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Balanced Scorecard 

What is it?

Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard concept, popularised by Robert S Kaplan and David P Norton, is a performance management tool that encompasses the financial measures of an organisation and key non-financial measures relating to customers or clients, internal processes, and organisational learning and growth needs. It places these into a concise ‘scorecard’ that can be used to monitor performance.

Early implementations of the Balanced Scorecard tended to focus on including a balance of measures in the four domains or perspectives rather than on execution of strategy, but over time it has become a widely used strategic management tool. The Balanced Scorecard process attempts to identify important links between financial performance and the underlying customer, internal processes and organisational metrics. This creates a mechanism for translating the strategic vision into concrete actions necessary to achieve success.

This characteristic of the Balanced Scorecard places strategy at the core of management. When implemented properly, it can be used to align measures, actions and rewards to create a proper focus on the execution of strategic initiatives and achievement of strategic objectives, rather than a sole focus on the annual budget.

The widespread adoption of the Balanced Scorecard is due in part to its flexibility. Many companies have implemented their own variations to suit their strategic purposes. The Tesco ‘Steering Wheel’, for example, includes five perspectives, capturing their commitment to the community in addition to their financial, customer, operations and people aspects.

The Balanced Scorecard has also been successfully adapted for use by not-for-profit and public sector organisations. While the top line financial objectives of for-profit organisations are replaced by mission-related objectives, the process of identifying relevant stakeholder, internal process and resource measures serves much the same purpose.


The Balanced Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard
Adapted from Robert S Kaplan and David P Norton, Using the Balanced Scorecard as a strategic management system, Harvard Business Review (January-February 1996)

What benefits does the Balanced Scorecard provide?

The Balance Scorecard provides a means to clarify, articulate and communicate strategy. It is a shorthand way of putting all key measures into a ‘dashboard’ that can be used to monitor results. By including non-financial measures, it can be used to show how the non-financial aspects of performance, such as customer satisfaction, drive financial performance.

The Balanced Scorecard is a useful tool for motivating employees and focusing their attention on factors that are deemed to be critical to long-term performance rather than simply short-term financial results.

Questions to consider when implementing a Balanced Scorecard

  • Do we have sufficient buy-in from top management?
  • Are we willing to engage in a more participatory strategy and performance management process?
  • Are we committed to the organisational change effort necessary for successful implementation?
  • To what extent will our current management information systems be able to support implementation? What are the costs and benefits of making these changes?
  • What are we already doing that we can incorporate into our scorecard? What do we need to modify or stop doing?
  • Are we prepared to focus our reporting around the scorecard
Actions to take / Dos Actions to Avoid / Don'ts
  • Involve a broad senior management team
  • Engage everyone in the scorecard process
  • Use the scorecard to set ambitious goals
  • Use the scorecard to make strategy a continual process
  • Start with objectives, follow with measures, then initiatives – for example, increase sales by x%, introduce y new products in next 12 months, launch new product development and marketing initiative
  • Create measures that link to strategic success and long-term performance
  • Use the scorecard to find the best KPIs
  • Keep it to four to five KPIs for each perspective
  • Create a mix of leading, lagging, input and output measures – customer satisfaction is a leading indicator of sales; the number and quality of customer calls handled are output measures of the customer service process
  • Cascade the scorecard to business unit and functional teams
  • Each business unit’s scorecard should be informed by corporate goals but not dictated by them
  • Use the scorecard to drive action plans
  • Link to compensation
  • Use the scorecard to empower teams and make strategy everyone’s job
  • Do not use the scorecard as another tool of command and control, or annual target setting process
  • Don’t withdraw support for the scorecard at the first sign of missed financial targets
  • Too many measures can spoil the scorecard – don’t go ‘KPI crazy’
  • Failing to identify and validate causal links undermines the credibility of measures
  • Failing to cascade the scorecard and create links to compensation undermines success
  • Avoid attempting to create business unit or functional scorecards that can be aggregated upwards

 

 

In practice:
The Balanced Scorecard

 
 

Implementation of the Balanced Scorecard and an alternative costing system at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
(CIMA case study, 2010)

Download full case study

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) first adopted the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) in 2004. The Senior Management Group (SMG), which was responsible for strategy development, used the BSC to answer the ‘who, what, why, where, when’ questions prompted by the four perspectives as they related to the services that the RBGE provides to external stakeholders.

The original BSC created by the RBGE was employed as the basis of strategy and performance reviews. However, the prospect of a strategic review by an international peer group, along with an imperative to demonstrate alignment to the Scottish Government’s National Outcomes, prompted a deeper look at the organisation’s strategic objectives and underlying perspectives.

The ensuing revisions included improved alignment between the RBGE’s ‘impact’ perspective and its ‘activity’ perspective. This review also led to the development of an objective costing system linked to an existing performance management system that improved monitoring of performance against strategic objectives.

Lessons learned

  • The Balanced Scorecard can be adapted to suit an individual organisation.
  • The effort and commitment required from senior management to transform strategic management processes should not be underestimated.
  • Resistance to change may result as individuals become more accountable for their actions.
  • Management accountants are well-placed in the organisation to become very involved in the development of the Balanced Scorecard and implementation process, thereby becoming an important strategic partner in the business.
 

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2 Comments


Comments
Jack Schierhout

I find this article confusing as follows:

1. David Parmenter (Winning KPIs) points out that because cause and effect between indicators is circular rather than linear, indicators can be simultaneously both leading and lagging. Trying to classify them as such is unhelpful , he suggests rather to classify them as indicating past, present or future success.

2. I thought that the scope of a Balanced scorecard was to provide information on the implementation and effectiveness of strategy. Therefore KPIs in a BSC should be focused on Strategy and suggestions to include Key Results, outcomes, outputs and inputs will cause focus to be lost on strategy.

3. Whilst Executive level Balanced Scorecards can be cascaded down, I find this article to give conflicting and confusing tips on the how. My point is that the alignment needs to be focused on strategic initiatives.

Sep 12, 2014 12:27 AM
Comments
Bryan Dexter

Excellent.  Just received a BSC to review and used the CGMA tool to remind me what the BSC is supposed to do.

Jun 28, 2013 5:53 AM
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‘We learned early that the BSC was much more than just a better performance measurement system; it can become the basis for a new strategy management system.’

Strategy execution and the Balanced Scorecard. Harvard Business School (HBS), Aug 2008

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