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I do not normally talk about the NLP side of what I do, but a recent,  unusual, posting on an NLP forum in LinkedIn asking about Strategy, Balanced Scorecards and NLP has prompted me to come out on the closet on this topic.  NLP Stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming and is the study of how people think and their patterns of language and behaviour in their neurology (their minds).

Much NLP, and the techniques derived from it, get used for coaching and therapy.  In contrast, my interest and use of it, is for modelling excellence in high performing Executives and Managers.  Think, not what these people are doing, but how are they thinking about what they do?

I happen to be a NLP master practitioner (for over 8 years) as well as having worked in the Balanced scorecard space for over 16 years, including working for Norton & Kaplan for over 4 years.  David Norton was kind enough to write the forward to my second book.  Judy Delozier (A key person in the NLP space) wrote a lovely piece for my first book.

So, for me NLP is about modelling how people are thinking.  Normally is use NLP techniques and tools as I work, but rarely refer to them.  I use them for modelling the  excellence or thinking patterns that I am seeing amongst executives and managers in organisations to help diagnose how to make change happen.

I have also written two books, “Communicating Strategy”, which includes quite a lot of NLP without making it an NLP book and and “Strategy Mapping for learning organizations”  which includes quite a lot of my strategic balanced scorecard experience, with NLP used to model the thinking of exceptional Balanced Scorecard  practitioners.

So how do NLP and the  balanced scorecard relate together?  The person asked three questions:

1)  How can balanced scorecards help formulate grand strategy and facilitate self-evaluation?
2) How can NLP help transform thinking – the practice of left brain and right brain?   For example, how can an architect translate vision to action in his/her design?
3) How can balanced score cards and NLP help in facilitating goals seeking, and not just benchmarking?

Those are certainly big questions, and worth of whole books.  However here are my shorter, but succinct answers:

1) How can balanced scorecards help formulate grand strategy and facilitate self-evaluation? 

The Scorecard part of a balanced scorecard is for strategy execution, not strategy formulation, but as my book explains, the strategy mapping part and tangible future and useful in testing and capturing strategic thinking and exploring whether they are viable. 

Often the mere act of casting the “strategy map” from the strategy has the effect of challenging the  teams thinking (even through it is their thinking that is used in design).  More in my book “Strategy Mapping for learning organisations”.  The very first paragraph of the book provides an example from a UK FTSE100 company’s executive team doing just this.

 2) How can NLP help transform thinking – the practice of left brain and right brain? 

First think of NLP as modelling how people think and excellence. (Usually the Master practitioner level)  Then, as you are talking to executives about their strategy explore how they are thinking and the thinking strategies they are applying.  Third explore mis-matches and exemplars.  Finally capture some of your experiences in two books “Communicating Strategy” which has a lot of NLP used and hidden in it without making it an NLP book.  (Judy deLozier kindly wrote an endorsement). And  Strategy mapping where David Norton (co-author of the original balanced scorecard book noticed I was talking about left and right brain leadership and how managers and executives think beyond the  measures, targets and very systematic left brained approach to more right brained leadership.

 3) How can balanced score cards and NLP help in facilitating goals seeking, and not just benchmarking? 

There are so many answers to this.  For one, using the SCORE model, future thinking model looking back, using perceptual positions to analyse the strategy, digging into belief frameworks to understand why the strategy is chosen, occasional timeline work, using communication skills to get it into other people’s heads.  I guess when you have been doing it for 15 years, as I have,  these tools are natural pieces of the  toolkit.

A final warning – I do NOT use NLP explicitly.  So I do not say, “We are about to use an NLP technique here”. I use these, and other tools,  tools as a natural part of conversation, exercises and exploration.  If someone spots them as NLP tools (and I have had Chief Executive compliment me on their use) then the conversation might turn to NLP.  In reality I am using useful thinking tools in a practical application of strategy development and execution.  Remember that the techniques of NLP are the result of modelling excellence, extracting those models and using them again.  For me the important part is the modelling and that is what I am using most of the time with the client: How is this client thinking about their strategy?

I hope this rather long (but necessarily short) answer helps.

So that was my answer.  It is this sort of thinking that has lead to the approach of focusing on behaviours rather than measures, and learning rather than control, in fourth generation balanced scorecards.  An approach that causes performance management to teat people as human beings, rather that merely employees.

So if you are operating in the balanced scorecard space and want a more sensitive, human focussed, approach to managing strategy and performance.  If you want to move your balanced scorecard forward into an approach more suited to the second decade of the 21st century,  then get in touch.  You can find my contact details on this page.