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Communicating the Balanced Scorecard

Posted June 7, 2011 9:19 AM by Ted Jackson

So, I'm not much of a person to talk to people when I'm on an airplane. I guess I don't like to chit chat much, and what are the chances I'm ever going to see that person again. But I was on a plane last week, and the flight was delayed. The woman next to me was trying to meet her son back in Washington, DC for dinner. I told her she would miss the dinner as soon as I noticed the United purser whispering to an attendant from the gate. It turns out that we had to switch planes. My row-mate asked me what I did for a living, and I mumbled something about strategy consulting and the Balanced Scorecard. She said "Oh I hate that thing, the concept is so old!" Well that got my attention.

So, my nice neighbor tells me that she works at a university, and she was told about the Balanced Scorecard by way of a memo. The attachment to the memo was an article from 1992 on the Balanced Scorecard. She said "What were they thinking, implementing a concept that is 20 years old?" Each of the departments said that they would be evaluated by the Balanced Scorecard. She was concerned because she thought her administration had lost its mind.

I told her that actually the Balanced Scorecard was alive and well. I then went on about Norton and Kaplan wrote the first article back in 1992, but they had continued to research the concept well past the first book. I told them that the Strategy Focused Organization book and the one called Strategy Maps were by two favorites. Blah, blah, blah, one soda water and a bag of peanuts later, I had her convinced that the concept would really work in an education setting.

She then asked me my favorite article, and we exchanged email addresses. So, what is the lesson of the story? The answer is simple, right? When rolling out a new concept (in this case, a strategy management framework), it is important to think about the process for doing so. Maybe just sending out a memo with a 20 year old article is not the best way. Let me recommend a few things:

  • Explain the rationale behind implementing the concept
  • Explain the concept itself, in layman's English, with a modern example
  • Communicate in person at least once. People need the ability to ask questions
  • Use your chain of command. Employees want to be able to ask their boss about it and get a positive answer with good feedback.

Point people to a source for learning more. I would recommend Ascendant and the BSC Community.

So, just a few things to think about when communicating the Balanced Scorecard.