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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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Performance Results Transparency Isn't Just for Citizens

Posted September 16, 2013 4:33 PM by Mark Cutler

In working with U.S. Federal agencies as well as local government agencies, I hear a lot of talk about transparency with respect to strategy and performance measurement.  To some organizations, the holy grail of public performance management is being able to show your citizens and the general public your strategy and the results from implementing it on a regular basis.

While I do not disagree that this is a worthy goal, public leaders should consider the importance of providing similar transparency to their employees across their organizations.  This may sound obvious to some, but you’d be surprised how many organizations don’t share their strategy and results throughout their ranks to make sure employees get it before they take it to the public.

First, striving to share all of your performance data with all of your employees , organization-wide, is a great communication goal and will require the organization to develop several vehicles and opportunities to communicate the data.

Second, communication of performance data and results to employees leads to their better understanding of where the organization is going and how it will get there or, to put it another way, it helps them better understand the strategy.  By understanding, they see how they fit in to the organization’s plans and look for ways to contribute.

Third, better understanding of the strategy by employees leads to greater buy-in to that strategy.  It is hard for people to agree to implement a strategy they have never seen, nevermind understand.  However, if the strategy, data, and results are communicated effectively so that they understand it, there is a much better chance that they will buy-in to it.

Finally, once staff buy-in to the strategy and performance measures, it is much easier to get them to implement it and coordinate that implementation across the organization.  The thinking is that this coordination will lead to better execution, which leads to better results.

The Vision of Great Leaders

Posted March 18, 2013 3:17 PM by Brandon Kline

All great leaders have a vision.

  • Martin Luther King saw a world of equality regardless of your race, color, or creed
  • Steve jobs had a vision to put a computer in the hands of EVERYONE
  • The Founding Fathers had a vision for a new nation
  • Even Bob Dylan had visions of Johanna

Okay, I may have gotten a little carried away with that last one, but the fact of the matter remains - all great leaders have a vision, and that vision becomes the driving force behind all their work.

Eduardo Carrera also has a vision. He sees the Boys and Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico (BGCPR) positively affecting the lives of every boy and girl in Puerto Rico. This is a vision that is shared from the president of the organization all the way down to the front line employees and volunteers.

By relentlessly preaching that vision, they have cultivated the motivation and buy-in that has helped the organization grow to 11 clubs serving over 11,000 young people annually. However, this growth and forward progress wasn’t always the norm. In previous years, they struggled just to stay afloat and remain relevant in the lives of the Puerto Rican kids. He compared this stagnation to being in a room and having the windows open while it was raining. The water just kept pouring in while they did everything possible with the buckets they had to throw it back out. SEE THEIR VIDEO HERE.

For so long, they could only see in the short-term and by operating under this approach, they were only able to scoop enough water out of the room to keep from drowning. They needed a new direction. A purpose. A vision. A reason for being that was inspiring and so large that it could only be long-term.

Their leader made this new vision very clear to all employees, volunteers, and even the kids. They were going to reach ALL of the roughly 1 million kids on the island. It was this vision that has helped them continue to grow, continue to stretch themselves, and continue to save the lives of Puerto Rican boys and girls. Whew - now that is a vision.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that a vision isn’t just what you are trying to accomplish in the next one, two, or even three years. It’s much greater than that. Take another look at the people at the top of this post (minus Bob Dylan of course). Do you think any of them thought their vision would be accomplished in the next few years? Or even in their lifetime? I doubt it.

I challenge each and every one of you in the mission-driven sector to reflect for a minute or two. What is your vision? Does it inspire you? Does it inspire others? Are you surrounding yourself with people as committed as you are?

As you reflect on those questions, I leave you with a parting quote from Eduardo’s Presentation at MDMS 2013.

“The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight and no vision.”

Reaching Your Goals In 2013!

Posted December 31, 2012 3:03 PM by Brandon Kline

Before I get started, I want to thank Angie for her post earlier today. It really got me thinking about the importance of starting the year strong, both personally and within your organization. However, while starting the year strong is important, I think we would all agree that keeping the momentum is the most crucial part (and the toughest). So, as we get ready for 2013, what are some things you can do to ensure that the momentum from the New Year is sustained?

First, make sure everyone knows that change, especially in an organization, is not a single event, but a process that takes time. You don’t simply decide to change something about yourself or your organization and then, poof, it’s done. It takes energy, focus, and a plan.

Next, develop a plan with specific goals. Specific goals help you to focus. Let’s say you set a personal goal to “lose weight.” It’s great that you want to lose weight, but as a goal, it’s not specific enough to force you to focus. Instead, try something like, “lose 20 pounds by the end of May.” By making your goals specific, attainable, and time-bound, you create a framework that you can manage to. In addition, it helps you (or your organization) visualize what success will ultimately look like if goals are met.

Once you have a set of goals, make sure someone or something holds you accountable. The first step towards accountability is making sure your goals are well known. If nobody knows what you are trying to accomplish, they can’t possibly hold you accountable. So, write your goals on the wall, post them on your website, or send a letter to all employees. Do whatever it takes to spread the word.

Okay, your goals are set, you’ve got an accountability mechanism, but how do you know if you’re getting any closer to success? That’s why you need to clearly and consistently measure progress against your goals. Tracking your progress not only lets you know if something is going awry, but it can also provide positive reinforcement when you’re doing well, and nothing is more motivating than proven success.

So, now that people know your specific goals, are ready to hold you accountable, and understand what progress looks like, just GET STARTED! Sometimes the hardest part is getting the ball rolling, but whether you’re trying to lose 20 pounds by May, or raise an extra million to support your cause, the only way you will reach your goal is by getting started.  

Cheers to reaching your goals in 2013 and beyond - Happy New Year!


New Talking Points: Birds, Worms, Strategy

Posted November 7, 2012 10:46 AM by Angie Mareino

The election is (finally!) over, and we have just the thing to fill the void. (What’s that you say? You’re perfectly content with the sound of silence for the next month, at least?)


Each year, we host a conference* for strategy and performance managers across the social and public sector. We host a slew of presenters and keynote speakers that you’ll be pleased to meet, listen to, and learn from. Not to mention, ASMG will moderate and host workshops that serve to build your skills in alignment, visioning, goal setting and milestones, and more. It’s the kind of focused event that you’ll walk away from with news you can actually USE.

We’re pretty proud of our Summit, because we make sure our speakers know their stuff, practice what they preach, and present ideas that relate toward your mission-driven organization. In other words, at the Mission-Driven Management Summit, it's here’s to you.

That’s why I URGE YOU to check out our website with the full agenda and details, and sign up before November 16th–THAT’S 10 DAYS—to take advantage of can’t-beat, early bird pricing. And, with that in mind, over the next ten days I will count down with you, listing our top ten reasons the strategy Summit is the kind of event you’ll want to talk about (to your coworkers, your boss, your network….).


Meet fellow strategists and performance managers across the Mission-Driven sector (school districts, municipalities, nonprofits, federal government, and NGOs) and expand your network while learning how others manage strategy and performance.


Eventbrite - Mission-Driven Management Summit STAY TUNED FOR REASON #9 TOMORROW… and learn more at www.missiondrivensummit.com

* (and no, not one of those giant, tradeshow-style conferences, but a small, focused, two-day event that’s centered on content, not vendors)


Communicating Your Mission

Posted October 31, 2012 9:25 PM by Brandon Kline


On a recent trip home to see my family, I spent some time watching TV and hanging out with my 16 year old sister. I noticed that, like most people her age, she was texting friends like crazy on her phone. If you have kids or spend any time around people of that age, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Texting is their primary mode of communication.

With the texting phenomenon and sites like Twitter, the ability to get your point across in 160 characters or less has become increasingly important. This got me thinking about the way organizations communicate with their employees, volunteers, customers, and constituents. In the same way that it’s important for high school and college age individuals to communicate a highlight of their day or an upcoming party in a succinct and to the point manner, the same is true for an organization when communicating its mission.

Think for a minute about the organization you manage or work for. If a friend sent you a text and asked what your mission is, would you be able to clearly articulate the mission of your organization in just one or two text messages? Would that text message highlight your unique reason for existence and reflect the values and priorities of your strategy?

If the mission is communicated properly throughout your organization, everyone should be able to send back a text message answering that question. I tested this out by asking a friend at IBM what his mission was. He replied, “We’re working to build a smarter planet.” He immediately asked me the same question about Ascendant, to which I replied, “Our mission is to help social and public sector organizations increase their impact.”

I’d like to encourage everyone who reads this post to think about how they would respond to a text message that asks, “What is your mission?” If it takes some time to decide how you would respond, you might need to take a step back and think about the reason for this. Is there a lack of communication? Could the mission be poorly defined to begin with? If the answer pops right into your head, that’s great! Do you think everyone else in the organization would say something similar?

Send a text to any of us here at Ascendant. We’ll tell you that our mission is to help social and public sector organizations increase their impact.

What is your mission?


An Ode to Napping and Night Owls: When Do You Feel Most Alert?

Posted September 26, 2012 10:28 PM by Angie Mareino

Finally! I will not be ashamed! Let the truth be told: I am a night owl whose sleep patterns resemble sprints, not marathons. 

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Working Remotely

Posted August 31, 2012 6:08 PM by Brandon Kline

I recently read an HBR blog entitled, "Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged," and it really hit home for me. For one, we here at Ascendant spend a fair amount of time working remotely when not on client site or traveling. And second, something that will resonate with others who have read Dan Pink's book, Drive, is that autonomy is one of the key factors in motivating employees.

Filed Under Ascendant, Communication
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Keeping Score: How Are You Doing?

Posted August 14, 2012 11:15 AM by Angie Mareino

Hello, new world. Well, new world to me, at least. For many of you involved in performance and strategy management, you've been part of this orbit for years. So I'll be blunt: I'm hoping to learn a thing or two from you.

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Implementing the Balanced Scorecard – Getting Staff Involved and Owning It

Posted August 3, 2012 1:39 PM by Mark Cutler

Almost always when we begin working with client leadership teams to implement the Balanced Scorecard in their organizations, the question is asked about when and how to get staff involved. I am not sure if this is an issue specific to mission-driven organizations whose leadership teams are often wary of the top-down, "forcing" of a strategy upon their staff. Regardless, this can be one of the more difficult aspects of strategy implementation for leaders of consensus-driven organizations.

From the beginning of an engagement with a pretty big client that has several layers of management, the leadership team has been asking how they get their staff involved early so they buy in to the Balanced Scorecard strategy management framework. While there is no one right answer to this question, our experience tells us there are several ways to get staff engaged.

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