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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.

The Post-Retreat Strategic Planning Letdown

By David Wilsey

Oct 2, 2013 28832 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

On the radio the other day there was mountain climber that shared her experience standing atop Mount Everest. She said that while standing on that summit she was surprised to find that rather than revel in her achievement and enjoy the view that so relatively few people have seen, her thoughts were dominated by an unexpectedly unsettling realization: now, I have to get back down. Besides the fact that getting back down was in some ways physically harder than climbing up, the bigger problem was that her primary motivation – to reach the summit – had been achieved. Reaching that summit had been an inspirational goal driving her through each step of the journey; from the mundane strength training years earlier to those final few steps. Her simple primary motivating factor now would take a very different form: survival.

This type of letdown is common to any major achievement or milestone in life. So it’s not unexpected that a similar phenomenon occurs in the strategic management world. Most commonly, this letdown occurs as soon as the big planning retreat event is over and the resulting documentation has been put together. Once the strategy team has formulated strategy, developed a strategy map, identified performance measures, prioritized initiatives, and rolled everything out to the entire organization, the team stands at the top of that mountain of work and thinks we did it, now what?

Unfortunately, this is the point that too many organizations realize that the real work was not in writing the plan but in the execution of all of those grand ideas. They let the process run out of steam and begin getting too distracted by day-to-day problems and operational concerns to follow through.

So how do you avoid the post-retreat strategic planning letdown?  Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t think of strategy as an event: Many people still think that the only time you should talk about strategy is after playing golf during a big retreat.  Strategy management is about making strategy a part of day-to-day management. Try to institutionalize the strategic thinking process that was used to develop the plan. Make strategy everybody’s job instead of just the management team. Incorporate strategy into the day-to-day agenda.
  • Prioritize & keep things simple: No organization can do everything for everyone. Select 3-4 high level goals to focus on to start and a few high-priority initiatives to support each goal. Manage your initiative list down to get to the select few.
  • Focus on process improvement instead of judging people: ownership and accountability are needed, but if you want to develop a continuous improvement culture, employees cannot worry about getting punished every time they report bad news. Underperformance is more often than not the result of a process failure and so that’s where the focus should be.
  • Use technology for analysis and information sharing: Some organizations fail to fully analyze the data they are collecting or short-circuit their strategy execution success by choosing to use spreadsheets for performance analysis.  Remember that it isn’t helpful for a single analyst to fully understand how the organization is performing. Information sharing and dialog are critical in helping turn information into knowledge and understanding so that leaders can make better strategic decisions.

For more suggestions on how to avoid this letdown, see the Sustaining and Managing with the Balanced Scorecard chapter of 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 a career spanning over 30 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations, she enjoys speaking, training, and writing, sharing her experience with others. She currently is the Chief Strategy Officer and VP Americas for Corporater.

PS: Our Balanced Scorecard Saved The U.S. Army $26 Million

By Gail Stout Perry

Sep 30, 2013 14149 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

I was working with an Army command at Ft. Sam Houston this week and had invited a special guest - Scott Hencshel - to address the group regarding the organizational challenges of implementing a balanced scorecard system within Army.  (Scott’s command is also stationed at Ft. Sam Houston -  Army Medical Department Center & School (AMEDDC&S), an Institute “Award for Excellence” winner.)  

As Scott was wrapping up, someone asked a final question, “What was the biggest benefit that AMEDDC&S realized after implementing its strategic balanced scorecard?”  Scott talked about alignment, focus, and data-driven decision making.  Then as he was making his way to the door he turned back and said, “Oh yeah, we immediately saved the Army $26 million.” 

Say what?!?!

AMEDDC&S is where the U.S. Army educates and trains all of its medical personnel – over 27,000 soldiers. One of the strategic measures on AMEDD’s balanced scorecard is “attrition rates.”  Before the scorecard was implemented, it was commonly believed that discipline issues were the primary reason for soldiers not completing their training programs – because resolution of these discipline issues were what consumed everyone’s time.  Once the scorecard was implemented, attrition was measured more thoroughly and two discoveries were made:

  1. Attrition was MUCH higher than originally thought.  The traditional calculation was flawed and attrition was actually over 34%.  That means 1/3 of those entering the medical training programs would “drop-out” thereby wasting the Army’s investment in their training.
  2. Academic performance, not discipline, was discovered to be the primary reason for attrition.

So as the scorecard team delved further, they looked for root causes of poor academic performance resulting in attrition incidents.  They discovered that a major cause was a lack of communication between the Brigade leadership and the AMEDDC&S faculty.  Students in the medical training program were being assigned Brigade duties that prevented them from having proper opportunities to study and prepare for classes and exams.   A prime example was students falling asleep during final exams due to having served Brigade guard duty the night before. 

Once the communications issues were corrected, overall attrition rapidly dropped from 34% to below 20%...thereby saving the U.S. Army $26 million.

PS:  Did I mention that I have the best job in the world?!?  It is extremely rewarding to hear about results like this.

For more examples of break-through performance, we invite you to read “The Institute Way: Simply Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard. 



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.

Navigating with the Fuel Indicator

By David Wilsey

Sep 26, 2013 7406 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

Has it ever dawned on you that you think you are headed in the right direction only to discover that you are using the wrong measure to inform your decisions? It feels a bit like navigating a truck using the fuel gauge instead of the GPS.

It was a lesson that I observed again last week while presenting at the McLeod Software Users’ Conference in Scottsdale, AZ. Between a golf tournament in the 106 degree heat, a bus ride for 600 participants for a night at the Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse, desert Jeep tours and lots of great food and speakers, the software company put on a great show. 

The part that was most exciting to me was the official launch of the new Navigator product, which is the new strategic performance management solution that McLeod has added to its portfolio of transportation management and trucking software solutions. 

The highlight of the conference was a presentation by Lee Camden, the IT Director at Earl Henderson Trucking. Henderson was the first client for which McLeod and the Institute partnered together to help with strategic planning and measurement development. I facilitated the Henderson team quickly through our planning process and the McLeod team modeled the software after the results. In his presentation, Lee demonstrated the value of the Navigator product as well as the practical benefits they have received over time from improved strategy focus. He demonstrated how they used their strategy map to visualize and align around strategy. 

He also noted how they had stopped focusing on only driver retention as their primary organizational capacity measure. A key takeaway from the planning dialog was the realization that their strategy wasn’t dependent on having just anyone driving their trucks. Simply having a driver turned out to be about as strategic as filling the gas tank.

Henderson’s strategy focused on adding specialized offerings and other premium services. In order to effectively deliver the services that they felt gave them a competitive advantage, it was critical that they have qualified “good” drivers. In order to improve on the Increase the Number of Good Drivers objective on their strategy map, McLeod has implemented an initiative around this qualification process and are now measuring their progress on this much more strategically important factor.

I look forward to catching the presentation video on the McLeod website and case study.  Both will be posted to the BSI website as soon as they are available.

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