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Strategy, Balanced Scorecards and Learning organisations

To understand how learning fits in the balanced scorecard you have to have some history. Back when Norton formed Renaissance Worldwide with Kaplan as non-exec he had two other key directors (1994 I think). Harry Lasker and Dave Lubin. Lubin provided the internet technology piece (and is not so relevant to this story).

The Renaissance motto was implementing strategy, rapidly, knowledgeably, quickly (as will become apparent).

Harry Lasker was originally at Harvard Business School, but also worked as an adviser on Sesame Street.  He brought the perspective of cognitive learning and latterly organisational learning. You can read more about him in this excellent interview Learning organisations & balanced scorecard: Harry Lasker http://www.leadcoach.com/archives/e-journal/2006/2006_08_lasker.html

Learning was embedded in the Strategic Balanced Scorecard Approach

Renaissance was very strong on the management of knowledge as an enabler of performance. That is why we insisted on calling the lower perspective Learning and Growth rather than people. People is static. It does not imply knowledge and cultural change as strongly as “learning and growth” suggests improvement. Extremely important.

There was little about the double loop learning piece in the first book “Balanced Scorecard”. However, the second book, “The Strategy focused organisation” was where the real scorecard stuff got discussed.  It contains a chapter (unfortunately towards teh back so it gets ignored) that introduced strategy as a continual process (pg 274).  That chapter includes a really important strategic learning diagram based on the work of Chris Argyris. You can find it expanded in a later form here (The Strategic learning model). Some other articles in my blog also cover aspects of this.

Start with double loop learning model – it is so fundamental to strategic balanced scorecards

When I start the balanced scorecard story I start here, because it is about strategy in the context of learning and recognising that operational performance is primarily single loop learning whilst challenging the strategy is the second order loop. (Challenging the assumptions about operational performance are also second order).

So you have to understand
a) Double loop learning
b) Learning and growth as a driver of performance
c) Cause and effect between the perspectives (and learning about how that is working)

I hope this helps. You have struck a vein that is fundamental to how the strategy focused organisation works and strategy focused balanced scorecards. Take these pieces away and it becomes operational, measurement focused and deterministic (command and control ) rather than learning.

Phil Jones
Excitant Ltd
Strategic Performance Management
Doing Balanced Scorecards Properly