous improvement, employee empowerment, and -- primarily -- measurement-based management and feedback.

What is Double Loop Feedback?

In traditional industrial activity, "quality control" and "zero defects" were the watchwords. In order to shield the customer from receiving poor quality products, aggressive efforts were focused on inspection and testing at the end of the production line. The problem with this approach -- as pointed out by W. Edwards Deming back in the 1950's -- is that the true causes of defects could never be identified, and there would always be inefficiencies due to the rejection of defects. What Deming saw was that variation is created at every step in a production process, and the causes of variation need to be identified and fixed. If this can be done, then there is a way to reduce the defects and improve product quality indefinitely. To establish such a process, Deming emphasized that all business processes should be part of a system with feedback loops. The feedback data should be examined by managers to determine the causes of variation, what are the processes with significant problems, and then they can focus attention on fixing that subset of processes.

What are Balanced Scorecard outcome metrics?

You can't improve what you can't measure. So metrics must be developed based on the priorities of the strategic plan, which provides the key business drivers and criteria for metrics managers most desire to watch. Processes are then designed to collect information relevant to these metrics and reduce it to numerical form for storage, display and analysis. Decision makers examine the outcomes of various measured processes and strategies and track the results to guide the company and provide feedback. So the value of metrics is in their ability to provide a factual basis for defining:

  • Strategic feedback to show the present status of the organization from many
  • Diagnostic feedback into various processes to guide improvements on a continuous basis
  • Trends in performance over time as the metrics are tracked
  • Feedback around the measurement methods themselves, and which metrics should be tracked
  • Quantitative inputs to forecasting methods and models for decision support systems
  • Management by Fact

The goal of making measurements is to permit managers to see their company more clearly -- from many perspectives -- and hence to make wiser long-term decisions.

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