The Balanced Scorecard and Knowledge Management
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in "human resources" and "collaboration" under the term "knowledge management". In another white paper, the meaning of knowledge management is explored in more detail. Here, the focus is on the relationship between the balanced scorecard and knowledge management.
In their book The Balanced Scorecard, Kaplan and Norton set forth a hypothesis about the chain of cause and effect that leads to strategic success. This cause-and-effect hypothesis is fundamental to understanding the metrics that the balanced scorecard prescribes. There are four stages to this chain of cause and effect, outlined as follows:
1. The foundation, or fundamental cause for strategic success has to do with people. Decades ago Peter Drucker recognized that innovation from creative people provides the only assured source of long-term success and competitiveness, because every other aspect of an organization can be duplicated by others. The right people must be hired, properly trained and mentored, and the learning process should become continuous and endless. Peter Senge, in his very influential book The Learning Organization, described a healthy organization as one in which a learning culture prevails, fostered both by formal and informal learning and by abundant internal communication in all media.
2. In a learning and growing organization, where the culture encourages people make suggestions and question the status quo, a steady flow of new ideas arises from the rank-and-file employees. These ideas are vital to the future of the organization, because they come from the experts -- the people who are involved with the business processes on a daily basis. This insight about employees traces back to Deming, who saw the vital need for managers and shop-floor supervisors to listen to workers' complaints and empower them to make suggestions and improvements. Conversely, an organization that stifles or ignores new ideas from its employees is probably doomed. The balanced scorecard, using efforts such as employee surveys and analysis of training data, is able to measure the degree of learning and growth, allowing leaders to assess the potential for long-term success.
3. Improved business processes lead to improved products and services. For example, if an improved process saves time, this results directly in a shorter delivery time to the customer -- something that any customer will appreciate. In the government context, cost reduction is also always of importance to the customer, because the customer is the sponsor of the whole organization's budget -- direct and overhead. The balanced scorecard measures customer satisfaction, but improving processes produces it.
4. Finally, improved customer satisfaction leads to loyal customers and increased market share, which directly affect the bottom line -- whether that line equals profit, ROI (return on investment) or ROCE (return on capital employed) in the private sector, or NOR (net operating result) or IOH (overhead) in the public sector.
Note that the four steps in the causal chain are also the four perspectives of the balanced scorecard in its original formulation. This shows the basic reason why the perspectives (and their underlying metrics) are defined as they are. Any modifications to the metrics should take into account the hypothesis that is being proposed as the cause of long-term strategic success.
This causal chain is illustrated in the figure below.
Corresponding to the steps in the causal chain are four general areas of strategic management activities, as follows:
1. Learning and growth is fostered by knowledge management activities and initiatives. These include strategic recruiting, hiring, training (both formal and informal), team development, document management, collaborative communication systems, knowledge and skills audits of employees, knowledge base developments, and fostering of communities of interest within the organization.
2. Business process improvements may range from moderate and localized changes to wide-scale changes in business processes, the elimination of paperwork and steps in processes, and the introduction of automation and improved technology. Deployment of the balanced scorecard measurement system itself is one of these processes.
3. Customer loyalty cannot any longer be taken for granted within the government, nor is it sufficient to manage it in an ad hoc or anecdotal way. Rather, customer relationships are becoming increasingly structured and measured. Not only must the agency work closely with customers on a personal level, it must also gain documented and continuous feedback on customer perceptions and loyalty. These efforts come under the general heading of customer relationship management (CRM).
4. Financial management -- in the passive sense of "bean counting" -- is giving way to proactive initiatives in Activity-Based Costing (ABC), Functional Economic Analysis (FEA), Earned-Value Management (EVM) and other practices by which managers can learn more from financial data, in order to track projects more closely and make better cost estimates. Also, innovations in budgeting -- including the GPRA's goal of linking performance to budgets -- are replacing Zero-Based Budgeting and other earlier techniques in government agencies. The availability of improved database technology with more business intelligence capability is turning financial management into an active part of an agency's overall strategy for success.
In conclusion, management experts agree that learning and growth are the key to strategic success, the foundation for the future. A learning and growing organization is one in which knowledge management activities are deployed and expanding in order to leverage the creativity of all the people in the organization.