What is the balanced scorecard?
The balanced scorecard is a strategic planning and management system that is widely applicable to organizations regardless of size or type of business. The system, extensively used in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide, provides a method of aligning business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improving internal and external communications, and monitoring organization performance against strategic goals. It was originated by Robert Kaplan and David Norton of Harvard University in about 1990 and detailed in a series of Harvard Business Review articles and subsequent books, but the roots of the balanced scorecard are deep, and include the pioneering work of General Electric on performance measurement reporting in the 1950’s and the work of French process engineers (who created the Tableau de Bord – literally, an instrument panel or dashboard of performance measures) in the early part of the 20th century in France. Additional details on the balanced scorecard can be found here. Because the balanced scorecard is a generic term, it means different things to different people, and in practice, there are wide variations in both understanding and implementation. To some, the balanced scorecard is a simple dashboard of performance measures, while to others it is a comprehensive planning and management system covering the whole organization and designed to focus efforts on organization strategy and, more importantly, on performance and results. The balanced scorecard has evolved from its early use as a simple performance measurement framework for non-financial performance measures to a full strategic planning and management system. The “new” balanced scorecard transforms an organization’s strategic plan from an attractive but passive document into the "marching orders" for the organization on a daily basis. It provides a framework that not only provides performance measurements, but helps planners identify what should be done and measured. It enables executives to truly execute their strategies.
What are the benefits of the balanced scorecard approach?
The benefits of the balanced scorecard have been identified by many organizations: Improved organization alignment Improved communications, both internally and externally Linked strategy and operations More emphasis on strategy and organizational results Integrated strategic planning and management.
What challenges will I encounter trying to develop and deploy a balanced scorecard system?
There are several major challenges to developing and sustaining the balanced scorecard: Engaged leadership Maintaining momentum Measuring what matters Not using a disciplined framework to build the system Mistakenly thinking a scorecard system is a short-term project (it’s not….it’s a journey) Not involving a cross-section of the organization in developing the system Not thinking strategically enough Not incentivizing desired behavior changes.
Isn't the balanced scorecard just the latest management fad that will soon pass away?
The "buzz word" may change, but not the underlying concepts, which are here to stay for a long time -- thinking strategically, measuring performance, evaluating results, feedback -- these are fundamental concepts in management that have been around a long time and will be here in the future. So managers who learn the methods of the balanced scorecard will be in a better position to lead in the future. They will have the right skills to think, plan and assess the success of their organizations -- these skills will be valuable for the foreseeable future.
I am a program manager. What's in it for me?
The balanced scorecard is intended as a strategic system for planning and managing a whole portfolio of programs within an organization. However, as a manager of one or more such programs, the balanced scorecard can help you. It raises the visibility of program performance -- not only in traditional on-time, on-budget terms, but also in terms of its strategic significance to the desired outcomes of the whole organization. So, if you know that you are working on a program that is vital and strategic, the balanced scorecard and its measurements can help you to defend your program.Also, since strategy is everyone's job, you can use the balanced scorecard's strategic map to guide the direction of your program to maximize outcome performance. As the de facto expert in your program's definition of performance, you have the right to define what metrics will be used to measure your program's performance -- in many cases, these metrics cannot be dictated from above. You also have the authority and responsibility to measure your own program's performance.
Is the balanced scorecard relevant to private-sector companies?
By now, many major corporations have adopted, or are in the process of implementing, the balanced scorecard as their framework for executing strategy and monitoring performance. It has been found to be an effective way to achieve that most elusive of executive goals: execution. Also it has been accepted by most of the business departments of colleges and universities as a part of their management curriculum.
Is the balanced scorecard relevant to government agencies?
Taxpayers, the ultimate customers of government, are demanding more accountability for the use of their funds. They want to see tangible results from all government agencies, at all levels. In the U.S., this demand is reflected in the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, one of the most influential laws affecting how the Federal Government works. More recently, the President's Management Agenda, promulgated by the Office of Management and Budget, includes language requiring performance-based scoring and budgeting of all activities of agencies in accordance with top-level strategies. The balanced scorecard is the only framework readily available that can align strategy, performance and budgeting to meet these requirements. Therefore, government agencies are increasingly looking to the balanced scorecard approach.
Is the balanced scorecard relevant to nonprofit organizations?
Nonprofit organizations are committed to a mission, and they need to focus their limited resources efficiently in order to achieve mission effectiveness and value for their members and sponsors. The balanced scorecard system has a multiple focus on several perspectives, including financial performance. For a nonprofit organization, profit is not a determining goal of strategy; but good stewardship is important, so this perspective or “lense” is used to describe the financial aspect of performance. In this case, the balanced scorecard provides a comprehensive framework that will help association directors and managers better define strategies, track performance, and provide data to show their various stakeholder groups how well they are performing in terms of mission value and outcomes.
What organizations are using the balanced scorecard?
By 2004, the balanced scorecard has been at least partially implemented in about 57% of global corporations, according to a survey by Bain. This site contains some examples of companies and government organizations that have reported their use of the balanced scorecard.
How is the balanced scorecard developed and deployed?
The Institute recommends the Nine Steps to Success™ balanced scorecard framework. This framework, first developed in 1997, has been used successfully in hundreds of organizations worldwide – organizations including business and industry, Federal and municipal governments, and nonprofit associations. Organizations ranging in size from six employees to over 100 thousand members have used the framework. For more information, see our Nine Steps page.
How long does a balanced scorecard system take to develop and implement?
Typically, building and implementing the enterprise-level (Tier 1) balanced scorecard (the first six steps in the Institute's nine-step process) takes two to three months. Developing aligned scorecards for business and support units (Tier 2), and teams and individuals (Tier 3) takes an additional three to six months. These estimates are for a complete strategic planning and management system and includes, the change management, leadership development, and communications strategy and planning activities that make the scorecard system sustainable. The development process needs to be undertaken by a cross-functional team guided by an experienced balanced scorecard facilitator.
How much does it cost to implement?
Expert help is required to build and implement a scorecard system, and professional service rates range from $1,000 to $5,000 per day. Each organization is unique, so it is not possible to provide an estimate without knowing more about each organization. For more information or for a price quote, please contact us.
How does the balanced scorecard compare to the Six Sigma management approach?
While the balanced scorecard is almost always described as a strategic management system, Six Sigma is usually defined in terms of quality improvement related to internal business processes. Six Sigma is defined in Quality America as: "… a Quality Improvement methodology structured to reduce product or service failure rates to a negligible level (six sigma is equivalent to approximately 3.4 failures per million events). To achieve these levels of quality, Six Sigma encompasses all aspects of a business, including management, service delivery, design, production and customer satisfaction." Six Sigma was developed at Motorola, GE and Allied Signal, and is widely used in many businesses. While the original concept has expanded over the years to become more strategic, most balanced scorecard organizations will use Six Sigma as project initiatives to improve the efficiency of internal business processes. Both Six Sigma and balanced scorecard practitioners use similar best practices in management to design and deploy these systems. They both require dedicated top-level management support, a dedicated team of change agents, strategic alignment, implementation of improvement initiatives as projects, cultural change management, and a combination of top-down and bottom-up development. Also, Six Sigma practitioners often adopt the balanced scorecard as a way of deriving appropriate performance metrics.
How does the balanced scorecard compare to the Baldrige? EFQM? APIC?
The Baldrige Award, the European EFQM, and APIC (Army Performance Improvement Criteria) are examples of organizational assessment tools. Usually, these assessment frameworks are used as “snapshots” of the current organizational situation at a particular point in time. The assessment uses a point scale to compare the actual situation against a 1000 points (perfect score) scale. Annual awards are given to a few organizations each year that demonstrate exemplary performance against the 1000 point scale. The balanced scorecard uses assessment data to determine what improvements and breakthroughs in performance are most needed, so that strategies can be crafted to meet these needs. The balanced scorecard includes much more than assessment, and is a dynamic strategic planning and management system.
Can you please give me a list of metrics or KPI's (key performance indicators) for my balanced scorecard?
No. The balanced scorecard is not a cookbook of performance measures. It requires creative strategic thinking and decisions by various people throughout an organization to develop an effective balanced scorecard system. No two organizations are alike. "Some assembly is required."
What are the implications of balanced scorecard on budgetary systems?
The balanced scorecard, being a strategic management system, can serve as the "front end" for a performance-based budget. Its performance measures and strategic plans can provide rational guidance for budget formulation and resource allocation. In fact, some organizations have gone so far as to develop flexible strategic organizations and financial management systems that allow continuous reallocation of funds, without the need for major cyclical efforts in budgeting.
Where can we get software to support the balanced scorecard?
The balanced scorecard is not a piece of software. The balanced scorecard is front-loaded with leadership, education, communication, and cultural preparation. However, once these are in place, there comes a time to consider the purchase of software to support the collection, reporting and analysis of balanced scorecard data. There are hundreds of vendors of balanced scorecard software now, and their products are becoming more advanced all the time. Commercial balanced scorecard software ranges from simple spreadsheet and database systems, to more complete performance information, business intelligence, and data warehouse offerings. The Institute formally recommends the QuickScore Performance Information System.
How can we ensure that our balanced scorecard system is maintained in the long term?
It is important not only to build the system right, but to maintain it by continual use and re-education of personnel on its purpose and benefits. Since everything is changing in the business environment, a balanced scorecard program is never "done" -- it is an ongoing journey. So the key is to maintain strategic alignment to mission and vision and desired long-term strategic results -- these are unlikely to change much, and they provide a "pivot" around which everything else revolves. Leaders should help to clarify this vision. Use the Institute's recommended communication techniques to keep people focused on these results and the strategies for getting there.
Is the term Balanced Scorecard trademarked?
Balanced scorecard is a generic management term, such as "information technology" or “performance measurement”. It is not trademarked or copyrighted.
What professional certifications are offered by the Institute?
The Institute offers two levels of professional certification: Balanced Scorecard Professional (BSP), and the Balanced Scorecard Master Professional (BSMP). Our Certification Program Page provides detailed description of these certifications.
I took a course from another company. Is this transferable to the Balanced Scorecard Institute?
Unfortunately, no. Balanced scorecard course content is not standardized, and there are many interpretations of what a balanced scorecard is and how one should be implemented. Institute courses contain many best practices that are not taught by other providers, and no other course provider is licensed to teach the Institute’s Nine Steps to Success™ integrated strategic planning, management, and measurement framework.
We have been doing the balanced scorecard in our company for years. Can I use that experience to qualify for certification?
Unfortunately, no. Balanced scorecard course content is not standardized, and there are many interpretations of what a balanced scorecard is and how it should be implemented. The Institute's courses cover the Institute's Nine Step methodology for building and implementing a balanced scorecard and are recommended even for students that have advanced knowledge and experience implementing scorecards based on their own research or by working with other methodologies. No matter how much experience they have had with the balanced scorecard in other organizations, our trainees report learning many new insights from the course and case studies.
I took a course from the Balanced Scorecard Institute a long time ago. Does it still count toward certification?
Yes. The Introduction (301), Boot Camp (370) and Master Certification (501) courses have been taught for many years. Although course content is updated frequently, the certification exam is based on concepts that have not changed.
How often do I need to get re-certified?
Re-certification is required every five years to maintain certification status. Please visit the Certification Program page (re-certification tab) for information on re-certification.
Who has accredited the certifications?
The certifications and courses are jointly accredited by the Balanced Scorecard Institute and the George Washington University Office of Professional Studies.
Is an exam required for certification?
Yes. The exam, administered online, has 50 questions (multiple choice or true/false pulled randomly from a larger pool of questions). There is a one hour time limit to complete the exam and results are posted immediately. Please visit the Certification Program page (Exam tab) for more information.
How is the exam administered? What is the process? How long does it take?
The certification exams are administered online. After completing the course requirements, participants that have not already registered for the program will be given a link to register for the exam. Once participants have registered and course completion has been verified, a link for the exam and login information will be provided. Completed exams are scored automatically and both the participant and the Institute are notified immediately. There is a one hour limit to take the exam. Please visit the Certification Program page (Exam tab) for more information.
What is the passing score on the certification exam?
A score of 75% is needed to pass. Please visit the Certification Program page (Exam tab) for more information.
Will I get to see which questions I missed on the certification exam?
Is personal experience necessary as a prerequisite for certification?
No, however experience is helpful because our courses are oriented to practical and realistic planning, management, and measurement situations.
If I am certified, may I then begin to use letters after my name (BSP, BSMP)?
If I am certified, may I then begin to use Institute training materials in my own courses?
Certification and training related to the Nine Steps to SuccessTM methodology is for internal facilitation and personal use only. Any use of the Nine Steps to SuccessTM or other Institute intellectual property beyond internal facilitation use without a formal affiliate or associate agreement with the Institute is prohibited. If you are interested in becoming an Institute partner or affiliate, so that you can train others using Institute materials, please contact the Institute for more information.
If I am certified, may I use material from the CD for internal training in my company?
Participants may use and copy Institute materials for use within their department or division. If you want to use our materials for wider distribution, for example company-wide, please contact the Institute and ask about licensing arrangements for internal consultants.
How much does it cost to license Institute materials for use in my own business?
The fee depends on which materials you wish to use, and the quantity required. Please contact our office for further information about licensing.
I have been certified. How can I become an Associate or Partner of the Balanced Scorecard Institute?
The Institute occasionally selects individuals for Associate and Partner status, depending on company needs. Contact the office for more information.
What does Boot Camp mean?
The course is called the “Boot Camp” in the U.S. in reference to intensive military training. The course covers a lot of material in a high-energy, fast paced teaching environment.
Where can we get training?
Please check the training schedule or catalog for a list of upcoming public training courses. In addition, the Institute provides on-site specialized courses and facilitated workshops to lead organizations through the methodology to build and implement a balanced scorecard system.
What is the Performance Toolkit?
The Performance Toolkit is a set of forms and templates to be used as guides for each step in the Nine Steps scorecard development framework.
What materials are provided with the courses?
Participants receive a comprehensive workbook, the Performance Toolkit, a case study, worksheets to follow the case study, articles, other reference materials, and a packet of informational handouts, along with a resource CD, a CEU credits form and a personalized certificate.
What is contained on the CD with the course materials?
The CD contains PDF and PowerPoint files of the workbook, the Performance Toolkit, articles, other handouts, and several other useful files.
Can I get Continuing Education credit for the courses?
Yes, all Institute courses offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs), which are administered through partnerships with the University of South Carolina and George Washington University. These CEUs are recognized by many other institutions all over the USA. An application for CEU credit is provided with the course materials and is to be filled in and given back to the instructor. The Institute submits all applications for CEU credit to the certifying body.
How do Institute courses help me prepare for strategic planning certification from the Association for Strategic Planning?
The Institute is one of only a few Registered Education Providers and teaches all courses to the Body of Knowledge that is at the heart of ASP certification. Institute courses are not an “ASP Exam Primer”, but students will find that the courses help prepare them for the certification exam in the four areas of strategic planning and management knowledge: Lead-Think-Plan-Act.
How much do the courses cost?
Please check the prices on our course catalog or course schedule.
Are there any discounts for the courses?
Yes, generally discounts are offered for government agencies and nonprofit organizations. There are also early bird discounts and discounts for more than three participants from the same organization. Please see the exact discounts for each course by selecting Register next to the desired course listing on the course schedule page.
What are the qualifications of the course instructors?
Institute instructors have advanced degrees, previous training experience, and experience helping organizations improve their performance. The typical instructor has a Masters degree in a technical field, 10 years of training experience, and another 15 years of consulting experience with business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. Most instructors have years of international training and consulting experience also. Biographies of our instructors are on the Institute’s Associates page.