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A busman’s holiday: Balanced Scorecards at the neighborhood cook-out

Posted on May 16, 2011 by: Lisa Koss

"What’s the latest thinking on balanced scorecard?" my neighbor asked me in front of a group at a casual cook-out, having just found out I am a consultant on topics including leadership development and talent management.

Oh boy, I thought, here’s a choice whether to defer the question or talk about scorecards in front of a group of people who likely don’t really care about the topic. Given it was the first time meeting this whole group, I decided it might be poorly received to do anything but amicably engage.

“What’s your situation?”, I asked, not knowing him, his organization, his role, nor his goals. I had just met him minutes before. He answered in one or two sentences, reluctant to give details. As usual his answer prompted more questions. So I followed his answer with another question. To this, there was joking by several in the group about me being the classic consultant who answers a question with a question.

While I can see the irony and humor of the observation, I am equally surprised how “clients” (paying or otherwise) expect to receive some sort of helpful wisdom without providing any information about their own context. In some fields this is called “malpractice.” The whole event harkened to the “quick fix” we talk about in the video of our ONTOS Global home page. See the video.

The “quick fix” reminds me of the all-too-common “best practices.” Organizations too often fixate on them as a panacea, another form of quick fix. I don’t believe in them because best practices may only be best for one individual or group in a given context under specific circumstances. One group’s “best practice” may be another’s idea from hell, useless for a group with a different goal, role, process, culture, behavior, skill set, and so on.

So balanced scorecard may be a great option for those needing what it offers. Or not. Instead, the real conversation is about what you are trying to measure and why, the quality of the metrics used, the people involved, and the extent to which the tool truly reflects what you’re trying to measure. But for that, I’d have to ask some questions.

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