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On a LinkedIn forum I was being told that I did not know what was in a manual and therefore did not understand the Palladium Balanced Scorecard approach which gets called the Execution Premium. I am told I used ‘incorrect’ language.   Also that there was only one way to do this and I should go on a course.

Maybe after 18 years of doing these strategic balanced scorecards, and writing a book that David Norton wrote the foreword for, I don’t understand it (Ironic statement)

When I questioned why “cultural change” and “operational management” was “excluded” I got told it was not a part of the approach.  I was flabbergasted.  That makes no sense whatsoever.

A philosophical difference in approach

I appear to have come across an approach based upon a clear dogma about how the tools and techniques should be used and described.  I have clearly hit a philosophical difference in approaches to thinking.  A philosophical approach that, for me, goes to the heart of how the approach was developed.  A philosophical approach I believe I have continued.

The balanced scorecard approach developed from Praxis, not dogma

Back in the day (I know  – the late 1990’s) it was praxis, not dogma, that drove how the approach developed. We went out, did projects with real clients and came back and examined them for lessons. What worked? …and (very importantly) why and when they worked?

We used and looked at the underlying principles and applied them in engagements with clients. Two consultants would go and work on similar clients and come back having tried, used and stolen ideas from both.They would come back with quite different approaches. And they learnt, as did our clients. These ideas went into the melting pot for people to use.

There was a paper in Harvard business review (I think) that compared the absolute “This is the manual” “Methodology” approach of the big accounting consultancies like Price Waterhouse (where I had been) with the connected knowledge approach (Social organisation) that we had in Renaissance (Norton & Kaplan’s first Strategic Balanced Scorecard organisation) where I was at the time. It said it all for me.

Then, there was no “formal” Balanced Scorecard methodology

In other words, there was no “formal methodology” (actually this means method) but a body of knowledge amongst people who you connected with. If you wanted to know things you asked who had worked on projects, called people and connected with them. We went to Newton (HQ near Boston) sat round in a large circle and review projects for insights and useful stuff.  We did the same EVERY other Friday in the London office. We mixed practice sectors up with the technology, Knowledge Management and strategy teams all sitting with the MD and the receptionist.

Sure we learnt the techniques.  What was more important we learnt the principles of the techniques so that we knew how to put them together at the tight time, in the right way.

We learnt stuff and tried it out

Sure there were training courses. There was the trail of evidence and ideas in the books. But it was really, ‘this worked, here is some knowledge, and these were the principles’. ‘Give it a try if it looks useful’.

It was NEVER ‘this is the only and absolute way to do this – all else is wrong’. Sure there were principles we adopted and used.  Fundamental principles that many so-called balanced scorecards ignore.

There were things we did BECAUSE they worked. There was a lot of deep facilitation that was NEVER put in or mentioned in the book. A lot of the stuff we really did was around behaviours, mindsets and culture. It was never simply technical techniques.

18 month old consulting when we wrote it

I once asked Bob Kaplan (In the lunch queue in Newton) why they had published the first book and given the approach away? His reply, “It did not matter – It was 18 month old consulting when we wrote it”. Exactly Bob. Execution Premium came out in 2008. Hint hint :)

When David Norton and Bob Kaplan, and many of my colleagues, went off to form the collaborative, (that was later sold to Palladium), we joked that they simply took the Renaissance slides and wrote “Balanced Scorecard Collaborative” over them in crayon. What really worried me was the “Formal accreditation” suggesting there was only one way. We trusted that our colleagues who got that, stayed there. Most I knew left after 2, 3 or 5 years. The batons changed. Perhaps the philosophy did as well.

Understanding the principles is what matters most: the underlying thinking

There is a real balance between understanding the principles, and ignoring them (as many do). There is something else about principles vs rules (Thou shalt only…).

It was for people who ignored forgot or dismissed those principles, that I wrote “Strategy Mapping for learning Organizations”.  Because I wanted people to understand the principles and how we thought about the problem.  It was never consultancy by rote, but thinking applications of techniques and facilitation.

This approach is at the heart of how I work

In the few conversations and exchanges and readings of David and Bob’s work I have had more recently, I believe, they still believe in praxis and empirical experimentation and development. I hope I am not wrong.

I just throw this into the pot. Perhaps there is something missing that we had in the late 1990s :)

It is an open approach, deliberately so

The other piece for me was always openness. They published the books, I am told by them, because they wanted to leave a legacy. They wanted something out there that would make a difference. Hence they never copyrighted or trademarked the Balanced Scorecard.

This had implications for copycat but it also meant its wider acceptance. I note that the recent book, “Execution Premium gets described ion LinkedIn as “Palladium’s XP” (Execution Premium). So is that a proprietary method, a particular approach, that has been published in a book?  I am no longer sure.

This is probably why I have resorted to a Fourth generation Balanced Scorecard approach.  One that looks at the wider cultural and emotional pieces, that the Execution Premium approach ‘appears’ to ‘exclude’ according to an ‘expert’ on the inside.

Clearly, philosophically, I am a long way away from how the Execution Premium is being presented today.

Making strategy happen is not a rote procedure or methodology.  It is about finding the right pieces and applying them, with a deep understanding of the underlying principles, why they work and their implications.

Without this understanding, you are just getting “cook book” consulting.

…and you don’t want that, do you?