Having recently built a number of Balanced Scorecards for various companies/organisations I had been researching the topic of Strategic Themes and come across a very useful blog written by Sandy Richardson from Ontario, Canada. The blog entry that interested me was entitled “Do Strategic Themes Add Value in Strategy Mapping?”. I was a bit taken aback as in the purist Kaplan/Norton Balanced Scorecard model it states quite clearly that “Themes are essential strategic elements that form the foundation for a Balanced Scorecard”. Having a reasonably well organised mind I had been quite comfortable with the progression of Mission to Vision to Strategic Theme to Strategic Objectives followed by the creation of a Strategy Map, Metrics and Strategic Initiatives.
On closer examination, I have found that in creating Balanced Scorecards, the process, like most things we do in life, is a bit more haphazard with several activities inevitably running in parallel. Frequently I have found that Strategic Themes have only become useful at the end of a strategic planning exercise when the participants feel the need to ‘group’ objectives and assign ownership. Again, for an organised mind, it seems sensible to group things together in an act of simplification. However, the use of Strategic Themes to help in the process of determining Strategic Objectives is questionable. In my experience, most executives will jump to the things that need to be done to improve the business long before thinking about the overall strategic themes required to underpin them in the business. Is this a bad thing? I think not. Let them be creative and push the boundaries, let them explore and get excited about the future. There will be plenty of time to put the reins on and draw them back to the reality of metrics, budgets and ownership. For more information on Strategy Maps, check out the Intrafocus Resources Pages