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Developing Your BSC – Perfect Can Be the Enemy of Good Enough

Posted July 20, 2012 3:19 PM by Mark Cutler

One of the interesting aspects of working with nonprofit and educational organizations is the very intellectual, consensual, and deliberate manner in which they do everything they do. This is a critical part of their cultural, which makes them successful in carrying out their day-to-day work and achieving their missions.

However, when it becomes necessary to change the way they do things, we consultants can view these characteristics--of needing to achieve absolute consensus and leaving no stone unturned before moving forward--as a bit of a drawback, causing inertia. This is often true especially when it comes to starting up a Balanced Scorecard at one of these organizations.

I am in no way arguing that there is no need to "get it right" and that it is more important to just start implementing. However, I have found that some organizations spend so much time developing their initial Balanced Scorecard so that everyone agrees to everything on it and every word is perfect that rather than becoming the means to an end, it becomes the end in itself.

The 80% Solution

Instead, we recommend that your organization's initial BSC be the "80% solution"--try to get most of it right and most of your leadership team to agree to it. Since this is your first time putting a BSC together, your measures aren't going to be perfect and tell you everything about your progress on each objective. Rather, they should be a proxy that can give you a pretty good idea of how well you are doing and signal to you if something is going wrong with the objective it is tied to.

For your BSC framework to be successful, you actually have to start executing on it. By that I mean reporting whatever data you have for your measures and reviewing it at strategy review meetings. It would be unreasonable to expect to have all of the data for all of your measures at your first few meetings. Instead, report on and discuss what data you do have. This will allow your organization to start to make the strategic decisions necessary to improve your performance in some areas while you catch up in other areas.

A BSC implementation is an iterative process--you will add, delete, and modify objectives and measures along the way until you get them right--but if you don't start implementing the BSC, you'll never reap the expected benefits.

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