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I often see people asking for Balanced Scorecard templates and offers of templates. These might be OK for measures but not for strategic balanced scorecards. I know why but it is not an approach to strategic alignment and execution.

I only raise this because recently I was in a discussion where someone was after “Best Practice” templates.   Most of the discussion was asking for templates, making offers of them and people being grateful for them.

It must be said, I was somewhat aghast.  What they were doing was treating balanced scorecard design and the strategy development process as a “paint by numbers” approach.

Now there is a really important principle here to do with the whole process of strategy development, capturing strategy and articulating in in terms of strategy maps and scorecards in the balanced scorecard approach.

Common practice or Best practice templates?

Just to be clear here, using these sort of balanced scorecard templates is “Common Practice”.  It is NOT “Best Practice”.

I do find it sad that much in management which gets referred to as “Best Practice” is often only common practice at best. At worst it is merely unthinking copy-cat activity pretending to be good management. I do recognise that people like to see (and unfortunately) copy what other organisations do.

What they often fail to do is understand how what individual executives, managers and consultants think and what they believe (which has driven what they do).  This is where true understanding and insight lies. Then you can choose to think like them, or not, and believe what they do, or something else. That is where the true understanding of practice lies.

(And as an aside, understanding the differences in thinking and beliefs and context of individual executives has been the deeper basis of much of my work over the years).

Of course copying common practice is a lot simpler and quicker. It is just nowhere near as effective nor persistently useful as an approach.  here is an example of wanting a set of templates for their whole strategy development process (for goodness sake!)

Where to use balanced scorecard templates?

The irony of this conversation is that I do use a template (that gets adapted for each project). Shock horror!!!!

The template that I use (or refer to) in almost universally in each engagement is…   .Well you might be surprised to know that is is….  an initial interview template.  That is right, the template that I use most is one one that I use to initially create the interview questions and diagnosis for the start of a balanced scorecard project.   It is NOT a set of templates for the outputs. It is a structured guide to the inputs.

Now to get a clue of what that might contain, you will have to by my book (but even there I don’t include it as a template, but rather describe the questions you need to ask and what you do with the answers). 

Why have a balanced scorecard template for questions rather than outputs?

The answer is simple: because asking the right questions, of the right people, in the right way at the right time is the secret of good strategic balanced scorecard design.

It is not having a standard template that you shoehorn every single client into, no matter what their circumstances.  On the contrary, it is about finding the right solution for that client’s particular circumstances and needs.

Sure this is not how 99% of balanced scorecard consultants work: then I am not 99% of balanced scorecard consultants.

How to avoid templates and develop something relevant to your organisation

These links take you to the major topic areas of the site that will help your balanced scorecard design, implementation and use.  They cover strategy, culture change, performance management, decision making and socialising your strategy:

After reading all this, if you still want training for your team on modern balanced scorecards and the fourth generation strategic balanced scorecard approach, then here are some Balanced Scorecard training options, or contact us.