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Performance.gov |So what??

Posted January 31, 2013 8:11 PM by Brandon Kline

Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the pleasure of supporting the Office of Management and Budget as one of our clients here at Ascendant. A lot has been accomplished in those 18 months, but one of the coolest achievements was finally launching Performance.gov. A website dedicated to showing the “performance side” of the federal government. In other words, it’s how the government is cutting waste, streamlining operations, and improving performance.

Admittedly, it was a long process bringing together the largest agencies in the federal government to report publically on top issues and priorities. But, it was worth it! If you follow our blog, check out Melanie’s post earlier this month to learn more about Performance.gov. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this post on essentially the same topic is because I was recently telling someone about the website and she asked me, “so what, why should I care?”  

It was an interesting question. Why should you care? My response – you should care because it tells the story of the impact that YOUR tax dollars are having on the American people. One of my favorite examples of this story is the Department of Interior’s goal of cutting violent crime in Indian communities across the country. High crime rates on some Indian reservations have been a concern for some time and DOI decided that they were going to change that. So, using performance metrics and review meetings to guide the effort, DOI developed a pilot program to reduce the violent crime of four specific communities with the highest crime rate.

The original goal was to reduce the crime rate by 5% and many considered that to be an ambitious goal at the time. To kick off the effort, Interior began collecting and analyzing crime data, identified trends, and began allocating resources to the areas of highest need. As the program progressed, regular reviews of the data became the norm, law enforcement strategies were continuously evaluated, and the communities were engaged on the front lines.

All of this effort began to pay off. By the end of 2011, the initiative had far exceeded its goal by reducing crime in these communities by a whopping 35%.  Now that is a performance story! Reducing violent crime on Indian communities by 35%! That means, through the Department of Interior, YOUR tax dollars have had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of people in Indian communities throughout the country.

So, back to the original question of - “why should I care?” I think this story is a perfect example of why you should. It shows real impact for real people. I’d like to encourage anyone reading this blog to check out Performance.gov and find similar stories of YOUR tax dollars at work.  

When Does a Balanced Scorecard Make a Difference?

Posted January 30, 2013 2:14 PM by Ted Jackson

The Balanced Scorecard is everywhere; large corporations, small non-profits and government entities of all types.  And still, some organizations achieve significant results while others have yet to achieve much value beyond the initial alignment.  What is the difference between them?  How can yours be an organization that achieves significant results with the Balanced Scorecard?<more/>

The difference is simple.  Winning organizations USE their Balanced Scorecard and the rest simply HAVE a Balanced Scorecard.

The good news is that the process of developing a Balanced Scorecard has value in itself.  Having your leadership define the strategy so it can be communicated with a one page strategy map and monitored through a core set of measures has tremendous value.  Perhaps this is the first time your leadership team will not only be aligned but will be communicating consistently.

But there is more value to be had.  Teams that achieve major results embrace the Balanced Scorecard as an on-going a management tool.  They don’t just hang posters.  They monitor data, analyze implications, evaluate initiatives and integrate decisions across the business as a whole.  Leaders hold strategy review meetings and make data driven decisions within the context of the strategy.

The upcoming Mission Driven Summit  is an excellent opportunity to learn from organizations that have magnified their strategic results by using the Balanced Scorecard.  Dr. Dave Norton will discuss data that reveals the magnitude of impact possible from leading Balanced Scorecard users.  And great organizations will share their experiences and impact gained through the Balanced Scorecard. The FBI navigated the post-9/11 crisis and continues to drive the agency with the Balanced Scorecard.  Catholic Charities of Boston have increased the level of service, optimized fundraising and significantly reduced overhead costs in the five years they have been leading with the Balanced Scorecard.    Department of Commerce is the only US governmental entity using the Balanced Scorecard at the department level and they have even sustained the approach through a leadership change.  Perhaps you are more interested in learning about how a local non-profit such as the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico has changed the path of many of the youth in the region.  Or how municipalities and geographic regions with varied stakeholders have used the Balanced Scorecard to align interests and focus efforts and results.

You will have the opportunity to hear from and talk with these organizations and more.  You will also have the opportunity to network with leaders like yourself who are about to embark on this journey as well with those well along the path with bumps and bruises to prove it.  Come join us and add your organization to the list of those who USE the Balanced Scorecard and reap the results!


Can Good Measurement Help Fix the World’s (and Your Organization’s) Toughest Problems?

Posted January 28, 2013 3:59 PM by Mark Cutler

The Saturday, Jan. 26 Wall Street Journal, had a great essay by Bill Gates about the power of good measurement systems.  To me, there were two key aspects of Gates’ argument that “[y]ou can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal—in a feedback loop.”

First, he points out its importance to innovation.  Precise measurement instruments, Gates paraphrases William Rosen as saying, allow inventors to see if their incremental design changes led to improvements.  The lesson being: Without feedback from precise measurement, Mr. Rosen writes, invention is “doomed to be rare and erratic.”

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Mission-Driven Management Summit Agenda - March 5 and 6 in DC

Posted January 18, 2013 3:00 PM by Angie Mareino

Here's the agenda for the Mission-Driven Management Summit this March. If you've attended the Active Strategy Conference in the past, we encourage you to take a look at the Summit for 2013. 

What is the Mission-Driven Management Summit?  

This two-day, learning and networking event at the National Press Club in DC reveals the proven strategy tools you need to increase your organization’s impact. The Summit, which opens with pre-Summit clinics on the Balanced Scorecard methodology, focuses on strategy and performance management implementation in the social and public sector. This year’s Summit features keynote addresses by Dr. David Norton of the Balanced Scorecard and World Bank’s Pedro Alba; plus case studies and presentations from the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, Rare, and one of the largest public school districts in the US, the Los Angeles Unified School District


Day 1 — Tuesday, March 5, 2013

8:00 — 9:00AM Registration and Breakfast

9:00 — 12:00PM Pre-Summit Clinics

Clinic A: Balanced Scorecard 101
Creating a strategy, translating the strategy to your organization, and monitoring progress are three essential functions of the Balanced Scorecard. By employing the BSC within you organization you will be able to create a transparent environment that allows you to set and monitor goals and communicate progress throughout. The BSC is a multilevel system that will track performance through financial analysis, customer satisfaction, internal process, and organizational growth. This introductory workshop for Balanced Scorecard methodology will provide insight on the following topics, and leave you with a great basis for BSC methodology to bring back to your organization:

Clinic B: Strategy Execution 
It is one thing to have a Balanced Scorecard and another thing to really use it correctly to execute your strategy. Drs. Norton and Kaplan defined what success looks like in their two books: The Strategy Focused Organization and The Execution Premium. This clinic will translate these concepts for mission-driven organizations and identify the keys to successful execution of strategy. The clinic will focus on the following topics to help your organization:

1:00 — 2:15PM Keynote
Dr. David Norton Presents Mission: Possible – Achieve Breakthrough Results with the Balanced Scorecard
As the co-founder of the Balanced Scorecard framework, used worldwide by countless organizations, large and small, Dr. Norton will discuss how to shape your organization by developing a focused strategy. Dr. Norton will unravel the mysteries to achieving the ultimate mission: breakthrough results.

2:15 — 3:00PM Keynote
The Federal Bureau of Investigation Presents Failure is Not an Option: Be Proactive, Not Reactive
In a post-9/11 world, the FBI has become a pro-active global force that fights terrorism, rather than a reactive, regionally-focused agency. In this fascinating view inside one of the federal government’s best-known agencies, you’ll learn how the FBI uses performance management techniques to perform at its top level in a high-stakes environment that can’t afford to fail.

3:00 — 3:15PM Coffee Break
Stretch your legs, caffeinate, check your emails and voicemail, or stroll the halls of the fascinating National Press Club during this 30 minute break.

3:30 — 5:00PM Concurent Breakout Sessions

Breakout 1: Join KIPP and Rare in Measuring to Win: From Activities and Outcomes to Impact
Many mission-driven organizations struggle to connect measures to impact. For one, the impact of each activity might not be understood until well into the future. Beyond that, you do not control all of the variables that produce a desired impact. Learn from the masters at KIPP and Rare about their journey in measuring impact using measures that link back to activities and outcomes.

Breakout 2: Join CFA Institute and NAIS in Change it Up: Aligning Your Strategy
What is a change agenda and how does it tie into your mission and strategy map? Barbara Higgins from CFA Institute and Donna Orem from the National Association of Independent Schools will discuss ways to communicate major changes in your organization and relate it back to your strategy.

5:00—-7:00PM Let’s Get Happy – Cocktail Hour
Drinks are on us as you enjoy the view of the Washington Monument from your perch at the National Press Club’s First Amendment Lounge.

Day 2 — Wednesday, March 6, 2013

8:00 — 9:00AM Registration and Continental Breakfast
The early birds get the worm. (NOTE: complimentary breakfast won’t actually consist of worms.)

9:00 — 9:45AM Keynote
Eduardo Carrera from Boys and Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico Presents What’s Strategy Got To Do With It?
We recommend bringing some tissues, because this presentation is sure to make even the toughest attendees a little weepy. Emotions aside, Eduardo will outline what it takes to become a strategy focused organization. And he should know – the BGCPR proudly holds its own amongst Fortune 500 companies and household brands in the Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame.

9:45 — 10:30AM Keynote
The World Bank’s Pedro Alba Presents Ending World Poverty Deserves a Serious Strategy
Prepare to be inspired as you learn about how the Latin America and Caribbean Region of the World Bank practices strategy execution in its complex matrix environment. You’ll gain a greater appreciation for this leading NGO as it strives to link strategy with its vital mission to reduce poverty across the globe.

10:30 — 11:00AM Networking Break
Compare notes with your neighbor, work the room, sign up for a “Speed Consulting” session, or graze near the cookie and coffee table during this 30-minute break.

11:00 — 12:30PM Concurrent Breakout Sessions

Breakout 3: Join the Los Angeles Unified School District in Next in Line: Alignment is Possible
Remember the saying, there is no “I” in “TEAM”? That may be true, but it still takes a lot of individuals to make a strategy work successfully. Linking your strategy down to a single department or even an individual requires diligence and keen management. Learn from one of the largest school districts in the US about why your organization should have no excuse!

Breakout 4: Join the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and SAWDC in Managing Your Workforce Beyond Tomorrow
With an economy still on the mend, training for the jobs of the future is the key for a stronger, smarter workforce of tomorrow. The Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council, who’s attracting national attention with its progress in job training and development, pairs with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a leading national organization in workforce development, to demonstrate how regions and the nation at large can get busy training our workforce with the skills needed for gainful employment.

12:30 — 1:30PM Networking Lunch and 15-minute “Speed Consulting” Sessions with ASMG
Get your cake and eat it too! (NOTE: Actual cake not guaranteed)

1:30 — 2:15PM Keynote
Dustin Brown of the Office of Management and Budget Presents The Executive Approach to Performance Management
It doesn’t get much more executive than this. Dustin Brown, who works for the President, knows how to demonstrate accountability and manage performance in the federal government. You can expect to learn about challenges the OMB faces and how it uses a performance management system to stay on track and encourage excellence.

2:15 — 3:00PM Keynote
The Department of Commerce Presents Change is Constant: Using the BSC During Times of Change

Just like the seasons, management occasionally comes and goes. However, that doesn’t mean your strategy should be raked away as leaders change. Christine Heflin will discuss how the Department of Commerce has proved itself as a model agency through a consistent strategy method.

3:00 — 3:30PM Afternoon Break
Check in with your team, grab a cookie, call your spouse, or learn what it means to be a ClearPoint Ninja during this 30 minute break.

3:30 — 4:15PM Keynote

Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Boston Presents Renew Your Mission by Keeping the Faith

Deborah Rambo has led her organization through the Great Recession and trying challenges, with a stronger, more productive CCAB as a result. Heed the call to renew your strategy by returning to its core mission in order to drive results and obtain accountability.

4:15 — 4:40PM Alumni Panel
Don’t be shy and ask our alumni panel your toughest questions about challenges, successes, and results in their strategy and performance management efforts.

4:40 — 5:00PM Closing
We hope you’ve enjoyed the Summit and are anxious to return to your organization to share what you’ve learned. Please don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to keep up with the latest and connect with us to ask questions or provide feedback. Thank you!

Learn more at www.missiondrivensummit.com and register today. Comment below if you have questions, or contact Angie at amareino (at) ascendantsmg.com.

An Effective New Tool for Managing Employee Performance? We'll See ...

Posted January 17, 2013 3:14 PM by Mark Cutler

Some of you may have heard on Jan. 16 that Morgan Stanley announced a new way of distributing some of its highest-paid employees’ bonuses (see the front page of the Jan. 16 Wall Street Journal).  The bank’s plan—which would affect thousands of brokers and investment bankers, among others—would pay out 2012 bonuses greater than $50,000 in four installments over three years.

A result of the financial crisis, the deferred compensation plan is the latest idea developed to try to manage the performance of those who work on Wall Street.

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Check Out Charlottesville's New Performance Management Site!

Posted January 11, 2013 2:43 PM by Dylan Miyake

We are excited to announce that the City of Charlottesville, Virginia has started publishing scorecards and performance measures for nine major departments. The website, powered by ClearPoint Strategy software, is now live and available to the public.

Starting in 2008, the city began an initiative called “Plan, Perform, Perfect” or “P3” for short. Through this initiative, City leadership wanted to put in a place a system of performance measurement and management that enables the Charlottesville to do the following:

  • Focus on results rather than activities;
  • Align results to the City Council’s Strategic Vision and Initiatives;
  • Serve as a management tool for the City Manager and Department Heads on which to evaluate progress of various programs and services;
  • Report to City Council and the public on what the City is doing and how well we are doing it;
  • Create a more comprehensive budget process, with decisions based on data, research and evidence;
  • Include greater participation from City staff and the public;
  • Promote collaboration and coordination among partners (i.e. departments, agencies, etc.); and,
  • Improve transparency in all areas of the organization.

The P3 Core Team, in conjunction with nearly 250 City staff, elected officials and volunteers used the following sketch to guide their work. 

Several City departments, including Fire, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works, now share individual scorecards online. Each scorecard provides the public with a “snapshot” of how the City performs in each department or area to encourage a connected community with a citizen-focused government. The City plans to add more departments to the website in the near future too.

Coverage from the local TV station:


Click the link below to see the live site:


About ClearPoint Strategy Software

ClearPoint Strategy is a web-based balanced scorecard, dashboard, and performance management software solution. With an easy to use interface, users can easily manage strategic plans, measures, projects, and dashboards- tools that your leadership team will soon rely on to make more accurate decisions. ClearPoint is secure, cost effective, and offers a reliable US-based support team. Visit www.ClearPointStrategy.com for more information and a free trial today.

Performance.gov launches!

Posted January 7, 2013 10:56 AM by Melanie Burton


Success should be judged by results, and data is a powerful tool to determine results. We can't ignore facts. We can't ignore data. -President Barack Obama, July 24, 2009

The quote that says it all. In 2009 the federal government acknowledged the importance of data, of informed decision making, of tracking performance, and in 2010, the federal government did something about it. The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 was passed. The act required federal agencies to set 2-year Agency Priority Goals, use data-driven measures to gauge success and to make this all available on a public website. Now, just two years later, the site is playing a critical role in the movement towards increased government transparency. Together, the 24 agencies have 103 Agency Priority Goals, 8 Cross Agency Priority Goals (goals that are impacted by a set of agencies such as Exports), and 6 Cross Agency Management Goals. The website represents a new zenith of information availability, transparency and accountability within the government. Performance.gov allows anyone and everyone to see what is being done to improve cybersecurity, reduce gang violence, prevent foreclosures and provide insight into a multitude of other pertinent issues. The general public can now see what their taxes are being used for- and whether they’re doing a good job or not. During a briefing, Shelley Metzenbaum, associate director for performance and personnel management of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters “what we’ve now done is give you information about those goals: we explain why the goals were chosen, the strategies with each goal, we explain the progress we’ve made with them, and if there were problems, we explain those.” The website provides and in-depth look into what the government actually does and the continued process of self-assessment and improvement that is now underway.

Performance.gov was designed to deliver “a view of the progress underway in cutting waste, streamlining government, and improving performance.” The website’s layout allows you to browse by agency or by the following areas of focus- acquisition, financial management, human resources, technology, performance improvement, open government, sustainability and customer service. You can now access an Agency’s priority and strategic goals, their plans for accomplishing them, and even their financial reports.

This is just the beginning. Performance.gov asserts that “over time, we will add more information from agency strategy plans, performance plans and reports, and we will produce this information in formats that allow users to see trends, look at goals contributing to common themes, see programs contributing to common goals, and cross-reference other related data.”

Performance.gov sheds a light on where tax-payers’ dollars are being spent and how key issues are being solved, but this is not its only function. The site represents a new approach to problem solving by the agencies. They each honed in on specific and important goals and were able to improve the methods used to track progress. So, while there is still room for improvement (as is always the attitude in performance management- growth and learning, right?) the site is definitely a good start.