The Balanced Scorecard is a management system that enables organizations to clarify their vision and strategy and translate them into action. It provides feedback around both the internal business processes and external outcomes in order to continuously improve strategic performance and results. When fully deployed, the Balanced Scorecard transforms strategic planning from an academic exercise into the nerve centre of an enterprise.

Before an organization can start implementing a Balanced Scorecard it needs a clear understanding of its vision and strategy. The basis for the vision and the strategy is the holistic view and the information the management receives during systematic strategy work. Common tools used to help structure the strategy work are; Strategy Mapping, PEST (Political, Economical, Societal, Technological) analysis, SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis, Porter value chain analysis, Porter Five forces of competition analysis, BCG Matrix analysis.

Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton introduced the balanced scorecard in1992 as a methodology for measuring an organization's performance beyond profit margins and dividend yields.

They realized that executives rely on more than financial indicators when making decisions, and they concluded that a wider range of performance measures was needed to capture the financial and operational performance of an organization. They also observed that performance measurement systems often are designed to measure specific employee tasks with workload indicators, which can create an environment of behavior control rather than creative thinking.

The balanced scorecard, which measures four dimensions of an organization: financial, internal business, innovation and learning, and customer is designed to promote a culture that emphasizes strategy development for maximizing the efficiency and the effectiveness of service delivery.

The balanced scorecard allows managers to look at the business from four important perspectives. It provides answers to four basic questions:

  • How do customers see us? (Customer perspective)
  • What must we excel at? (Internal Business Perspective)
  • Can we continue to improve and create value? (Innovation and Learning Perspective)
  • How do we look to shareholders? (Financial perspective)

While providing senior managers information from four different perspectives, the balanced scorecard minimizes information overload by limiting the number of measures used.1

It therefore enabled companies to track financial results while simultaneously monitoring progress in building the capabilities and acquiring the intangible assets they would need for future growth. The scorecard wasn't a replacement for financial measures; it was their complement.

Strategy Maps

Strategy maps show you how to describe, measure and align your intangible assets to achieve superior performance and become more profitable. The strategy map provides the specificity needed to translate general statements about high-level direction and strategy into specific objectives that are more meaningful for all employees and that they can act on.

Strategy maps are communication tools used to tell a story of how value is created for the organization. They show a logical, step-by-step connection between strategic objectives, in the form of a cause-and-effect chain. Generally speaking, improving performance in the objectives found in the Learning & Growth perspective enables the organization to improve its Internal Process perspective Objectives, which in turn enables the organization to create desirable results in the Customer and Financial perspectives.

Building a Balanced Scorecard

Each organization is unique and follows its own path for building a balanced scorecard.

1. Preparation

The organization must first define the business unit for which a top-level scorecard is appropriate. In general, a scorecard is appropriate for a business unit that has its own customers, distribution channels, production facilities, and financial performance measures.

2. Interviews: First Round

Each senior manager in the business unit typically between 6 and 12 executives receives background material on the balanced scorecard as well as internal documents that describe the company's vision, mission, and strategy. The balanced scorecard facilitator conducts interviews of approximately 90 minutes each with the senior managers to obtain their input on the company's strategic objectives and tentative proposals for balanced scorecard measures. The facilitator may also interview some principal shareholders to learn about their expectations for the business unit's financial performance, as well as some key customers to learn about their performance expectations for top-ranked suppliers.

3. Executive Workshop: First Round

The top management team is brought together with the facilitator to undergo the process of developing the scorecard. During the workshop, the group debates the proposed mission and strategy statements until a consensus is reached. The group then moves from the mission and strategy statement to answer the question, If I succeed with my vision and strategy, how will my performance differ for shareholders; for customers; for internal business processes; for my ability to innovate, grow, and improve?

After defining the key success factors, the group formulates a preliminary balanced scorecard containing operational measures for the strategic objectives. Frequently, the group proposes far more than four or five measures for each perspective. At this time, narrowing the choices is not critical, though straw votes can be taken to see whether or not some of the proposed measures are viewed as low priority by the group.


The balanced scorecard suggests that we view the organization from four perspectives, and to develop metrics, collect data and analyze it relative to each of these perspectives:

4. Interviews: Second Round

The facilitator reviews, consolidates, and documents the output from the executive workshop and interviews each senior executive about the tentative balanced scorecard. The facilitator also seeks opinions about issues involved in implementing the scorecard.

The Financial Perspective

Kaplan and Norton recognize the importance of the traditional need for financial data. But, the current emphasis on financials leads to the "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.

The Customer Perspective

Recent management philosophy has shown an increasing realization of the importance of customer focus and customer satisfaction in any business. These are 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 look good. In developing metrics for satisfaction, customers should be analyzed in terms of kinds of customers and the kinds of processes for which we are providing a product or service to those customer groups.

The Business Process Perspective

This perspective refers to internal business processes. Metrics based on this perspective allow the managers to know how well their business is running, and whether its products and services conform to customer requirements (the mission). These metrics have to be carefully designed by those who know these processes most intimately; with our unique missions these are not something that can be developed by outside consultants.

The Learning & Growth Perspective

This perspective includes employee training and corporate cultural attitudes related to both individual and corporate self-improvement. In the current climate of rapid technological change, it is becoming necessary for knowledge workers to be in a continuous learning mode. Metrics can be put into place to guide managers in focusing training funds where they can help the most. In any case, learning and growth constitute the essential foundation for success of any knowledge-worker organization.

5. Executive Workshop: Second Round

A second workshop, involving the senior management team, their direct subordinates, and a larger number of middle managers, debates the organizations vision, strategy statements, and the tentative scorecard. The participants, working in groups, comment on the proposed measures, link the various change programs under way to the measures, and start to develop an implementation plan. At the end of the workshop, participants are asked to formulate stretch objectives for each of the proposed measures, including targeted rates of improvement.

6. Executive Workshop: Third Round

The senior executive team meets to come to a final consensus on the vision, objectives, and measurements developed in the first two workshops; to develop stretch targets for each measure on the scorecard; and to identify preliminary action programs to achieve the targets. The team must agree on an implementation program, including communicating the scorecard to employees, integrating the scorecard into a management philosophy, and developing an information system to support the scorecard.

7. Implementation

A newly formed team develops an implementation plan for the scorecard, including linking the measures to databases and information systems, communicating the balanced scorecard throughout the organization, and encouraging and facilitating the development of second-level metrics for decentralized units. As a result of this process, for instance, an entirely new executive information system that links top-level business unit metrics down through shop floor and site-specific operational measures could be developed.

8. Periodic Reviews

Each quarter or month, a blue book of information on the balanced scorecard measures is prepared for both top management review and discussion with managers of decentralized divisions and departments. The balanced scorecard metrics are revisited annually as part of the strategic planning, goal setting, and resource allocation processes.

Balanced Scorecard Workshops

Balanced Scorecard workshops are conducted by experienced facilitators, and are short on academic theory and long on clinical and practice component. This ensures maximization of adult learning, engagement, retention and application of learning at the workplace.

Stratecent Consulting can conduct a workshop at a location of your choice and customize any course for a particular industry and organization. Customized workshops can be based on the client industry, and experienced trainers and facilitators will help achieve specific client needs. Customized Training is often more economical for organizations wanting to train multiple employees.

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Using the Balanced Scorecard as a Strategic Management System, Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton Harvard Business Review (January-February 1996): 76.
Balanced Scorecard  Measures that drive performance Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton Harvard Business Review (January February 1992): 92105
Putting the Balanced Scorecard to Work, Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, Harvard Business Review (September-October 1993): 93505
Strategy Maps: Converting Intangible Assets into Tangible Outcomes, Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 2004.