History of the Balanced Scorecard
In 1992, an article by Robert Kaplan and David Norton entitled "The Balanced Scorecard - Measures that Drive Performance" in the Harvard Business Review caused a lot of attention for their method, and led to their business bestseller, "The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action", published in 1996.
The financial performance of an organization is essential for its success. Even non-profit organizations must deal in a sensible way with funds they receive. However, a pure financial approach for managing organizations suffers from two drawbacks:
- It is historical. Whilst it tells us what has happened to the organization, it may not tell us what is currently happening. Nor it is a good indicator of future performance.
- It is too low. It is common for the current market value of an organization to exceed the market value of its assets. Tobin's-q measures the ratio of the value of a company's assets to its market value. The excess value is resulting from intangible assets. This kind of value is not measured by normal financial reporting.
4 perspectives of the Balanced Scorecard
The Balanced Scorecard method of Kaplan and Norton is a strategic approach, and performance management system, that enables organizations to translate a company's vision and strategy into implementation, working from 4 perspectives:
- Financial perspective.
- Customer perspective.
- Business process perspective.
- Learning and growth perspective.
Benefits of the Balanced Scorecard
Kaplan and Norton cite the following benefits of the usage of the Balanced Scorecard:
- Focusing the whole organization on the few key things needed to create breakthrough performance.
- Helps to integrate various corporate programs. Such as: quality, re-engineering, and customer service initiatives.
- Breaking down strategic measures towards lower levels, so that unit managers, operators, and employees can see what's required at their level to achieve excellent overall performance.
Kaplan and Norton do not disregard the traditional need for financial data. Timely and accurate funding data will always be a priority, and managers will make sure to provide it. In fact, there is often more than sufficient handling and processing of financial data. With the implementation of a corporate database, it is hoped that more of the processing can be centralized and automated. But the point is that the current emphasis on financial issues leads to an unbalanced situation with regard to other perspectives. There is perhaps a need to include additional financial related data, such as risk assessment and cost-benefit data, in this category.
2. The customer perspective
Recent management philosophy has shown an increasing realization of the importance of customer focus and customer satisfaction in any company. These are called leading indicators: if customers are not satisfied, they will eventually find other suppliers that will meet their needs. Poor performance from this perspective is thus a leading indicator of future decline. Even though the current financial picture may seem (still) good. In developing metrics for satisfaction, customers should be analyzed. In terms of kinds of customers, and of the kinds of processes for which we are providing a product or service to those customer groups.
3. The Business Process perspective
This perspective refers to internal business processes. Measurements based on this perspective will show the managers how well their business is running, and whether its products and services conform to customer requirements. These metrics have to be carefully designed by those that know these processes most intimately. In addition to the strategic management processes, two kinds of business processes may be identified:
Mission-oriented processes. Many unique problems are encountered in these processes.
Support processes. The support processes are more repetitive in nature, and hence easier to measure and to benchmark. Generic measurement methods can be used.
4. Learning and Growth perspective
This perspective includes employee training and corporate cultural attitudes related to both individual and corporate self-improvement. In a knowledge worker organization, people are the main resource. In the current climate of rapid technological change, it is becoming necessary for knowledge workers to learn continuously. Government agencies often find themselves unable to hire new technical workers and at the same time is showing a decline in training of existing employees. Kaplan and Norton emphasize that 'learning' is something more than 'training'; it also includes things like mentors and tutors within the organization, as well as that ease of communication among workers that allows them to readily get help on a problem when it is needed. It also includes technological tools such as an Intranet.
The integration of these four perspectives into a one graphical appealing picture, has made the Balanced Scorecard method very successful as a management methodology.
Objectives, Measures, Targets, and Initiatives
For each perspective of the Balanced Scorecard four things are monitored (scored):
- Objectives: major objectives to be achieved, for example, profitable growth.
- Measures: the observable parameters that will be used to measure progress toward reaching the objective. For example, the objective of profitable growth might be measured by growth in net margin.
- Targets: the specific target values for the measures, for example, 7% annual decline in manufacturing disruptions.
- Initiatives: projects or programs to be initiated in order to meet the objective.