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The KPI.org Blog

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.

Don’t Be THAT Guy!

By Gail Stout Perry

May 15, 2014 20440 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.
Dan Montgomery Dan Montgomery

Dan is co-author of The Institute Way. 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.

In Search of the Canadian Hippo

By Dan Montgomery

Feb 24, 2014 7244 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus
During the years we lived in Canada, my family became fond of Canadian Heritage Moments.  These were sixty-second vignettes that depicted formative moments in Canadian history.

One of my favorites has the intrepid French explorer Jacques Cartier arriving in the valley of the St. Lawrence River in the year 1534 and encountering a group of Iroquois. The leader of the tribe approaches the French party and invites them to visit his nearby village.  The viewer, having the benefit of English subtitles, learns that the word for village in Iroquois is “kanata.”

Cartier turns to the priest on his right and asks “What is he saying, father?” The priest hesitates a moment and then announces confidently: “He is saying that the name of this nation is Canada!”  A helpful and obviously intelligent young man steps up behind Cartier and says “Begging your pardon, sir, but he’s inviting you to visit him in his village. Canada is his word for village.” The priest asserts his authority, dismissing the young man, and off they go.  And the rest is history!

Enjoy the story at http://tinyurl.com/k84fsdk

When exploring new territory, it’s best to draw as much as possible on the collective intelligence of the group when assessing the situation. This is truer than ever in our organizations, and at least as true as it was in Cartier’s time.  Cartier, after all, thought he was in Asia.

One of the biggest mistakes we make in strategic planning is assuming that the future will be more or less like the past. It won’t. It’s critical to articulate – and question – our assumptions about the environment we operate in, in terms of what our customers value, what our competition is offering, and the impacts of big forces like technology and the economy.

Many of our organizational ways derive from a simpler time, when we could rely on the experience of people who’d been around longer for an accurate assessment of the situation. In one of my classes, a student raised his hand and said “That’s what we call the HiPPO principle.  It means that decisions are made based on the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.”

In rapidly changing times, making strategic assessments and decisions based on what worked in the past may prove short sighted. A well-managed system for tracking and reporting strategic metrics is the compass that leaders and staff throughout the organization can use to learn from experience and align their actions in pursuit of better value for customers.

We recommend that you:
  • Schedule periodic reviews of your assumptions about your macro-environment and stay tuned for new information that may challenge these assumptions
  • Agree on the strategic performance metrics that matter to you as an integral part of your planning process – not after the fact
  • Maintain an especially acute focus on tracking customer experience and value
  • Incorporate those metrics into your scorecard and make scorecard review a regular item on your leadership meeting agenda
Dan Montgomery Dan Montgomery

Dan is co-author of The Institute Way. 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.

What’s the Value in Having Values?

By: Dan Montgomery

Dec 13, 2013 18033 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy E. Disney

Values can sometimes seem like the stepchild of strategic planning.  The guts of a strategic plan can include a results-oriented vision translated into specific objectives, measures and initiatives that will support it.

Values, on the other hand, can feel a bit fuzzy. Often, people think of values as a “do-gooder” thing. The exercise of defining values may feel like an exercise in identifying lofty sentiments rather than guiding day-to-day behavior.

Edgar Schein, who has made a career of studying organizational culture and values, makes a distinction between “espoused values” – the things we say we believe in - and “shared tacit assumptions” – the often unspoken assumptions about “the way things are” that actually shape our behavior. All organizations have values, whether these are explicit or not.

This last point is important. For example, Enron had a list of four values that sounded very convincing: respect, integrity, communication and excellence. There also were a number of other values, such as “consistent profits quarter over quarter no matter what,” that weren’t stated, yet were the primary drivers of management behaviors – hidden from public view until it was too late.

These kinds of values – stating things that sound nice but don’t really guide our behavior – are what we call “lobbyware.” They look good on a plaque but don’t really say anything about how we make decisions.

There’s nothing wrong with having a value based on profit—this is how businesses grow and sustain over time. I was working with the executive team of a privately-held company, defining values as part of Step 1 of the Institute’s Nine Step process, and the CEO proposed a value of “profit.” Some of his executives were mildly horrified, to say the least.  They were coming from the paradigm that all values have to be “nice,” and felt that somehow focusing on profit just wouldn’t be very motivating to most employees.  The CEO’s response was telling – “If we don’t make a profit, we’re out of business. And we’re all out of a job.”  Similarly, in the non-profit world, we hear the slogan “No margin, no mission.”

And, all values aren’t necessarily “humanistic” attributes like teamwork, respect, or public service. Values create both an ethical and a practical compass that influences actions and decision in every-day situations. In a “lean” company like Toyota, for example, values include “Go to where the work is done and find the facts,” “Encourage Consistency,” and “Reduce Waste” – all part of a rigorous emphasis on continuous, measureable process improvement.

Ultimately, values reflect the personality of the organization, and are an important component of the organization’s culture – part of the foundational perspective we refer to as “Organizational Capacity.” As part of this, well-articulated values can be a powerful way to attract and screen new employees who are compatible with the culture of your organization.

Finally, the assessment of an organization’s strengths and weaknesses may show that the current values of the leadership or workforce are incompatible with what is needed to move forward, seize opportunities, or adapt to change.  In that case, a strategic theme addressing cultural transformation may be called for.  This cultural transformation may be essential to achieve other goals of the organization.

Read more about Values in 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.

Are Strategic “Leaps of Logic” Leaving You Dazed and Confused?

By: Gail Stout Perry

Nov 22, 2013 20985 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

Have you ever known someone whose brain works faster than they can talk or write?  They often appear to be making leaps of logic when actually, their brain is working through logical steps but they are only communicating their first and last thought in the flow...not the thoughts in the middle.  I have found that many CEO’s suffer from a similar “problem.”  Often, they have a strategy in their heads yet it appears to others that they have made a giant leap from vision to KPIs or initiatives.   So while the CEO usually understands how the pieces fit together, most employees are not mind-readers and cannot follow the “leaps of logic”.

This point was vividly illustrated to me in a phone call I had last week.  A CEO called to say he wanted to use a balanced scorecard – he had seen a competitor company achieve outstanding performance which they attributed to their use of balanced scorecard.   Furthermore, he had already figured out the five most important KPIs for his own company...and he asked if we could help him get the managers and employees in his 36 locations to understand and get motivated to take action in alignment with these 5 KPIs. SIGH....I knew it would be a long conversation but he was so sincere and motivated that I dove in and began to try and pull the “middle part” out of his head by asking him questions.

He had a very clear picture of the future state of his company and his descriptions were compelling and detailed.  As we talked, I began to loosely translate his word images to strategic objectives...I could almost create a strategy map from his stories.  And that’s ONE point:  A strategy map tells a story, it paints the picture of the organization’s future state and how it plans to get there.  He seemingly skipped this and other important steps when he leaped from vision to KPI’s and, therefore, he was missing the logical linkages.

Furthermore as I helped him cross-walk his 5 KPIs to the potential objectives,  I was able to show him that his KPIs were all in the results perspective(financial and customer)...he hadn’t fully considered the  driver KPIs that would be needed until I asked enough questions to start teasing the driver strategic objectives out of his head.  In other words, he was asking his employees to focus on end results without articulating a strategy to achieve those results.

After about an hour he said, “I get it.  I skipped the middle part and that’s the MOST important part. I was told that there is a LOT of work to get to meaningful and strategic KPIs but I didn’t understand the middle part.  It is truly important.”   Eureka!

And one final point that I made ....and which he definitely understood:  no matter how smart and fast-thinking he is, if he doesn’t involve his team in the creation of strategy and the strategic balanced scorecard, they will be unlikely to buy-into or actively engage in improving the company’s performance.  He knows that he must SLOW DOWN and let other not only catch up, but have a SAY in strategy and KPIs. 

Are you a fast-thinking CEO who “skips the middle” or do you work for someone who does?  You may enjoy other real stories and examples in the 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 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.

Blue Apples & Other Special Projects

By: Gail Stout Perry

Nov 14, 2013 9226 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 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.

Boots on the Ground: Making a Difference in Kuwait

By Gail Stout Perry

Nov 7, 2013 56421 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.


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 Strategic Planning Wheel of Doom

By David Wilsey

Oct 25, 2013 12221 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

Hamster wheelI talked to a student from one of our classes over a year after the class to see how things were going, and she told me a long story about how they were still debating the exact wording of objective number 9.  I asked her if they had reached their targets on any key measures and she said that they were still tweaking the measurement data definition.  So a year after the class, they were still just thinking about how to get started!

In our recent webinar, we named this as one of our Top Eight Strategic Management Horrors, dubbing it the Wheel of Doom.  This horror is where the strategic management team begins the strategy formulation and planning process and is never heard from again.  They wordsmith the mission and vision statements for weeks.  They argue for months about the SWOT analysis.  They change strategic themes four times.  They refine the strategy map for months and months, and so on, without ever moving on.

So what is the solution?  How do you get the hamster off that wheel?

My first recommendation is to set a deadline.  In other words, if you start your strategic planning effort on September 1, set a deadline of, say, October 31.  On that date, everyone should agree that we will no longer wordsmith strategy but will instead discuss our performance results.  We won’t have to have the entire system done, but we will have at least a couple of important measures in place so that we can discuss how we are performing versus our strategic objectives.

The second thing that is critical to always remember the old saying that perfect is the enemy of good. None of this is written in stone.  Strategic planning is an iterative process and so implementing an 80% solution quickly is better than drawing out the process trying to create the perfect system.  It’s easier to maintain momentum if you can maintain high energy and move on quickly.

The third recommendation is to keep it simple.  Remember you can’t do everything for everyone.  Be a brutal minimalist at each step of the way to keep the number of objectives and measures down.  Then when you start executing strategy, focus on just a few key focus areas to start. Focus on improving 1-3 key processes that will drive the highest priority gaps in performance.

Finally, it seems like common sense for people that are good with action items, but some folks are intimidated by long term projects and so they never get going.  They literally don’t know where to start. For those of you that struggle with that, the first step is to take those long-term, complex initiatives and break them down into shorter-term tasks.  Then get started on the first task.

For more on how to improve strategic planning and move on to strategy execution, see The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

Dan Montgomery Dan Montgomery

Dan is co-author of The Institute Way. 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 18016 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

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