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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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Mission-Driven Management Summit Photos

Posted March 17, 2013 10:00 AM by Dylan Miyake

A special thank you to all the speakers, delegates, and staff that braved the winter storm to attend the Mission-Driven Management Summit in DC a few weeks ago.  It was an excellent chance for all of us to take a few days away from our daily responsibilities to focus on strategy execution.

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Mission: Possible ... Mission: Accomplished!

Posted March 12, 2013 8:02 PM by Mark Cutler

Phew! Another first week of March has come and gone and so has Ascendant’s 2013 Mission-Driven Management Summit—our 5th annual conference on strategy and performance management for mission-driven organizations.

While we like to think the summit is a success every year, I believe this year we had a fantastic conference at the National Press Club and even managed to put it on in the face of the Snowquester—the early March snowstorm than never really materialized in Washington, DC.

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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.  

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.

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!

Number 1 Reason to Attend the Mission-Driven Management Summit in March

Posted November 16, 2012 5:21 PM by Angie Mareino


And finally, here's our top reason the 2013 Summit is worth it!

1. Our theme this year, MISSION: POSSIBLE, centers around developing real-world skills to help make your organization's mission possible in the biggest, most impactful way: RESULTS!

Learn more at www.missiondrivensummit.com and register today. 

Reasons 5 through 2 - Why You Should Attend the Mission-Driven Management Summit in March

Posted November 15, 2012 9:31 AM by Angie Mareino

This week, we've been counting down our Top Ten reasons to attend our professional development training and sessions at the Mission-Driven Management Summit on March 5th and 6th in Washington, DC. Early Bird rates end on Friday, so make sure you register now and mark your calendars!

5. Meet us or pick our brains during a round of Speed Consulting! (We think that deserves at least a top 5 spot!)


4. Understand how to maintain alignment even during leadership change, as presented by the Department of Commerce.


3. Keynote speaker Dave Norton, Balanced Scorecard creator, will inspire you to put your strategy to work and understand Best Practices. 


2. Interact with your peers in breakout sessions with leaders from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, KIPP, and others. 

The Countdown Presses On: Grow as a Professional at our Annual Summit!

Posted November 14, 2012 11:25 AM by Angie Mareino

Let's do a double-header today! May the countdown of our top 10 reasons to attend our annual event to build your skills and increase your impact march on….

7. Earn bragging rights because you learned strategy tips from the FBI!

(Enough said. cool)

6. The Nation's Capital is your playground for two days - take a ten minute walk to the White House from the Press Club, view the monuments after dark (Lincoln is amazing!), or eat like a local at the end of the day.  

Ah, DC in March. *Typically* not a bad time of the year to visit our nation’s capital. The weather begins to perk up from its winter slumber, as the famous cherry blossoms slowly bud, preparing for a showy spring debut. Early March is the calm before the storm, before the tourists arrive in hordes, Metroing their way to the blooming waterfront. Take advantage!

*We regret our inability to predict sunny skies in advance!*

STAY TUNED FOR REASON #5  … and learn more at www.missiondrivensummit.com

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