This book is about organizational alignment. It is the fourth in a series of thought-leading books on how to translate strategy into actions - via balanced scorecard, strategy maps, and the strategy-focused organization.
The authors start with a wonderful story:
Imagine an eight-person shell racing up the river populated by highly trained rowers, but each with different ideas of how to achieve success. But rowing at different speeds and in different directions could cause the shell to travel in circles and perhaps capsize. The winning team invariably rows in beautiful synchronism; each rower strokes powerfully but consistently with all the others, guided by a coxswain [corporate center], who has the responsibility for pacing and steering the course of action.
Unfortunately, many firms are like an uncoordinated shell. They consist of strong business units, each populated by highly trained, experienced and motivated executives. But the efforts of the individual businesses are not coordinated.
Unsurprisingly, the authors suggest that their four scorecard perspectives on financials, customers, processes, as well as growth/learning also could be used to create organizational alignment and also find synergies, e.g.
- FINANCIAL: acquiring and integrating other firms, monitoring and governance processes, skills in negotiating with external entities (capital providers, etc.)
- CUSTOMERS: leverage common customers (cross-sales), corporate brand, common customer value propositions across the world,
- PROCESSES: exploiting core competencies in product or production technologies, sourcing or distribution skills, etc.
- LEARNING AND GROWTH: Enhancing human capital thru excellent HR practices, leveraging a common technology, sharing best-practices and knowledge.
The book does not only focus on how to align the corporate-level and businesses, it also covers how to align towards support functions (finance, IT and HR), external business partners (customers, suppliers) and even the board.
Don't buy this book as your first on scorecards. It requires that you have read some of the previous published articles or books by the author team. However, if you are a balanced scorecard practitioner, then this book adds yet another dimension to our understanding of how to make scorecard systems work in an organization.
Being a corporate strategist, I can use most of this thinking in my day-to-day work - and I can highly recommend it to all other scorecard insiders.
If you're interested in Balanced Scorecard, you should obviously read the core by Kaplan and Norton - especially the "Strategy-Focused Organization". But I also recommend a very capable book by the Swedes Olve et al (2003) - "Making Scorecards Actionable: Balancing Strategy and Control" - that even includes some thinking on why balanced scorecards go wrong - and what to do about it. Paul Niven (2005) does the same in his "Balanced scorecard diagnostics".
If you're even more interested in performance measurement systems, then do also consider "Performance Prism" by Neely et al (2002) that takes performance systems to the next level. Personally, I don't believe they've designed balanced scorecard's successor, but they have many interesting perspectives on stakeholders, choice of measurements, and the relationship between cause and effect.
MSc in International Business (Marketing & Management) and Graduate Diploma in E-business