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Avoid Poor Press and Espionage - Keys to Protecting Your Organzation

Posted October 4, 2010 3:34 PM by Dylan Miyake

The Balanced Scorecard methodology can drive amazing results. It can also cause a royal headache if improperly publicized. As with any leadership tool or report, your organization must be careful to understand what impacts a public report may have. Local non-profits are usually the least at-risk, with publicly traded companies and governmental organizations requiring more due diligence. Regardless of your status, it's worth understanding the key concepts below:Publicly Traded Companies: If you work at a publicly traded company, be careful not to share Balanced Scorecard information regarding business forecasts. For example, many companies have restrictions leading up to quarterly or annual financial results reporting, where no forecasting or performance information can be released. (These types of sensitivities often apply as well to private non-profit organizations that have to issue regular performance reports to donors and board members.) In the case of a publicly traded organization, disclosure restrictions must be factored into the decision on how to report results. FOIA Exposure: If your organization is a government agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), every piece of recording information within your agency – whether it's meeting minutes, memos, e-mails, or a rough draft of a new policy – could potentially be subject to FOIA requests from members of the public or press. This means that unless your Balanced Scorecard contains FOIA-exempt information like national security secrets, personnel information, or other confidential information, you may be asked to share the details behind your publicly available scorecard. Of course, even if you're not subject to FOIA, there are other reasons why your organization might not want to disclose all of the information on your Balanced Scorecard. To protect yourself, there are a few key principles to keep in mind as you protect your agency's proprietary and/or sensitive information. Government Agencies: should understand what information is exempt from FOIA. There are nine specific exemptions worth investigating including national security secrets, personnel files, medical records, or information pursuant to law enforcement investigations would not need to be disclosed. Redaction and Proprietary Statements: are the first line of warning staff about sensitive information. Time Limitations: may be related to information requests. There might be organizational, local, state, or federal statutes that further protect sensitive information by allowing a lag time between collection and availability of public review. Publicly Traded Companies: may be subject to other regulations should financial information be disclosed via a publicly posted Balanced Scorecard. Consider using metrics or rating scales that eliminate the disclosure of prohibited information. Utilizing a less detailed public report can allow senior management the detail and privacy leadership needs while still ensuring accountability to the public. International Regulations: may require drastically different precautions so if your information is proprietary or sensitive, seeking legal counsel on the matter may be a good precaution. Ultimately, the Balanced Scorecard methodology is a one-of-a-kind planning tool that will give your organization shared knowledge of vision, current state, and key trends. From our experience, the benefits far outweigh the possible risks related to managing public records. And as every non-profit and governmental organization exists to improve the surrounding community – the best Balanced Scorecards ultimately should be displaying and celebrating your good works. If you have any questions or would like help protecting your scorecard- we are just a call away. Note: The ACLU has a helpful book called: "The Step by Step Guide to Using the Freedom of Information Act"