A lot of nonsense is talked about the history of the Balanced Scorecard. In this series of articles, I make a plea for historical accuracy, describe some of the balanced scorecard history and their development from an insider’s perspective. This article summarises topics and leads to further articles and posts. It covers:
- My credentials to provide an historical perspective on balanced scorecards
- Correcting the rubbish talked about balanced scorecard history
- The balanced scorecard’s origins in organisational learning
- The balanced scorecard at 20: A commentary and links to Kaplan & Norton’s 2012 series of articles where they tell some of that story.
I also provide some links to good design principles: Many of which are completely omitted by some writers of this topic. To understand Balanced Scorecards better. I also describe where, I have moved to now, around 25 years later, with the Fourth Generation Strategic Balanced scorecard approach.
1) What are my credentials to write about the balanced scorecard history?
My credentials? Well, I worked for Kaplan and Norton’s organisation, Renaissance Worldwide in the UK for over four years, from 1996-2000. I rose to head of the Strategy consultancy. Also, David Norton wrote the highly complementary foreword to my book, “Strategy Mapping for Learning organization”. If he thinks I am talking sense, then maybe I am.
I have been helping clients develop strategic balanced scorecards since then, with over 70 implementations across a wide variety of organisational types and cultures.
2) Correcting the rubbish written about balanced scorecard history
One thing that really frustrates me is the rubbish talked and written about the development of the balanced scorecard approach. I suspect no-one has read even the preface to Kaplan and Nortton’s first book which explains how it quickly became a tool of strategy, not simply measurement. Many examples fail even to copy the diagram on page nine of that book, which uses the, quickly dropped, cruciform model of perspectives. They always omit the words “Objectives” and let the reader assume that the perspectives contain measures. Have a look yourself (if you have a copy). That first chapter also explains the cause and effect model on page 30. Something that many people focussed on the simple measures in perspective approach omit.
So, in response, this is my please for historical accuracy: The development of the Balanced Scorecard Approach – lets have historical accuracy please. This is a short history on balanced scorecard design as I saw it as I worked inside Kaplan and Norton’s organisation, Renaissance Worldwide.
3) The balanced scorecard’s origins in organisational learning
Not only do people miss strategy from the early history of the balanced scorecard management approach. They completely miss out the connection to learning and organisational learning. They often change the name of the Learning and Growth perspective, simply out of ignorance or not appreciating what it signifies. These two articles explain that connection:
- Strategy, Balanced scorecards and Learning: The origins
- Modern Balanced Scorecards: How the Sesame Street connection influenced the approach
4) The balanced scorecard at 20: some useful positioning articles
Back in 2012, twenty years after their first paper, Kaplan and Norton did a series on the Balanced scorecard at 20. As an historical perspective they are interesting. Despite their age now, they are a useful set of articles. Kaplan and Norton talk about
- The balanced scorecard system’s conceptual foundations
- Kaplan tells some academics they should read some up to date material or even try in in practice (Worth reading for the polite way Kaplan put the academics in their place.)
- And Norton tries to predict the balanced scorecard’s future
Perhaps the biggest message here, is that the balanced scorecard approach was refined and developed through many consultancy engagements, by the many consultants, who, like me, worked for Kaplan & Norton. It continues so. The balanced scorecard approach is based on Praxis, not dogma.
5) To understand Balanced Scorecards better
I have produced a series of articles that help people better understand how to design, implement and use modern balanced scorecards, be they operational or strategic:
- This series of articles explains the variety of things that get called a balanced scorecard and the different types of balanced scorecard.
- This series of articles explain the design principles behind Kaplan & Norton, Strategic Balanced Scorecard approach done properly.
- These articles explain the myth behind balanced scorecard project failure statistics and how to make sure your balanced scorecard project succeeds.
These work for most types and generations of Balanced scorecard.
6) Building on history, reflecting today’s paradigm shifts: Fourth Generation Strategic Balanced scorecards
If you want an approach that suits the challenges and paradigm shifts of today’s organisational have a read of our Fourth Generation Strategic Balanced Scorecard approach.