The CIMA Strategic Scorecard

The CIMA Strategic Scorecard®


What is it?

Scorecard

The CIMA Strategic Scorecard® was developed in 2004. It was the result of research by CIMA, in collaboration with the Professional Accountants in Business Committee (PAIB) of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), into major corporate failures at the time such as Enron and WorldCom. An important finding was that company boards had failed to oversee strategy and risk effectively. The global financial crisis of 2008–09 reinforced these conclusions.

The scorecard aims to help boards of any organisation engage effectively in the strategic process.

It recognises that boards struggle to engage in strategy because of: lack of time and crowded agendas; information overload; lack of robust, board level processes for dealing with strategy; and greater complexity of business.

The CIMA Strategic Scorecard®

The CIMA Strategic Scorecard®

Source: CIMA Executive CPD Academy

What benefits does the Scorecard provide?

The CIMA Strategic Scorecard® provides a simple, effective process that helps the board to focus on strategic issues and ask the right questions. It is structured around four key dimensions of strategy:

  • strategic position
  • strategic risks and opportunities
  • strategic options
  • strategic implementation.

This means that the board can work constructively with management to promote the future success of the organisation. It can help to ensure a high-level perspective on strategy, thus avoiding the ‘comfort zone of detail’.

The discipline of preparing and updating the scorecard also helps management to keep its focus on strategic issues, and facilitates discussion within the executive team so that it can refine proposals prior to exposure to the board. The scorecard can also help to identify gaps in knowledge and analysis, so improving the quality of information presented.

The scorecard framework helps boards and the businesses they control to:

  • summarise key aspects of the operating environment
  • highlight risks and opportunities
  • identify major strategic options
  • chart and track progress against significant milestones.

The implementation of the scorecard is based on the assumption that the organisation has already determined its broad strategic direction and has a strategic plan in place. The scorecard provides a process for developing and moving this strategy forward in a dynamic way. For boards that need to do more foundational thinking about what the company stands for, a good starting point is to develop a ‘board mandate’.

The format of the scorecard is very flexible and can be adapted to meet the needs of the organisation. For each of the four dimensions, high-level information is provided in a format that provokes high-quality, constructive and effective strategic discussion. Achieving this in practice is a challenge.

The format of the scorecard has evolved since its initial creation, and CIMA is continuing to undertake further development work to strengthen the ability of the scorecard to support the level of strategic and risk discussion necessary to help boards and their organisations to avoid major problems.

 

Questions to consider when implementing the CIMA Strategic Scorecard

  • How are we going to achieve buy-in from both executive management and the board to introduce the scorecard?
  • Do we have a strategic plan in place? If not, this will have to be completed first before attempting a scorecard.
  • How are we going to present the information for each of the four scorecard dimensions?
  • What information do we have already to support a scorecard?
  • When are we going to introduce the scorecard? And would it help to have a facilitator?
Actions to take / Dos Actions to Avoid / Don'ts
  • Decide on a target meeting to introduce the scorecard. Introducing it at a strategy planning session can work well.
  • Keep it simple – it is better to produce a first draft scorecard reasonably quickly to kick start discussion.
  • At the start focus on the headline issues rather than trying to populate with detail. For the purposes of the scorecard, it may be better to flag an issue at board level and then indicate when further information will be provided.
  • Appoint a scorecard champion.
  • Assess the effectiveness of the scorecard in terms of the quality of the strategic discussion generated at board level.
  • Ensure that updates to the scorecard reflect material changes either within the organisation or externally.
  • Avoid including too much detail. ‘Less is more’ is the best principle for the scorecard.
  • Don’t stop modifying the scorecard if it is not engaging the board effectively.
  • Do not turn the process of updating the scorecard into an onerous, tiresome chore. Highlight material changes only.
  • Avoid holding back information from the board just because it is not yet complete or exact.
  • Avoid taking an ad-hoc reporting approach. Agree a schedule with the board as to when you will present the scorecard to them.

 

 

In practice:
using the CIMA Strategic Scorecard®

 
 

CIMA uses the scorecard for Council and Executive Committee meetings. We have found that it has helped to ensure that the key issues we face remain prominent. It has helped the Senior Management Team to ‘force itself’ to include only the really high-level issues.

We trialled the scorecard in collaboration with a housing trust. The trial introduced the scorecard as part of an ongoing process to restore confidence after the housing trust had recovered from major difficulties requiring sweeping change in the executive team and trustee board. Participants used the four dimensions of the scorecard as the agenda items for a strategy away day which ran over two days.

The discussion about strategic options was held just before the end of the first day. This meant that they could continue the conversation informally over dinner. The impetus for introducing the scorecard came from the new chief executive in consultation with the chairman. After the initial away day, the scorecard was presented at board meetings on a quarterly basis.

Other CIMA members have used the scorecard on their own initiative, often modifying the framework and using it in innovative ways to suit their needs. An internal auditor, for example, used it as the basis for auditing the strategic review process in his organisation.

Feedback from the executives involved in its implementation included:

  • Board member – ‘We have discussed more strategy than ever before at a board meeting and we have made decisions.’
  • Member of the executive team – ‘We have had a great discussion with the board and I feel that they are totally supportive of our strategy. This process has brought us closer together.’
  • Chief executive – ‘The process has brought focus to our strategic thinking and enabled our executive team to discuss the strategic options and engage the board.’
  • Finance director – ‘It has helped us to focus on the issues that really matter and to avoid the comfort zone of detail.’
 

 

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