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I often come across people asking for templates for their balanced scorecards.  A recent example, worried me because went to the core of how strategy is developed and managed in an organisation.

The question was being asked by someone with the role of “Strategy Manager”. He asked for “A complete templates for strategy development through to execution, including performance reporting”.

Yes indeed! Are you as shocked as I was?  Perhaps he wants someone else to do his job for him.

Asking the wrong question

My experience is that he was asking the wrong question about strategy development.  Strategy development and implementation is not a template driven process, but one of sensitivity to the issues in an organisation and about asking the right questions.

  • It is about left and right brain thinking.
  • It is about understanding the needs of a organisation and the particular type of strategy development they require.
  • It is about being sensitive to the organisation’s needs, approach and particular strategy.

If templates are ever of use it is for capturing and presenting the answer you get.  BUT, if you are not asking the right questions, you can’t anticipate what templates you will need.

Prescriptive unthinking strategy development

There is no such thing as a universal set of templates for strategy development through to implementation and performance reporting.  If that person had read the books I recommend below, he would have realised that

  • Mintzberg describes 10 different strategy development processes,
  • AJ Lafrey sets out one way in which one of Mintzberg’s 10 models can be applied and
  • Richard Rumelt provides an extremely generic (but powerful) model for thinking about strategic problems that is distinct again from Mintzberg’s 10 processes.

All would claim to have, and need, quite different strategy development templates.  So if anyone claims to have “The template” for strategy development all the way to performance management, they are being at best prescriptive, and at worst naive.

Which begs the question, which approach to strategy are you taking? Otherwise you will get the wrong set of templates.

Most balanced scorecard approaches up to and including the Execution Premium are primarily top down.  In my book, the model is more iterative and emergent, but can easily be used top down or bottom up. But you have to pick your strategy development model and your models of strategy implementation and performance management BEFORE you start asking for templates.

My advise to this person (and anyone else looking for such templates)

As a strategy manager, if you really want to understand the strategy development process (and not fall into the trap of template driven KPIs and Performance reports) have a read of these really helpful strategy books:

1) Henry Mintzberg, Strategy Safari
2) Richard Rumert, Good strategy bad strategy
3) AJ Lafrey, Playing to win

If, after all that you want a set of tools and techniques (not templates) that will help you capture strategic thinking all the way through to performance, (but require you to think hard about why you are using them) then have a read of my book, “Strategy Mapping for Learning organisations” which David Norton kindly endorsed as being both left and right brained approach to Strategic Balanced Scorecard development.

Please do the wider reading first, as I think it will help you frame this question far better. and help you help your management team develop, design, and implement strategy far better.