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Can a Government Use a Balanced Scorecard?

Posted November 30, 2011 2:21 PM by Ted Jackson

Can a government use a Balanced Scorecard? Is a national government too expansive to have a strategy? Is a state or provincial government to complex? Is a city government too tactically focused? The answer to all of the above is no. A government can very effectively use the Balanced Scorecard. Many have done so with great success: Brazil, Singapore, Maryland, Washington, Durham, Charlotte to name just a few. What are they keys to success? Leadership commitment, constant communication and engagement of stakeholders are the keys to successful strategy execution with a Balanced Scorecard.

Leadership commitment is essential for a Balanced Scorecard effort to penetrate the predictable resistance of managers across the organization. These resisters have, no doubt, earned the right to be skeptical of management programs that have in the past been hailed as the "silver bullet" only to get pushed aside when the next short term crisis hits. Leadership needs to acknowledge resistance to "programs du jour". Leaders need to emphasize reasons for implementing a strategy management program: sustain growth; navigate deficit reduction; revitalize infrastructure to name a few. Leaders also need to promote strategy management as a new way of working rather than a one-time project. (John Kotter's eight step change process is a great guide to change management.) Finally, leaders must be willing to communicate, communicate, communicate...which brings us to the next driver of success.

It is impossible to over communicate about an organization's strategy. Leadership must constantly discuss the strategy using the strategy map and strategic results. Managers must consistently link all team efforts to the government strategy. Construction workers are essential to infrastructure development of a nation, state or city. Park managers enhance quality of life as well as public safety. Each employee should understand how their efforts contribute to the overall government Balanced Scorecard. In order to be effective communication must be a two way process. Consistent and open communication that encourages employees to provide feedback during the design and implementation processes is an investment that will yield dividends. After all, who knows more about the most efficient way to resource local ambulance service than the folks answering calls out in the community? Why not use their domain knowledge to shape the strategy management system?

There is also tremendous strength to be gained by engaging external stakeholders in the Balanced Scorecard Design and Implementation process. Governments are unique in their role of providing services to citizens and communities sometimes directly and sometimes through other service providers. If a state/province is committed to improving employment then it is essential that the government partner the supply and demand part of the equation – educational institutions and hiring organizations in the community. Or if a national government is committed to enhancing veteran's benefits they do that by funding local veteran's support agencies. A government is only as strong as the network of capabilities it establishes. Achieving the strategy, therefore, depends upon alignment and commitment of all providers in the network. Jointly constructing a Balanced Scorecard is a powerful way to ensure that commitment supported with accountability and focus.

What have you found to be a success or an area for improvement in a government Balanced Scorecard?

Filed Under Government