All of my clients know that I enthuse about the simplicity of the Balanced Scorecard (BSC), Strategy Maps and the BSC itself, developed by Kaplan and Norton. Today, in a discussion with a client company’s knowledgeable director, I could again sense that the seemingly complexity of a BSC Strategy Map is so off-putting to some senior staff members working under pressure that the easy way out would be to say “we cannot set aside the time to develop and implement the map.”
Of course, people do not like complexity or change. But as I have observed in a previous post On being a (business) student, mastering a few simple planning principles is often only a case of putting aside a few hours. Compare this minute effort to the hours that go into obtaining a degree or the hours which goes into reading a Sunday newspaper (every Sunday).
The gains of thoughtful planning have been proven time and again. How can one justify hours spent each month in management meetings devoted to reviewing results and planning the next month if this important ritual is not based on a sound planning foundation to start with?
The two maps, a strategy theme map and a BSC map, are tremendous tools for developing insights about what needs to be addressed in a business. Not only do the maps provide a pattern which stimulates one to develop objectives, but it soon very apparent whether you know what’s important and what will make a difference to the business, if achieved. The maps also enable one to figure out patterns of cause and effect. And the main objectives will clearly be the main objectives and thus assist in you discarding objectives which should not feature on the BSC.
The maps also assist in determining priorities. What has to be done first and which sequence will deliver the biggest bang with limited resources?
The maps assist in visualizing the outcomes that need to be achieved.
The director pointed out that maps also assist in making it glaringly obvious what one normally avoids. We are creatures of habit and tend to do to repeat the past. It worked last time. If you have glaringly visible gaps on your annual maps, this might mean that you are avoiding developing objectives about topics which you feel unsure of. “I’d better play safe and stay out of these areas.” Are you and your directors seeing these blind spots?
Take note that you could easily customize the sub-headings of your annual BSC strategy maps. They could reflect your own business processes and systems.
Is all of this not worth giving the maps a try? So get going. Complete an annual map and insert your objectives for the year. Then transfer these objectives to your Annual Balanced Scorecard, in table format. (I prefer Excel and counsel against using a BSC software programme.)
Then simplify drastically. With reference to your annual map and BSC create a very simple, realistic monthly map and a monthly BSC. Only enter one or two Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) and their sub-objectives, possibly a total of six sub-objectives. Ensure that the descriptions of the sub-objectives clearly describe the outcomes that you want to achieve that month. Taste and feel the outcomes.
Now for some energizing action: On your BSC table enter the first action two steps concerning each objective. This action is very important. You will find out that once you have figured out what these steps are, and have listed two steps for each of your six objectives, you might as well do them. The ball starts rolling.
The next steps will raise you above the masses: Immediately turn to your Outlook or iCal Calendar or your paper diary. Transfer the first two action steps of each objective to your Calendar. This is important. If you do not create a series of action-step appointments immediately into the still empty slots of each week of four weeks, you can bet on it that other people’s wishes and urgent work will consume your available time. Soon you will not have a single open slot and will show meager achievements. Your excuse? How about using the old standby “I was much too busy this month”? Of course.
Be proactive. Develop a simple BSC strategy map, a simple BSC, place simple action-step appointments on your calendar and simply generate results.
You will feel great at the end of the month – and proud of your achievements.
My advice? Do not think how complicated a strategy map or a Balanced Scorecard is before you have gone through the process and have personally established how simple both actually are.
Do yourself a favour.
PS My website www.abplan.co.za contains information about strategy maps and the Balanced Scorecard.