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Balanced scorecard

The balanced scorecard (BSC) is a strategy which may be constrained.[4] Initially, Balanced Score-
performance management tool a semi-standard card emerged as a performance management system, over
structured report, supported by design methods and a period of time it has come to be known as a strat-
automation tools, that can be used by managers to keep egy management system, with its ultimate aim being the
track of the execution of activities by the sta within achievement of long term nancial performance. Bal-
their control and to monitor the consequences arising anced scorecard is seen as a strategic management sys-
from these actions.[1] tem enabling business leaders to meet the challenge of
The phrase 'balanced scorecard' is commonly used in two strategy execution.
broad forms: Two of the ideas that underpin modern balanced score-
card designs concern facilitating the creation of such a
1. As individual scorecards that contain measures to control through making it easier to select which data to
manage performance, those scorecards may be op- observe, and ensuring that the choice of data is consistent
erational or have a more strategic intent; and with the ability of the observer to intervene.[5]

2. As a Strategic Management System, as originally de-

ned by Kaplan & Norton.
2 History
The critical characteristics that dene a balanced score-
card are:[2]
Organizations have used systems consisting of a mix of
nancial and non-nancial measures to track progress
its focus on the strategic agenda of the organization for quite some time.[6] One such system was created by
concerned Art Schneiderman in 1987 at Analog Devices, a mid-
the selection of a small number of data items to sized semi-conductor company; the Analog Devices Bal-
monitor anced Scorecard.[7] Schneidermans design was similar to
what is now recognised as a First Generation Balanced
a mix of nancial and non-nancial data items. Scorecard design.[5]
In 1990 Art Schneiderman participated in an unrelated
research study led by Robert S. Kaplan in conjunction
1 Use with US management consultancy Nolan-Norton,[8] and
during this study described his work on performance
Balanced scorecard is an example of a closed-loop con- measurement.[7] Subsequently, Kaplan and David P. Nor-
troller or cybernetic control applied to the management ton included anonymous details of this balanced score-
of the implementation of a strategy.[3] Closed-loop or cy- card design in a 1992 article.[9] Kaplan and Nortons ar-
bernetic control is where actual performance is measured, ticle wasn't the only paper on the topic published in early
the measured value is compared to a reference value and 1992[10] but the 1992 Kaplan and Norton paper was a
based on the dierence between the two corrective in- popular success, and was quickly followed by a second in
terventions are made as required. Such control requires 1993.[11] In 1996, the two authors published a book The
three things to be eective: Balanced Scorecard.[12] These articles and the rst book
spread knowledge of the concept of balanced scorecard
a choice of data to measure, widely, and has led to Kaplan and Norton being seen as
the creators of the concept.
the setting of a reference value for the data,
While the corporate scorecard terminology was coined
the ability to make a corrective intervention.[3] by Art Schneiderman, the roots of performance manage-
ment as an activity run deep in management literature and
Within the strategy management context, all three of practice. Management historians such as Alfred Chan-
these characteristic closed-loop control elements need dler suggest the origins of performance management can
to be derived from the organisations strategy and also be seen in the emergence of the complex organisation
need to reect the ability of the observer to both mon- most notably during the 19th Century in the USA.[13]
itor performance and subsequently intervene both of More recent inuences may include the pioneering work


of General Electric on performance measurement report- proposal was translated into a form that made sense to a
ing in the 1950s and the work of French process engi- typical reader of that journal managers of US commer-
neers (who created the tableau de bord literally, a dash-
cial businesses. Accordingly, initial designs were encour-
board of performance measures) in the early part of the aged to measure three categories of non-nancial mea-
20th century.[6] The tool also draws strongly on the ideas sure in addition to nancial outputs those of customer,
of the 'resource based view of the rm'[14] proposed by internal business processes and learning and growth.
Edith Penrose. However it should be noted that none of These categories were not so relevant to non-prots or
these inuences is explicitly linked to original descrip- units within complex organizations (which might have
tions of balanced scorecard by Schneiderman, Maisel, or high degrees of internal specialization), and much of the
Kaplan & Norton. early literature on balanced scorecard focused on sugges-
[12] tions of alternative 'perspectives that might have more
Kaplan and Nortons rst book remains their most
popular. The book reects the earliest incarnations relevance to these groups.
of balanced scorecards eectively restating the con- Modern balanced scorecards have evolved since the initial
cept as described in the second Harvard Business Re- ideas proposed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the
view article.[11] Their second book, The Strategy Fo- modern performance management tools including Bal-
cused Organization,[15] echoed work by others (particu- anced Scorecard are signicantly improved being more
larly a book published the year before by Olve et al. in exible (to suit a wider range of organisational types) and
Scandinavia[16] ) on the value of visually documenting the more eective (as design methods have evolved to make
links between measures by proposing the Strategic Link- them easier to design, and use).[20]
age Model or strategy map.
As the title of Kaplan and Nortons second book[15] high-
lights, even by 2000 the focus of attention among thought- 4 Design
leaders was moving from the design of Balanced Score-
cards themselves, towards the use of Balanced Scorecard Design of a balanced scorecard is about the identication
as a focal point within a more comprehensive strategic of a small number of nancial and non-nancial measures
management system. Subsequent writing on Balanced and attaching targets to them, so that when they are re-
Scorecard by Kaplan & Norton has focused on uses of viewed it is possible to determine whether current perfor-
Balanced Scorecard rather than its design (e.g. The Exe- mance 'meets expectations. By alerting managers to ar-
cution Premium in 2008[17] ), however many others have eas where performance deviates from expectations, they
continued to rene the device itself (e.g. Abernethy et can be encouraged to focus their attention on these areas,
al.[18] ). and hopefully as a result trigger improved performance
within the part of the organization they lead.[3]
The original thinking behind a balanced scorecard was
3 Characteristics for it to be focused on information relating to the imple-
mentation of a strategy, and over time there has been a
blurring of the boundaries between conventional strate-
The characteristics of the balanced scorecard and its gic planning and control activities and those required to
derivatives is the presentation of a mixture of nancial design a balanced scorecard. This is illustrated well by
and non-nancial measures each compared to a 'target' the four steps required to design a balanced scorecard in-
value within a single concise report. The report is not cluded in Kaplan & Nortons writing on the subject in the
meant to be a replacement for traditional nancial or op- late 1990s:
erational reports but a succinct summary that captures
the information most relevant to those reading it. It is 1. Translating the vision into operational goals;
the method by which this 'most relevant' information is
determined (i.e., the design processes used to select the 2. Communicating the vision and link it to individual
content) that most dierentiates the various versions of performance;
the tool in circulation. The balanced scorecard indirectly
also provides a useful insight into an organisations strat- 3. Business planning; index setting
egy by requiring general strategic statements (e.g. mis- 4. Feedback and learning, and adjusting the strategy
sion, vision) to be precipitated into more specic/tangible accordingly.
The rst versions of balanced scorecard asserted that rele- These steps go far beyond the simple task of identifying a
vance should derive from the corporate strategy, and pro- small number of nancial and non-nancial measures, but
posed design methods that focused on choosing measures illustrate the requirement for whatever design process is
and targets associated with the main activities required to used to t within broader thinking about how the resulting
implement the strategy. As the initial audience for this balanced scorecard will integrate with the wider business
were the readers of the Harvard Business Review, the management process.
4.2 Second generation 3

Although it helps focus managers attention on strate- These suggestions were notably triggered by a recognition
gic issues and the management of the implementation of that dierent but equivalent headings would yield alter-
strategy, it is important to remember that the balanced native sets of measures, and this represents the major de-
scorecard itself has no role in the formation of strategy.[5]
sign challenge faced with this type of balanced scorecard
In fact, balanced scorecards can co-exist with strategic design: justifying the choice of measures made. Of all
planning systems and other tools.[6] the measures you could have chosen, why did you choose
these?" These issues contribute to dis-satisfaction with
early Balanced Scorecard designs, since if users are not
4.1 First generation condent that the measures within the Balanced Score-
card are well chosen, they will have less condence in the
The rst generation of balanced scorecard designs used information it provides.[28]
a 4 perspective approach to identify what measures to Although less common, these early-style balanced score-
use to track the implementation of strategy. `The original cards are still designed and used today.[1]
four perspectives proposed[9] were:
In short, rst generation balanced scorecards are hard to
design in a way that builds condence that they are well
Financial: encourages the identication of a few designed. Because of this, many are abandoned soon after
relevant high-level nancial measures. In particu- completion.[6]
lar, designers were encouraged to choose measures
that helped inform the answer to the question How
do we look to shareholders?" Examples: cash ow, 4.2 Second generation
sales growth, operating income, return on equity.[21]
In the mid-1990s, an improved design method
Customer: encourages the identication of mea- emerged.[16] In the new method, measures are se-
sures that answer the question What is important to lected based on a set of strategic objectives plotted
our customers and stakeholders?" Examples: per- on a strategic linkage model or "strategy map". With
cent of sales from new products, on time delivery, this modied approach, the strategic objectives are
share of important customers purchases, ranking by distributed across the four measurement perspectives, so
important customers. as to connect the dots to form a visual presentation of
strategy and measures.[29]
Internal business processes: encourages the iden-
tication of measures that answer the question In this modied version of balanced scorecard design,
What must we excel at?"Examples: cycle time, unit managers select a few strategic objectives within each of
cost, yield, new product introductions. the perspectives, and then dene the cause-eect chain
among these objectives by drawing links between them
Learning and growth: encourages the identica- to create a strategic linkage model. A balanced score-
tion of measures that answer the question How can card of strategic performance measures is then derived
we continue to improve, create value and innovate?". directly by selecting one or two measures for each strate-
Examples: time to develop new generation of prod- gic objective.[5] This type of approach provides greater
ucts, life cycle to product maturity, time to market contextual justication for the measures chosen, and is
versus competition. generally easier for managers to work through. This style
of balanced scorecard has been commonly used since
The idea was that managers used these perspective head- 1996 or so: it is signicantly dierent in approach to the
ings to prompt the selection of a small number of mea- methods originally proposed, and so can be thought of
sures that informed on that aspect of the organisations as representing the 2nd generation of design approach
strategic performance.[9] The perspective headings show adopted for balanced scorecard since its introduction.
that Kaplan and Norton were thinking about the needs
of non-divisional commercial organisations in their initial
design. These headings are not very helpful to other kinds
4.3 Third generation
of organisations (e.g. multi-divisional or multi-national
commercial organisations, governmental organisations, Main article: Third-generation balanced scorecard
non-prots, non-governmental organisations, government
agencies etc.), and much of what has been written on bal- In the late 1990s, the design approach had evolved yet
anced scorecard since has, in one way or another, focused again. One problem with the second generation design
on the identication of alternative headings more suited to approach described above was that the plotting of causal
a broader range of organisations, and also suggested using links amongst twenty or so medium-term strategic goals
either additional or fewer perspectives (e.g. Butler et al. was still a relatively abstract activity. In practice it ignored
(1997),[22] Ahn (2001),[23] Elefalke (2001),[24] Brignall the fact that opportunities to intervene, to inuence strate-
(2002),[25] Irwin (2002),[26] Radnor et al. (2003)[27] ). gic goals are, and need to be, anchored in current and

real management activity. Secondly, the need to roll for- 6 Variants

ward and test the impact of these goals necessitated the
creation of an additional design instrument: the Vision Since the balanced scorecard was popularized in the early
or Destination Statement. This device was a statement 1990s, a large number of alternatives to the original 'four
of what strategic success, or the strategic end-state, box' balanced scorecard promoted by Kaplan and Nor-
looked like. It was quickly realized that if a Destination ton in their various articles and books have emerged.
Statement was created at the beginning of the design pro- Most have very limited application, and are typically pro-
cess, then it was easier to select strategic activity and out- posed either by academics as vehicles for expanding the
come objectives to respond to it. Measures and targets dialogue beyond the nancial bottom line e.g. Brig-
could then be selected to track the achievement of these nall (2002)[25] or consultants as an attempt at dierenti-
objectives. Design methods that incorporate a Destina- ation to promote sales of books and / or consultancy (e.g.
tion Statement or equivalent (e.g. the results-based man- Bourne (2002);[35] Niven (2002)[36] ).
agement method proposed by the UN in 2002) represent
a tangibly dierent design approach to those that went Many of the structural variations proposed are broadly
before, and have been proposed as representing a third similar, and a research paper published in 2004[5] at-
generation design method for balanced scorecards.[5] tempted to identify a pattern in these variations not-
ing three distinct types of variation. The variations ap-
Design methods for balanced scorecards continue to peared to be part of an evolution of the balanced score-
evolve and adapt to reect the deciencies in the currently card concept, and so the paper refers to these distinct
used methods, and the particular needs of communities of types as generations. Broadly, the original 'measures
interest (e.g. NGOs and government departments have in boxes type design (as proposed by Kaplan & Nor-
found the third generation methods embedded in results- ton) constitutes the 1st generation balanced scorecard de-
based management more useful than rst or second gen- sign; balanced scorecard designs that include a 'strategy
eration design methods).[30] map' or 'strategic linkage model' (e.g. the Performance
This generation rened the second generation of balanced Prism,[37] later Kaplan & Norton designs[17] the Perfor-
scorecards to give more relevance and functionality to mance Driver model of Olve, Roy & Wetter (English
strategic objectives. The major dierence is the incorpo- translation 1999,[16] 1st published in Swedish 1997)) con-
ration of Destination Statements. Other key components stitute the 2nd Generation of Balanced Scorecard design;
are strategic objectives, strategic linkage model and per- and designs that augment the strategy map / strategic link-
spectives, measures and initiatives.[5] age model with a separate document describing the long-
term outcomes sought from the strategy (the destination
statement idea) comprise the 3rd generation balanced
scorecard design.
5 Popularity Variants that feature adaptations of the structure of bal-
anced scorecard to suit better a particular viewpoint
or agenda are numerous. Examples of the focus of
In 1997, Kurtzman[31] found that 64 percent of the com- such adaptations include the triple bottom line,[25] deci-
panies questioned were measuring performance from a sion support,[38] public sector management,[39] and health
number of perspectives in a similar way to the balanced care management.[40] The performance management el-
scorecard. Balanced scorecards have been implemented ements of the UNs Results Based Management system
by government agencies, military units, business units have strong design and structural similarities to those
and corporations as a whole, non-prot organizations, and used in the 3rd Generation Balanced Scorecard design
schools. approach.[30]
Balanced scorecard has been widely adopted, and has Balanced scorecard is also often linked to quality man-
been found to be the most popular performance manage- agement tools and activities.[41] Although there are clear
ment framework in a recent survey[32] areas of cross-over and association, the two sets of tools
Many examples of balanced scorecards can be found via are complementary rather than duplicative.[42]
web searches. However, adapting one organizations bal- A common use of balanced scorecard is to support the
anced scorecard to another is generally not advised by payments of incentives to individuals, even though it was
theorists, who believe that much of the benet of the bal- not designed for this purpose and is not particularly suited
anced scorecard comes from the design process itself.[6] to it.[2][43]
Indeed, it could be argued that many failures in the early
days of balanced scorecard could be attributed to this
problem, in that early balanced scorecards were often de-
signed remotely by consultants.[33][34] Managers did not 7 Criticism
trust, and so failed to engage with and use, these measure
suites created by people lacking knowledge of the orga- The balanced scorecard has attracted criticism from a
nization and management responsibility.[20] variety of sources. Most have come from the aca-

demic community, who dislike the empirical nature of observed over time to a single intervention (such as intro-
the framework: Kaplan and Norton notoriously failed ducing a balanced scorecard). However, such studies as
to include any citation of earlier articles in their ini- have been done have typically found balanced scorecard
tial papers on the topic. Some of this criticism fo- to be useful.[6][20]
cuses on technical aws in the methods and design of A few studies go further, trying to explain PMS size
the original balanced scorecard proposed by Kaplan and dierences in terms of cause and eect. For example,
Norton,.[20][33][44] Other academics have simply focused Hvolby and Thorstenson (2000) and McAdam (2000)
on the lack of citation support.[45] suggest that the Balanced Scorecard is completely un-
A second kind of criticism is that the balanced scorecard suitable for SMEs because of their lack of a longer-term
does not provide a bottom line score or a unied view strategic focus. They also argue that the characteris-
with clear recommendations: it is simply a list of met- tics of SMEs make most, if not all, PM models inap-
rics (e.g. Jensen 2001[46] ). These critics usually include propriate although they do not develop the argument in
in their criticism suggestions about how the 'unanswered' terms of causality. Similarly, Romphos (2011) study of
question postulated could be answered, but typically the a failed implementation of the Balanced Scorecard in an
unanswered question relate to things outside the scope of SME attributed the cause to too many changes to the or-
balanced scorecard itself (such as developing strategies) ganisations strategy. Others have suggested that SMEs
(e.g. Brignall[25] ) have limited knowledge about performance measurement
A third kind of criticism is that the model fails to fully in general (Rantanen and Holtari 2000) and do not un-
reect the needs of stakeholders putting bias on nan- derstand the benets of PMS implementation (McAdam
cial stakeholders over others. Early forms of Balanced 2000; Bourne 2001), but none of these studies attempts
Scorecard proposed by Kaplan & Norton focused on the to theorise the reasons behind their ndings.[50]
needs of commercial organisations in the USA where
this focus on investment return was appropriate.[11] This
focus was maintained through subsequent revisions.[47]
Even now over 20 years after they were rst proposed,
the four most common perspectives in Balanced Score-
card designs mirror the four proposed in the original Ka-
plan & Norton paper.[1] However, as noted earlier in this
8 Software tools
article, there have been many studies that suggest other
perspectives might better reect the priorities of organ-
It is important to recognize that the balanced scorecard
isations particularly but not exclusively relating to the
by denition is not a complex thing typically no more
needs of organisations in the public and Non Governmen-
than about 20 measures spread across a mix of nancial
tal sectors.[48] For instance, the balanced scorecard does
and non-nancial topics, and easily reported manually (on
not address important aspects of nonprot strategy such
paper, or using simple oce software).[47]
as social dimensions, human resource elements, politi-
cal issues and the distinctive nature of competition and The processes of collecting, reporting, and distributing
collaboration in nonprot settings.[49] Thus, the model balanced scorecard information can be labor-intensive
seems to be less eective in nonprot organisations as and prone to procedural problems (for example, getting
the models strategy, cause-and-eect relationships and all relevant people to return the information required by
its four linked perspectives are incompatible to the unique the required date). The simplest mechanism to use is to
nonprot environment. More modern design approaches delegate these activities to an individual, and many Bal-
such as 3rd Generation Balanced Scorecard and the UNs anced Scorecards are reported via ad-hoc methods based
Results Based Management methods explicitly consider around email, phone calls and oce software.
the interests of wider stakeholder groups, and perhaps ad- In more complex organizations, where there are multi-
dress this issue in its entirety.[30] ple balanced scorecards to report and/or a need for co-
There are few empirical studies linking the use of bal- ordination of results between balanced scorecards (for ex-
anced scorecards to better decision making or improved ample, if one level of reports relies on information col-
nancial performance of companies, but some work has lected and reported at a lower level) the use of individual
been done in these areas. However, broadcast surveys reporters is problematic. Where these conditions apply,
of usage have diculties in this respect, due to the wide organizations use balanced scorecard reporting software
variations in denition of 'what a balanced scorecard is to automate the production and distribution of these re-
noted above (making it hard to work out in a survey if you ports.
are comparing like with like). Single organization case Recent surveys[1][51] have consistently found that roughly
studies suer from the 'lack of a control' issue common one third of organizations used oce software to report
to any study of organizational change what the organi- their balanced scorecard, one third used software devel-
zation would have achieved if the change had not been oped specically for their own use, and one third used
made isn't known, so it is dicult to attribute changes one of the many commercial packages available.

9 See also [12] Kaplan, Robert S; Norton, D. P. (1996). The Balanced

Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action. Boston, MA.:
Harvard Business School Press. ISBN 978-0-87584-651-
Digital dashboard, also known as business dash-
board, enterprise dashboard or executive dashboard
[13] Chandler, Alfred D. (1962). Strategy and Structure: Chap-
Key performance indicators ters in the History of the American Enterprise. Boston,
MA.: The MIT Press. ISBN 978-1-61427-508-4.
Performance management
[14] Penrose, Edith (1959). The Theory of the Growth of the
Strategic control Firm. New York: John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-19-
Strategic management
[15] Kaplan, Robert S.; Norton, D. P. (1 October 2000).
Strategy map The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Score-
card Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment.
Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. ISBN 978-
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11 Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

11.1 Text
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