On Balanced Scorecard

Ascendant Presenting on Nonprofit BSCs in the LBC

Posted May 9, 2014 4:11 PM by Mark Cutler

With Ascendant presenting at a conference in the L-B-C

It’s kinda easy for nonprofits to learn about the B-S-C

While we may be showing our age by paraphrasing Snoop Dogg lyrics, we did want to let everyone know that Ascendant and ClearPoint will be at the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP) Annual Conference in Long Beach, CA, May 12-14.

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The Balanced Scorecard Isn’t Just About Measurement

Posted January 5, 2014 4:45 PM by Mark Cutler

Just this past week, I was interviewing a client at a North American unit of a large international organization as part of a project to help align this unit with the Balanced Scorecard of its corporate parent, when the client made an interesting comment to me.

“I’ve been spending most of the past year working on the behavioral aspect of alignment within my sphere of control in the organization,” he said.  “So the timing of your work is good, we should start measuring now.” 

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Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself, Develop Measures Before Initiatives

Posted October 27, 2013 2:15 PM by Mark Cutler

In working with lots of mission-driven organizations to help build and implement their Balanced Scorecards, I’ve noticed a certain over-eagerness to invert the BSC development process by moving from development of strategic objectives to developing and implementing the set of strategic initiatives before settling on a set of strategic measures and then moving to initiatives.

After witnessing this desire to gloss over measures and dive right into initiatives a number times, I think I’ve figured out why organizations tend to do this and I want to warn against it.

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Practice Makes Perfect in Executing Your Strategy, Too

Posted February 22, 2013 8:30 AM by Mark Cutler

After reading a blogpost the other night stating that to become good at strategy requires practice, I just had to share it because I couldn’t agree more.

The author, Roger Martin—dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto—says that to be an “accomplished strategist” the first necessary element “is belief, the second is work, work, and work some more. This means making strategy choices, seeing how they work out and then learning from them.”  This is what we at Ascendant try to impart to our clients when implementing a strategy management framework like the Balanced Scorecard (BSC).

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You Thought Your Organization’s Business Model Was Broken? Talk to a Librarian

Posted February 14, 2013 2:52 PM by Mark Cutler

Way back before there was Wikipedia and search engines such as Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, Lycos, or even Ask Jeeves there were these quiet buildings in towns, cities, and schools across the country called libraries.  You may even remember being in one at some point if you are over 30 years old.

Anyway, the point of these “libraries” was to provide information in the form of books (and magazines and newspapers) to the general public – or students and faculty in the case of school and university libraries – basically for free.  And, acquire your collections through funding you received either from property taxes, tuition, or donors who understood the importance of maintaining free and open access to information.

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Dave Norton on Targets and Performance

Posted February 6, 2013 3:29 AM by Dylan Miyake

In my 15 years working with organizations on implementing the Balanced Scorecard, targets have always been a challenge.  While critical, targets (especially non-financial ones) are often a guessing game -- should we do last year plus 10%?  15%?  5?  No, wait -- what's our sector benchmark?  Should we go for best practice or average?  And how do we even make a target for that anyway?

I've seen (and even participated in developing) scorecards where fully half of the measures didn't have targets.  Or if they did, the targets were "baseline" -- code for we don't really know what the target is, so we'll punt this down the road a bit and see how we do.  And then make targets later.  Which, like many compromises, is sometimes the exact right thing to do.  And sometimes the exact wrong thing to do.

Fortunately, Dave Norton will be speaking at the Mission Possible:  The Mission-Driven Management Summit 2013 on targets.  In his presentation (which  I had the great fortune of previewing this week), he'll discuss the many different ways that organizations set targets, and present some tools which we can use to make the process of setting targets more transparent, and more importantly, more effective.

Not to spoil the presentation (which I assure you is great), but Dave focuses on two areas:  The BHAG target (big, hairy, audacious goal) which, ironically, is the lag indicator, and the driver measures that help you understand whether or not you are on your way to accomplishing your BHAG.  With examples from throughout the public and social sector, Dave makes a strong case for effective target setting.

Join us in Washington, DC next month for this presentation and other great speakers and cases to learn how you can execute your mission for breakthrough results.  

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!


Facilitating Tips: Kick Off 2013 with a Strategy Meeting

Posted December 31, 2012 10:26 AM by Angie Mareino

Ah, the New Year. A time of good intentions, resolutions, revisiting your lifestyle and habits...but how can you harness that same enthusiasm come February? We might not be able to help keep off those pesky 10 lbs. (we'll leave that to Dr. Oz!), but we can offer some words of advice to faciliate a kickoff meeting to discuss launching a better strategy management system in 2013. And why should you care? We have watched organizations with great missions learn the hard way that floundering without a comprehensive yet easy-to-follow and approachable strategy management system is a sure-fire way to chase your proverbial tail when it comes to measuring impact in a mission-driven organization. So hear us out, then chime in with your own tips and best strategies. Here's to a measurablely good 2013!

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Reducing World Poverty Deserves a Serious Strategy

Posted December 5, 2012 4:16 PM by Angie Mareino

When Dr. Jim Kim was appointed as head of the World Bank in the summer of 2012 (only its 12th president in its almost 70-year history), he wanted to refocus the organization to its core mission: Help Reduce World Poverty

But what would that mean to the Latin American and Caribbean Region (LAC), one of the World Bank’s six main regions? In LAC, there certainly are some countries with extreme poverty, like Haiti and Honduras, but there are also many countries that are middle income or better, like Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.

How would the mission to reduce poverty translate in these counties?

For the Latin America and Caribbean Region, the World Bank first had to agree to add “Increase Prosperity” to their focus. Countries typically do not strive to just be above the poverty line; they want to grow a healthy and productive middle class.


In 2012, the Latin American Region implemented the Balanced Scorecard to visualize its contribution to the overall mission of the World Bank. Not only have they helped to bring millions out of poverty, but they have also used innovative approaches to strengthen governance and improve resilience throughout the region. The use of new financial products along with advisory and convening services have made this region an innovation hub of the World Bank. Advances in areas of procurement reform and conditional cash transfers, among other things, now guides how the World Bank adopts these policies globally.

Getting a room of Ph.D. economists to agree on single measures of development effectiveness is not easy.

The Balanced Scorecard helps to create alignment across the various countries as well as allow for flexibility in defining and achieving development strategies in different regions. What works in the Caribbean may not work in Chile; the BSC framework provides for flexibility. At the same time, the Latin America and Caribbean Region as a whole at the World Bank needs to be able to respond with one voice to present its collective effectiveness. Across the LAC region, the strategy map has become the common language. 


Get the inside scoop on the World Bank’s approach to strategy at the Mission-Driven Management Summit in March 2013. Learn from Pedro Alba, the director of strategy and operations for the World Bank Latin America and Caribbean Region, who will discuss how it all works. As you might expect, getting a room of Ph.D. economists to agree on single measures of development effectiveness is no small task.

Linking activities to impact is also difficult, especially as global financial crises influence the economic development of the region. Yet the Latin American Region has been pushing hard for alignment, and the common language of the Balanced Scorecard has allowed for candid discussions about key challenges in the region. 


Register for the Summit today for unbeatable rates ($200 in savings) and discover how the World Bank has overcome many challenges of implementing the Balanced Scorecard. You will see how you can apply their techniques to your organization, so you too can stay true to your core mission.

Smarter, More Strategic Workforce Development in America

Posted November 30, 2012 3:44 PM by Angie Mareino

The typical American worker is changing across America, but the education systems aren’t keeping up. Too many Americans are stranded without the skills to get jobs in their own communities. This also puts growing employers in a challenging position: wanting to hire but not finding qualified employees. How can we have high unemployment, yet certain employers struggle to fill positions? Workforce Development programs attempt to tackle this important mission head on.

Fred Dedrick, the President of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, has been leveraging national and local funders to support regional funding collaboratives that invest in worker skills and key regional industries. The National Fund makes it their job to help provide career advancement opportunities for low-wage workers using a model of substantial employer engagement. The impact is a better skilled workforce and changes in public policies in 32 regional communities to make businesses more competitive and communities more sustainable. The National Fund understands that different communities have different profiles of the jobs that are in high demand, so there’s not a cookie cutter approach across America to solve the problem.

The Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council (SAWDC) is one of the regional funding collaboratives with which the National Fund partners. Laura Chandler, its executive director, has made huge strides through partnerships with education organizations and industry groups to align workforce development with workforce needs.  And what has helped make SAWDC so successful? A little thing called the Balanced Scorecard. (We may have mentioned this tool before. wink) We’ll let Ms. Chandler show you how.

During a can’t-miss breakout session at our Mission-Driven Management Summit this March, Chandler and Dedrick will present each of their challenges and successes and lead a discussion about measuring your impact in areas where you rely on partnerships

National Fund has 32 partners like SAWDC and innumerable funders who want to see results. SAWDC has several industry clusters and many community colleges and other training organizations who all have different needs. How can they unite these various partners and interests to make an impact? The breakout session will explore how to apply these challenges to your own organization’s situation. Come to the Summit and return with new ideas to help your organization make a bigger impact. We think that’s pretty smart.


Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter with #MDMS13 and register while our rates are great!

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