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Getting buy-in for balanced scorecards can be difficult. Having helped around 60 organisations implements such an approach, there are various ways of getting buy-in for balanced scorecards, depending on that organisation’s needs. Here is some practical advice.

“I have never come across an approach where there is so much acceptance. If fact I cannot think of a single person who is against the approach. You have overcome all resistance.” Steve Inch, Deputy Chief Executive, Dimensions

The question is very current as I had a lovely compliment from a Balanced Scorecard client recently. When we first met, this Director was as sceptical and cynical of poor measurement approaches as any person I have met. We have just extended the pilot balanced scorecard programme to a full roll-out. After a recent presentation to the board, he said: “I have never come across an approach where there is so much acceptance. If fact I cannot think of a single person who is against the approach. You have overcome all resistance.”

I must admit it took me by surprise. I knew it had gone well, but this, as I am sure you will agree, is an exceptional comment. This isn’t a one-off. Going back another balanced scorecard client’s Director said, “I have never come across an approach that has produced so much change inside six months”. This was the Director of a City Council that had a reputation for being difficult to change.

“I have never come across an approach that has produced so much change inside six months” Trevor Gibson, Director Environmental Service, Peterborough City Council

The more recent quote came from work with a lovely and fascinating organisation. They are a third sector organisation that supports people with learning difficulties so is an interesting combination of a commercial, social service, that cares passionately about helping the people they support, and keeps a sharp eye on the money as well. It’s a very interesting organisation. They had also chosen some managers for their pilot regions that were very different in style of management and approach.

Deliberately getting buy-in for Balanced Scorecards

I was thinking what I had done (quite deliberately) to achieve such buy-in for the strategic balanced scorecards with these varied Regional Directors. Getting the buy-in and ownership, came down to doing six things well:

  1. Reframing their thinking – change their old mental models of balanced scorecards and inserting a fresh, useful one.
    • Draw the sting of bad measurement systems, poorly designed balanced scorecards, measures mania and the tyranny of targets. The poor experience of bad implementations and poorly executed “scorecards” needs to be over-ridden with a more modern, strategic and positive approach, as I use.
    • Explain how there are different types of performance management for different needs (see types of performance management) and make sure we are using the right approach for this client’s needs
    • Ensure I address the simple logic of the business and the cause and effect model
  2. Talk about what will be useful to them, in their worlds
    • Don’t start with measures, but start with what they want to achieve and their objectives. Use this to describe their strategy in their words.
    • Position the approach and performance management as something to learn from that will evolve.
    • Ensure it is useful to those on the ground who are using it. (In this case we were primarily addressing Regional managers and it had to make sense to them and their staff. This was so successful that other regions demanded to join the pilot and some regions started to cascade to their staff and individual services with no prompting.
  3. Show how it will improve their decision making, conversation and learning
    • Mix judgement and facts (measures). Acknowledge the experience of managers and tap into it. Go further and demonstrate trust by acknowledging their judgement and helping them build it.
    • Use the approach to encourage dialogue and conversation. Even before we reached the measures they were having dialogues and discussions between the regional managers and within the regions that were rich, valuable to the managers and helped them to share ideas. They also helped them to assess and compare their own judgements and to learn from each other.
  4. Accept that different people will buy-in in different ways
    • Tap into the multiple thinking styles and patterns that people use. If you fail to do this with the approach and with the way it is introduced you will lose many of the team.
    • Develop champions and influential advocates. Find people in the organisation who will champion the cause. The more sceptical to start with the better. Not just the high and mighty, but those who are respected managers in the organisation who are listened to by others. You can’t pick them, they will choose themselves, but you can develop them.
  5. Recognise this is a change management project.  It requires explicit models of change.
    • Use models of change and improvement, explicitly. There are many built into the balanced scorecard approach. Leaving them implicit means that they are often missed or not managed.
    • Explicitly managing the models of change, and
    • Being aware of the stages of thinking and ownership that people are going through, helps immensely. In other words, know the process and trust the process.
  6. Recognise that their needs will evolve.
    • For instance boards demand more info and then once they have built trust and confidence step back, so their demands on the strategy map and balanced scorecard will change, naturally. It is expected.

Any change to performance management, such as introducing a strategic balanced scorecard, is a change.  To get buy-in for new strategic balanced scorecards, you need to manage it as a change project, with explicit models of change.  Otherwise, don’t be surprised if it fails.

Any change to performance management, such as introducing a strategic balanced scorecard, is a change. You need to manage it as a change project, with explicit models of change. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if it fails.

Some tests to apply as you progress

Sold sign: The idea of strategic balanced scorecards is sold.

The idea of a modern, strategic Balanced Scorecard is sold, if you manage the change properly

I have some tests that I apply along the way to make sure things are being embedded, or pick up issues that need addressing.  In each case i have expressed it from the clients’ point of view:

  • “Does it make sense?”
  • “Can I explain it to my staff?” “Do I want it on my wall to remind me and others what we do?”
  • “Is it useful?”, ”Does it help me?”, and
  • “Does this help me be a better manager, with a wider view, concentrating on what matters, better?

Getting buy-in for balanced scorecards is not a one off event. These are not one off tests.You have to continue to monitor them as peoples’ understanding of the models and ideas progress.

Our clients tell us that what makes the approach a success is being systematic about change: helping people understand how and why it will improve things, for them, in their worlds.

To embed your balanced scorecards so they make a difference, just contact the specialist strategic Balanced Scorecard consultants.