A Pilot's Cockpit: Aligned Scorecards Used For Better Agility & Execution
Tim O'Bryan 270001NMX7 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  provenpractices timobryan businessanalyticstoday businessanalytics | 0 Comments | 1,022 Visits
Imagine entering the cockpit of a modern jet airplane and seeing only a single instrument there. How would you feel about boarding the plane after the following conversation with the pilot?
Q: I’m surprised to see you operating a plane with only a single instrument. What does it measure?
Q: That’s good. Airspeed certainly seems important. But what about altitude. Wouldn’t an altimeter be helpful?
We suspect you wouldn’t board the plane after this discussion. Even if the pilot did an exceptional job on air speed, you would be worried about colliding with tall mountains or running low on fuel. Clearly, such a conversation is a fantasy since no pilot would dream of guiding a complex vehicle like a jet airplane through crowded airspace.
This is an often cited story by many business strategists and other management prognosticators which I will attribute to Drs. David Norton and Robert Kaplan, pioneers of the Balanced Scorecard. It’s intended to reflect how critical the actual indicators are that we setup for not only pilots but also the indicators by which you establish for your entire workforce because these indicators will serve as the guiding force behind their decision-making.
Why is this so important? Well, many reasons starting with the business environment has substantially changed where no longer can a company operate rudderless without a core set of metrics to steer each of its employees individually and as a collective unit in the right direction. That right direction is the enterprise strategy. The speed at which these decisions are being made seem to have increased exponentially in just in the past 5 years. The days of top-down, command-and-control authority over decision-making are far from over in deference to a more nimble, decentralized execution hierarchy intended on keeping pace with the velocity of the related competition and customer expectations. The need for getting relevant and actionable information to the business users has never been more pronounced than we’re seeing today. If you can’t react fast enough to the market realities your customers will go elsewhere. We live in a world where product or brand loyalties are becoming more and more a thing of the past. It’s about execution. Good execution is about making smarter, more informed decisions that support the organization’s goals.
These decisions being made are happening across all levels, geographies, and functional areas of the business everyday. For this post I want to zero in on the first question asked which falls under measuring and monitoring the business. This question is, how are we doing?
Sure, the executive suite is constantly measuring and monitoring overall business performance to ensure the company is on track to meet its strategic targets. In addition, the function leads in marketing, sales, finance, HR, and development all the way down to the individual contributor levels of the organization are measuring and monitoring the performance of their area of the business too. But how does everyone know they’re doing the right things at all times? What are their real priorities helping the organization achieve its goals? Is it guesswork? Is it trust-based that the entire workforce is going to naturally make the right decisions supporting top-line goals? How can we be so sure?
This fictional story referenced at the beginning of this post is
really about measuring and monitoring – not an aircraft – but your
business thru a tool called a scorecard.
There are personal, departmental, and enterprise scorecards. A
scorecard includes the key performance indicators, or KPIs, for which,
in the case of a personal scorecard, an employee is responsible which,
if these KPIs are correctly defined, would include measurements that,
when looked at in aggregate, support the enterprise’s top-line strategic
goals and objectives. Inevitably, there will be shared targets for some
of the KPIs in a personal scorecard either within a specific functional
area of the business (Think Marketing Director/Marketing Associate
having similar campaign targets) or as shared KPIs across functional
groups like marketing, sales, procurement, and deve
The actual KPIs – typically there’s about 6-10 for each individual – are critical because they will define the actions taken by the individual for which they’re responsible. The ultimate alignment via scorecards composed of KPIs across these business groups, departments, divisions, business units, etc. is the embodiment of what we call a company’s strategy execution framework.
Harvard Business School having done a study on this framework found that, “a 35% increase in Strategy Execution leads to 30% gain in shareholder value”. That’s a pretty strong argument for at least taking a harder look at it.
How do you deploy such a framework, you ask? Well, in theory it’s very simple. You just translate the business strategy and its related goals into a set of performance indicators that outline the targets for which each department and employee within each department are responsible and away you go, right? Yes, I know. It sounds easy in theory. But, in practice it’s a little more work.
The key is working top-down with each business and support unit area to translate their contribution towards meeting these higher level targets so that these lower-level, cascaded measurements, or KPIs, will, when rolled up in total, directly tie to the top-level enterprise’s strategic goals. This ensures proper alignment of the organization while providing an ongoing set of metrics by which the workforce can measure themselves.
Even more important in defining the right KPIs is the understanding that whatever the indicators are, this will determine the individual’s behavior so take care as you define these. Something else that makes this framework so effective is that it makes it that much easier to reset the workforce when those top-level strategies change. the infrastructure is in place to restructure the scorecards. This allows the company to adapt more quickly.
Think about deploying such a framework for your organization. The best incentive I can give you for taking on this effort is that going through the KPI definition process for each set of scorecards it forces discussions across functions, within departments and at the executive level that will expose how achievable these targets really are with the current resources in place today and who is ultimately responsible for what. This is just about the most important exercise I think a company can go through to make sure it’s not setting itself up for failure because its strategy isn’t attainable given the resources currently in place. Once this KPI definition process is complete and everyone knows who’s doing what and where the synergies lye it’s all about execution. This framework sets companies up to execute well because they’ve already identified their needs and resources at their disposal and now it’s a matter of delivering. It’s go time.
If done right this will be the outcome for your organization:
More coming on this subject. Stay tuned. In my next post I’ll tell you some of the best practices in defining the right KPIs for personal scorecards.
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