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Friday, September 20, 2013

Balanced Scorecard Gone Bad - What's that Funky Smell?

By Gail Perry

I had a distressing phone conversation earlier this week.  A former client called to say they were at a decision-point. They were trying to decide if they wanted to keep using their balanced scorecard system or not.  He went on to say, “to be quite honest, the scorecard really isn’t driving the organization.  It feels more like ‘busy work’...it leaves a bad taste in our mouths.” 

“In fact,” he continued, “our project management discipline is clearly what is strategically guiding the organization while the balanced scorecard feels like an anchor weighing us down.   It used to be what propelled us forward and kept everyone in alignment.  Maybe if we cascade the scorecard, this will help?”   I was perplexed.  While I’ve diagnosed the root cause and prescribed the solutions for a lot of “broken” scorecard systems, this was the first time I’d heard of project management being “more strategic” than the strategic management system that drives it.

The next day, I joined the client executive team on a web conference.  We walked through an overview of an integrated scorecard system – reviewing the 14 components of a fully integrated system.  As we talked, some of the team members began remembering back to when they built the original scorecard and recalled how the underlying strategic elements were built – how they brought in board members and stakeholders to inform and set strategic direction.  But most importantly, they began to remember when it was built. 

This client is a healthcare organization and they built their original scorecard during the last presidential election cycle - at a time when there was political uncertainty.  The environment was so uncertain that one of their strategic themes was “Readiness for Public Policy Changes” which meant that their resultant strategic scorecard was designed to prepare them for whichever way the political winds eventually blew.  And that scorecard was appropriate for the times.

But their environment has since changed...significantly!  In the past year or so, the Affordable Care Act now drives all action and projects at this organization.  This massive shift in their strategic environment happened to coincide with the implementation of a robust project management system in which the portfolio is aligned to the tenants of Triple Aim.   That’s when the room went silent.  As I strained to hear across the phone line, I began to hear murmurs as one after another team member came to the same diagnosis.  Their environment had changed and they had shifted strategic directions without updating their strategy / strategic balanced scorecard.  Their strategic scorecard was outdated....expired!  Their sense that their old scorecard was anchoring them in the past and was at odds with the new implied direction of the organization was absolutely correct. 

They had stumbled into the classic “Set It and Forget It” mistake.  Their project management discipline (which is critical to strategy execution) appeared to be “more strategic” because it was more aligned with their true strategy than was the rest of their strategic management system.  Due to some key team member turnover, they had forgotten their entire system needs to go through a regular strategic evaluation cycle!  Scorecards do not have indefinites shelf lives....they are dynamic systems designed to allow an organization to shift directions, as needed.  The team is now in the process of updating their entire strategic management system to reflect their current reality. And as part of this update process, they will ensure that their current strategic direction is chosen, not implied.   Only then can they be sure that their current portfolio of projects is truly aligned for maximum strategic impact.

Does your scorecard have a funky smell?  For more examples of Scorecard Challenges and Solutions, we invite you to read “The Institute Way: Simply Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.” 

We also invite you to join the conversation at our Linked In group: www.theInstitutePress.com/group
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Gail Stout Perry

Gail Stout PerryGail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

Other posts by Gail Stout Perry

Contact author Full biography

Full biography

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations. She served as a Senior Associate with BSI from 2008 until 2016.

Gail became interested in operations, efficiency and patterns as a toddler struggling to participate in her mother’s kitchen.

“I tried to explain to my mother how to better organize her kitchen. She was wasting motion plus the kitchen wasn’t user friendly to me, its newest user who could not reach the things I needed to be self-sufficient—so, she had to help me. Mom could have saved herself work if she’d accepted my recommendations.”

During her career in aerospace and defense, Gail developed deep experience in operations, finance/accounting, information technology, human resources, purchasing/inventory management, manufacturing, engineering design, and sales and marketing. Today she consults with Fortune 500 companies, large military commands, government agencies and nonprofits.

“My diverse experience helps me be a better consultant by bringing new ideas and solutions to my clients when I see a connection or pattern to something I’ve experienced or observed in another industry/sector. There are common denominators, operations and issues across organizations. Just last month, I heard the same operational issue from a Fortune 150 and a city municipality—two organizations that couldn’t be more different.”

With clients in diverse sectors all over the globe, Gail’s adept at quickly understanding business models and cultural norms, and creating a positive impact. Prior to joining the Institute, Gail owned and operated Perry Consulting LLC, a North Texas firm focused on providing performance improvement consulting services to the nonprofit sector. It was in this role that she first realized the transformational power of an integrated strategic balanced scorecard while working with her client, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, to improve its strategic planning, performance management, budgeting, and employee alignment processes.

“I’ve learned how to quickly absorb information and get my head around an organization, what it does, how it does it, its key processes and challenges, and learn its unique culture and language. And I have a way of explaining things that makes the seemingly complex simple.”

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