Balanced Scorecard Stones

2023 Update: This article, written in 2013 is still perfectly valid, however, things have moved on, and a few nuances in the format of the Balanced Scorecard methodology have developed over the years. For a better understanding of how the Balanced Scorecard is used today, take a look at our most up-to-date article: What is a Balanced Scorecard?

What is a Balanced Scorecard? – Even though it has been around for over twenty years, we are often asked to describe the Balanced Scorecard. There are many good descriptions available, we thought we would take some of the most current information and turn it into a three-minute video. The balanced scorecard is a strategic planning and management method used to align business activities to a vision and strategy. It also provides a means to improve internal and external communications and monitor performance against strategic goals. It was originally published by Dr. Robert Kaplan and Dr. David Norton as a paper in 1992 and then formally as a book ‘The Balanced Scorecard’ in 1996. The design of the Balanced Scorecard concerns itself with the identification of a small number of financial and non-financial measures. It sets targets for the measures and then monitors them on a regular basis to determine success or failure.

There are two aspects of this activity that need to be highlighted:

1. The scorecard measures financial and non-financial. These measures are few in number and are critical to the business, often referred to as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). They must include leading and trailing measures (see Chapter ‘Key Performance Indicators’ in our downloadable guide).

2. Measurement is only part of the activity. The measures should also have associated initiatives (that change the measure positively) and actions (to correct activities when things do not go to plan).

The ‘balance’ that a Balanced Scorecard achieves is brought about by a focus on both financial and non-financial measures that can be attributed to four areas or Perspectives:

Financial Perspective – The high-level financial objectives and measures that help answer the question – How do we look to our shareholders?

Customer Perspective – All measures that are directly related to customers, focusing on customer satisfaction. To answer the question – How do our customers see us?

Internal Process Perspective – The measures that determine how well things are running and whether products and services conform to what is required. In other words, what should we be best at?

Capacity, Learning, and Growth Perspective – The measures concerning how well people perform, their skills, training, company culture, leadership, and knowledge base. All aspects lead to continuous improvement. Answering the question, how can we improve and create value?

There are no hard and fast rules about the number and names of the perspectives. Occasionally additional Perspectives are added, for example, the Environment. In the public sector, the Customer Perspective is frequently called ‘Stakeholders’. The key is to ensure there is a ‘balance’ between financial and non-financial objectives, measures, and strategic initiatives. For more information on how a balanced scorecard can be automated and presented visually, be sure to look at Spider Impact, the only software formally recommended by the Balanced Scorecard Institute.