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David Wilsey David Wilsey

David Wilsey is the Chief Operating Officer with the Balanced Scorecard Institute and co-author of The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

How Did I Get an MBA Without Learning This?

By: David Wilsey

Mar 24, 2016 6364 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus
Business Woman in classMost MBA programs pride themselves as being the ”practical” degree that will best prepare its students for any number of management roles. And I have to admit that I can point to that degree as a true turning point in my career. But it wasn’t until I became a Balanced Scorecard Professional (BSP) that I learned several principles that I have found to be key to being a good manager and leader.

  1. Help your team articulate a shared vision
    Many managers and leaders think that the key to success is to have a clear vision. But vision that is poorly articulated (or not at all) is just a dream. And simply dictating the vision to employees usually doesn’t work either. Change doesn’t happen because “I said so” or by assigning tasks without any context. Employees engage when they understand what we are trying to accomplish and why. Shared vision and change management happen through dialog, facilitation, and the development of a logical business case.

  2. Connect the dots between what employees are working on and desired outcomes
  3. A good supervisor makes sure that employees are completing their tasks. A good leader makes sure that employees are working on and completing tasks that move the organization toward a shared vision of the future. BSPs have been taught to articulate the difference between mission, vision, and strategy. They know how to organize their energy, measurements, and initiatives around a set of coherent strategic objectives. They know that many people are visual learners and so they use a strategy map to communicate how the dots connect. They know how to align department objectives with high level strategy and communicate to employees where they fit.

  4. Measure results (not just actions)
    Most managers know to measure project milestones as indicators of success, and unfortunately many strategic planners use this basic principle for KPI development. They define a handful of goals (e.g. Improve Brand Awareness), list all of the projects needed to reach those goals (e.g. website redesign), and then measure the completion of those projects as a measure of success (e.g. percentage of website redesign completed). Good leaders measure results. A redesigned website is nice, but I should be much more interested in whether or not it led to improved brand awareness.

  5. Develop strategy before KPIs
    The best KPIs in the world won’t help if they are designed to measure a half-baked strategy. The good news is that you don’t have to be a Steve Jobs-type visionary to develop an intuitive strategy by formally assessing your strategic situation and identifying a path forward using common methods like a SWOT, PESTEL, Customer Value Proposition, Blue Ocean Strategy, and other methods.

There are other such principles, such as how to identify drivers of future performance using Perspectives, how to use strategy to prioritize, how to set and reach reasonable performance targets, and many more. If you can think of any others, please add them in the comments section below.

If you are unsure about what a balanced scorecard or a Balanced Scorecard Professional is, please visit our website. 
David Wilsey David Wilsey

David Wilsey is the Chief Operating Officer with the Balanced Scorecard Institute and co-author of The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

Identify Strategic Thinking with One Simple Question

By David Wilsey

Jul 29, 2014 18744 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus
I used to work on a research team for a company that produced an operational risk software product. I always found it interesting how different members of the same team answered an important question: what do you do?

Here is the way Person A and Person B responded:

Person A: We do research on the internet and enter data points into an operational risk database.

Person B: We help banks understand operational risk and how much related capital they were required to reserve by providing an analytical software solution that models operational risk in the global market.

Technically both answers were correct. For the data model to be statistically significant, the product needed a certain number of data points, and our research team’s job was to research and categorize examples of operational loss in order to populate the database and make the model work. And yet, somehow Person A’s answer was always unsatisfying for some people.

It might be tempting to say that Person B was simply exaggerating the importance of their work by describing it in terms of the mission of the product line, but I think that misses an important point about the value of thinking strategically no matter what your position with the organization is. Person A was simply describing our job. Person B was describing how we created value. Different ways of describing our work was actually a window into the strategic thinking style of the team members.

From Daniel Pink to Simon Sinek and others, much has been said and written about how people are more motivated and productive when they understand the larger context for their work. Understanding why they are doing the work is profoundly important for creative professionals to feel a sense of engagement. Helping employees transition from narrowly thinking about what they do to more broadly thinking about what they are trying to accomplish can improve organizational performance in a number of ways.

The good news is that strategic thinking is a teachable skill. In our BSC Certification courses, we begin by teaching the basic semantics of strategy. At first, students mechanically append or replace the “task” language that most are comfortable with (we need to develop a new service by milestone x) with language that reflects a higher level objective (we want to improve the customer experience; the development of a new services is one option for accomplishing that). Over time, mechanical semantics evolve into an instinct for intuitively thinking about the strategic context. As students change the way they think about strategy and action, critical thinking skills improve as well (e.g. if we are trying to improve the customer experience, is a new service really the best way to do it?). The transition for many teams from always focusing on tactics and actions to always starting with the big picture and working down can be quite profound.

For more about how to improve strategic thinking in your organization, see our Balanced Scorecard Certification Program or The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.
Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

Don’t Be THAT Guy!

By Gail Stout Perry

May 15, 2014 10702 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus
A very distraught woman (we’ll refer to her as Vera) recently called the Balanced Scorecard Institute office in panic.

Vera:  “Hello?  I need those flags.  Can you please overnight the flags to me?  It’s urgent!”  

Us:  “Excuse me?  I think you may have the wrong number?”

Vera:  “Isn’t this the Balanced Scorecard Institute?”

Us:  “Yes, ma’am.  But we don’t sell flags.”

Vera:  “Yes, you do.  My boss said so.”

Us: “Ummmmm….could you elaborate?”

Vera (in an exasperated tone):  “Listen!  My boss just announced that we are going to improve performance using a Balanced Scorecard.  He sent us a memo that said each store is responsible for showing performance by using red, yellow and green flags.  I’m a store manager and I am being held RESPONSIBLE!  I called the other store managers and nobody has the flags.  We all need to order those flags NOW!  You ARE the Balanced Scorecard Institute, are you not?!?”

I really am not sure we ever adequately explained to her that the “flags” are a term meaning a visual representation of the level of performance around a target value for a strategic objective or measure, with green generally indicating good performance, yellow generally indicating satisfactory performance, or red indicating poor performance.  And I’m pretty sure she thinks we are idiots for giving a complex response to a simple request to order some flags that she can wave.

For the record, I am not making fun of the caller herself.  She was an intelligent woman and obviously a dedicated worker.  But she was dreadfully misinformed and the source of the misinformation is the point of this blog.

My point is that her boss created angst and confusion in his organization by making an announcement with no explanation and no context.  HE knows his strategy, HE knows how he wants to measure performance on it, HE created a balanced scorecard to do so (without teaching anyone what that means), and HE announced it to the world and then said “YOU are responsible!”  

Don’t be that guy.  

Many bosses / executives / leaders are really smart.  They have a well-thought out strategy in their heads and they can make the leap from planning to execution…in their head.  But they are better at internal conversation (in their own head) than they are at communicating with others.   If this sounds familiar, let us help you bridge the gap between what you say and what your employees hear.  
I’ve written another blog about this topic (
Are Strategic Leaps of Logic Leaving You Dazed and Confused?), because this problem comes up over and over again.  

Please contact us and let us help. 

Or to learn more about how to translate your strategy into something that is clear to communicate in a way that employees can understand and effectively contribute to, we invite you to explor
e The Institute Way:  Simplify Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.
Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

Blue Apples & Other Special Projects

By: Gail Stout Perry

Nov 14, 2013 5397 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

How do you deal with an initiative (project) that is a forceful executive’s favorite idea, or, even worse, is something that your organization has spent years to develop BUT is not aligned to your strategy?  Yikes!

I was teaching a class in Atlanta last week and one of the student teams approached me with a question.  They were looking for actions which they could implement to move the needle on a “product variety” objective on a grocer case study.  One of the ideas was an R&D product to produce “blue apples” which led to a discussion of “Special Projects” at their own organizations.

This reminded me of a REAL client who had invested heavily in a special R&D project.

The client, a Fortune 500, had spent several years investing in this super-secret project which they would not reveal even to us, their trusted consultants.  They simply referred to it as “Project X.”

We had been working with this client to develop their Tier 1 scorecard and were onsite for the final executive team session to prioritize strategic initiatives.  Of course, “Project X” was on the list.  We used a 2x2 matrix as our prioritization schema (in which initiatives are placed into one of four quadrants depending on how strategic and how resource consuming they are).  When we finished the calculations, “Project X” was dangling by its fingernails off of the chart - from the furthest corner of the least desirable quadrant.

It was clear that  “Project X” was an expensive and resource-intensive effort yet it was going to provide little to no strategic impact.

As I nervously shared the bad news about “Project X”, the VP in charge of this initiative nodded her head and said, “I saw this coming as we were developing this strategic balanced scorecard.  We have actually already started on a sunset plan.”  I had feared uproar and this quiet affirmation blew me away.

This speaks to the power of inclusion in developing a strategic balanced scorecard.  This team, which had invested millions in “Project X”, had already realized via their participation in strategy formulation that the investment needed to be redirected.  There were no tears, cursing, or arguing.

Which brings me back to Atlanta.  I tried an experiment and tried to bully my student teams into choosing the “blue apple” initiative the next day.  I was shot down...unanimously...by all the teams.  In this case, the logic of a disciplined framework (to align and prioritize initiatives) trumped my argument by vigorous assertion.  Hands down.  The Institute Way works....for many reasons.  To learn more, visit www.balancedscorecard.org/tiw


Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

Boots on the Ground: Making a Difference in Kuwait

By Gail Stout Perry

Nov 7, 2013 51648 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

Dateline: CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait. First, let me acknowledge that for some inexplicable reason, my career has repeatedly veered into Department of Defense work and this little fact is extremely amusing to those who know that my idea of “roughing it” means staying in less than a four-star hotel and, even worse, having to eat with plastic utensils and use paper napkins.  Nonetheless, I and my high heels are frequently found traipsing across military bases.

I was recently on yet another military base and had the opportunity to visit with a former Institute student – a U.S. Army Colonel.  He had deployed to Kuwait just days after attending our Balanced Scorecard Boot Camp course in 2011.  Upon arrival he found that the Army Contracting Command for which he was to be responsible was faced with tremendous challenges – from dealing with perceptions of corruption in the local supply chain to managing the extreme complexities of contracting for all of the products and services needed by the Army in such a challenging location. 
 
This particular command needed a rapid transformation in order to achieve his vision of “being recognized by our customers as the best contracting office in the U.S. Army.”  -  a bold vision considering the challenges that he and his team were facing.

But before his tour of duty had ended, his contracting command had, indeed, received accolades and acknowledgement as being one of the best Army Contracting Commands anywhere in the world

How did he lead his Command to achieve this vision in such a short time period?  He applied his new knowledge and developed a strategic balanced scorecard.

A few “secrets” to the success of his scorecard implementation should sound familiar to students of The Institute Way:

  • Leadership Engagement: Command & staff meetings utilized statistics on a dashboard tool to provide a snapshot status of where the organization was in accomplishing the strategic plan objectives.
  • Incorporating the “Voice of the Customer”: The team regularly conducted customer satisfaction surveys to obtain feedback in order to sustain or improve the contracting processes within the command.
  • Alignment: The command’s managers embraced the strategic scorecard and used it for employee counseling and to track personnel contributions.

Army Public Affairs subsequently featured the command’s accomplishments – to learn more:  http://www.army.mil/article/71433

To learn more about how to achieve transformational results for your organization or to read more stories of break-through success, we invite you to explore The Institute Way:  Simplify Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.


Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

Dear Abby-Gail: How Much is Too Much?

By Gail Stout Perry

Oct 29, 2013 6363 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

There has been a lot of interest in my recent blog post:  “Balanced Scorecard Gone Bad: What’s that Funky Smell?”  Several people have posted comments and questions in various forums, but one in particular deserves special attention.
  
From Gary: I believe a key point in your message is that a strategy is never static due to external changes (e.g., competitor moves, new technologies), so it will require continuous adjusting.  But this raises a different question. Since as strategic objectives change or the emphasis of what to accomplish within strategic objectives change, this means some KPIs may be dropped and others added (or their weightings may need to be tweaked). As a result, how much change in KPIs can an organization tolerate?

Dear Gary: This is an excellent question.  When strategy changes, then KPIs will have to change. Organizational tolerance to change is affected by several things. 

(1) Is the scorecard system engrained in the organizational culture such that management trusts the system and uses it to make decisions?  If so, they will have relatively high tolerance for change in the KPIs because they understand that the change is necessary if they are to continue to rely upon the system to make strategically relevant decisions. 

(2) Given that you know you need to adjust the KPI, how quickly can you achieve 7 data points on the new or adjusted KPI?  In other words, is there baseline information available that will help you quickly establish an XmR chart?  If not, can you achieve frequent enough reporting points to have useful trend analysis within 6 months?  If you were using an excellent KPI in the past and then switch to one in which it will be a year (or more) before you have enough data for management to have the 7 data points needed to make statistically sound decisions, this will cause frustration and lower the tolerance for the necessary change.

(3) Can your software system handle these changes without losing your historical performance on the objective (assuming the objective does not change)?  Knowing that you won’t be throwing away historical information increases tolerance for change.

(4) What about rewards tied to KPIs?  How do your Human Resources processes link individual or group performance and incentives to KPI performance?  What will be the result of changing a KPI right now?  If it can’t be changed due to a covenant with employees, can it be removed from the calculation so that you don’t keep working towards an “expired strategy”?

I invite feedback from others.  What else has impacted your organization’s tolerance for needed change in its KPIs?  And does anyone want to share their tips for overcoming resistance to this sort of change?

For more challenges and solutions, we invite you to explore The Institute Way: Simply Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

Dan Montgomery Dan Montgomery

Dan is Senior Associate for the Balanced Scorecard Institute. An accomplished facilitator and trainer, Dan has a 30 year background as a manager, management consultant and executive coach. His previous professional consulting experience includes work with Accenture and Ernst & Young.

The Trouble with “Change Management”

By Dan Montgomery

Oct 18, 2013 8977 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

A few years ago I was facilitating a post-merger integration process for an expanding publicly-traded utility company that had bought a smaller, rural utility in order to expand its territory. The parent company had a balanced scorecard, and we created an aligned scorecard for the smaller company.

I was given a dedicated, full-time team of six people – a “diagonal slice” of the organization including people from different functions and management levels; a dedicated work space with its own kitchen; and very strong executive sponsorship.  It was an ideal project from that point of view.

One day I wanted the group to talk about “Change Management,” and wrote that term up on the white board in our meeting area. Brian was one of the team members, and a former IBEW shop steward who was pretty critical about the way things were run.  As he walked into the room, Brian said, “That’s exactly what we need to do, Dan.  Change the management!”

Brian had quite a point there. Too often, “change management” means “managing what employees think, say and do.”  Can we also interpret this term as “changing the way management thinks about change?” When I first learned the term while working with a Big 4 consultancy in the early 90’s, the approach to change management was top-down and essentially manipulative.  Senior management, assisted by our brilliant consultants, developed new systems and re-engineered processes to work more efficiently, and “change management” was a set of techniques designed to get the folks to go along with whatever had been decided.

It’s pretty clear that that approach doesn’t work.  Change cannot be “managed” like that.  Hearts and minds are not so easily manipulated. Change can be led however.

Effective change leaders don’t “manage” people, they engage them.

Engagement begins by creating a vision that is emotionally inspiring to employees, and inviting them to contribute their ideas about what the future should look like, how to get there, and how to measure success.  Participation in the process is intrinsically motivating to people, who enjoy the feeling of “knowing what’s going on” and contributing.

The Institute Way provides a detailed approach for building engagement using four inter-related cross-functional teams:

The strategic management team – senior leaders who set strategic direction, provide resources and monitor progress.

Strategic theme teams –cross-functional groups that flesh out key business strategies, or themes.

Communications team – to keep employees and key stakeholders informed

Objective owner teams – cross-functional groups that identify measures and initiatives to generate forward momentum

Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

The Ultimate Fantasy

By Gail Stout Perry

Oct 14, 2013 6443 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

CheerleadersHigh School Football, College Football and Pro Football still don’t scratch the itch.  Are you familiar with Fantasy Football? Football Season in Texas is well underway yet even with  football everywhere you turn, there are a lot of people who are just as excited about Fantasy Football.  If you are not familiar with the concept, fantasy football is a game in which team “owners” draft  pro players to assemble their ultimate fantasy team.  Then as actual pro football games are played each week, the resultant statistics  from the games are used to calculate how the owner’s fantasy team would have performed. In other words, if the Cowboys’ quarterback had been playing with the Redskins’ running back and Denver’s wide receiver, how would they have performed as a team? 

I never really understood the attraction of Fantasy Football....until today.  I have recently observed a couple of organizations that are similar size / similar business models, yet their team performance is radically different.  In one organization, people are enthusiastic and innovative – they have a wonderful team spirit -  and in the other, the team has to be prodded along.  And as I mulled this over, I remembered Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”.  Pink has found that autonomy over “your team”...in other words, being able to choose your own team...is a primary motivator and he backs this up with research as well as examples from companies such as Whole Foods and Facebook that are successfully allowing employees to select their teammates.

 

And it hit me, the difference between the high performing company and the struggling company had to do with team performance.  And there was a difference in how the teams were created. One had forced staff to “play nicely together” while the other has allowed its staff more autonomy to choose their teams. And isn’t that the ultimate fantasy? To be able to choose a winning team rather than plodding along with whatever team you happen to have landed in?

I get it now.  This is also what makes Fantasy Football so fun - the ability to choose a team and feel pride in the team’s performance results. I plan to participate next season – that way, if the Cowboys have a bad week, I’ll still have a chance to celebrate via my fantasy team’s results!

  

To learn more about organizational change management and how to achieve transformational results for your organization, we invite you to explore The Institute Way:  Simplify Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.  And to learn more about Fantasy Football, check out the popular sitcom, The League.

Dan Montgomery Dan Montgomery

Dan is Senior Associate for the Balanced Scorecard Institute. An accomplished facilitator and trainer, Dan has a 30 year background as a manager, management consultant and executive coach. His previous professional consulting experience includes work with Accenture and Ernst & Young.

How the Mighty Have Fallen

By Dan Montgomery

Oct 7, 2013 4592 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

A few months ago, we got a call from a company asking for help with their balanced scorecard – something that happens every day.  What was surprising was that the company was one that was a former winner of the Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame, and one that I had worked with years before.

A lot had happened in eleven years. All the original architects of the balanced scorecard had left for other organizations.  It was no longer used as a way to evaluate or update strategy.  Having been cascaded down to an individual employee level years before, what they now called “the balanced scorecard” was simply a way to set targets for employees, based on set objectives and measures.  It was run out of the HR department, where the caller was a mid-level manager. These objectives and measures had become decoupled from strategy, and had not been reviewed or evaluated in years.  What had once been a tool for individual employee alignment with corporate goals was now only a way to set annual targets for individuals. And without ongoing alignment, it was perceived that it was Corporate’s way to get the employees to jump higher every year.  HR’s complaint was that only 5% of the employees had responded to the most recent request for their annual targets.

No wonder!

When I asked the person I was talking with about whether there was a possibility of talking with their strategy function, she was surprised -  “Balanced Scorecard is an HR tool – I didn’t think it had anything to do with strategy!”

Sustaining a balanced scorecard takes ongoing leadership engagement, and needs to be the basis for ongoing strategic management conversations NOT a once year report card. Not only management, but all employees benefit from being involved in discussing strategy, identifying objectives, measures, targets and strategic initiatives at the level that they impact, and that impacts them.

For more on aligning individual objectives with strategy visit here.