Both lean thinking and the balanced scorecard are very popular techniques, which on closer inspection overlap in their thinking and approach.
Of course this is reassuring because both approaches are based on a degree of common sense. It is also true of six sigma thinking.
One particular area where they overlap is their view of the customers. An important part of the lean thinking is to understand the customer and the customer’s perspective, to map their processes and to align the organisation’s processes to what the customer wants rather than, as many organisation do, forcing the customer to comply with the organisation’s processes.
It turns out that exactly the same thinking is applied when the objectives in the customer perspective of the strategy map are developed during balanced scorecard design. It is important to realise that we are not simply looking for measures of the customer in a modern balanced scorecard. Rather we are looking for their objectives which we later work out the best way to measure. This approach is fundamental to good balanced scorecard design: Never start with measures.
The question that a good designer of a strategy map asks when dealing with the customer perspective is “What are the few things that make the biggest difference, from the customer’s perspective“. That is why, in a balanced scorecard the perspectives are called perspectives. Things are looked at from that perspective.
This question is exactly the same in lean thinking and practice.
The next stage is to align the processes of the organisation with the customers processes and objectives. This is true in both approaches. So what we have here is a common approach where the experiences of practitioners from both approaches can inform the thinking and approach of the others. More importantly, from the perspective of an organisation implementing lean thinking and practices, it should be a relatively small step to also implement a modern balanced scorecard using strategy maps to describe how the strategy will drive improvement and also ripple through to the customers and the ultimate financial results.