It's International Strategic Thinking Month! In honor of the observance, here's a guest post from Gail Perry with the Balanced Scorecard Institute in Cary, NC. BSI works with organizations large and small around the world to help them define and execute better strategy. I became a devotee after editing BSI's book, The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard, and am proud they're on our client list.
Are Strategic “Leaps of Logic” Leaving You Dazed and Confused?
Have you ever known someone whose brain works faster than they can talk or write? They often appear to be making "leaps of logic" when in actuality, their brain is working through logical steps but they are only communicating their first and last thought in the flow--not the thoughts in the middle. [Learn a strategy for improving the logic in your writing]
Many CEO’s suffer from a similar “problem”. Often, they have a strategy in their heads yet it appears to others that they have made a giant leap from vision to KPIs or initiatives. So while the CEO usually understands how the pieces fit together, most employees are not mind-readers and cannot follow the leaps of logic.
This point was vividly illustrated to me in a phone call I had last month*. A CEO called to say he wanted to use a balanced scorecard–he had seen a competitor company achieve outstanding performance which they attributed to their use of [the tool]. Furthermore, he had already figured out the five most important KPIs for his own company, and he asked if we could help him get the managers and employees in his 36 locations to understand and get motivated to take action in alignment with these [metrics].
I dove in and began to try and pull the “middle part” out of his head by asking him questions.
He had a very clear picture of the future state of his company and his descriptions were compelling and detailed. As we talked, I began to loosely translate his word images to strategic objectives--I could almost create a strategy map from his stories. And that’s one point:
A strategy map tells a story, it paints the picture of the organization’s future state and how it plans to get there.
He seemingly skipped this and other important steps when he leaped from vision to KPIs and, therefore, he was missing the logical linkages.
As I helped him cross-walk his 5 KPIs to the potential objectives, I was able to show him that his KPIs were all in the results perspective (financial and customer). He hadn’t fully considered the driver KPIs that would be needed, [so] he was asking his employees to focus on end results without articulating a strategy to achieve those results.
After about an hour he said, “I get it. I skipped the middle part and that’s the most important part. I was told that there is a lot of work to get to meaningful and strategic KPIs but I didn’t understand the middle part. It is truly important.” Eureka!
And one final point that I made: no matter how smart and fast-thinking he is, if he doesn’t involve his team in the creation of strategy and the strategic balanced scorecard, they will be unlikely to buy into or actively engage in improving the company’s performance. He knows that he must slow down and let other not only catch up, but have a say in strategy and KPIs.
Sound familiar? Learn more about these crucial "middle parts" by reading the stories of other managers and executives and getting actionable tips in The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.
Gail Perry is the Chief Strategy Officer and Senior Associate with the Balanced Scorecard Institute. She has over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations. Gail has trained several hundred scorecard students as the lead trainer for the Institute’s public workshops and certification programs. She has provided facilitation, training, and consulting services for several Institute clients worldwide including government/NPO/NGO organizations such as U.S. Air Force, Federal Government of Botswana, InterAmerican Development Bank, United Nations Development Program, DFAS, TARDEC, and U.S. Army Medical Command, as well as Fortune 500 and other corporations such as ADP, Bright Point, Tolko, Eric Mower & Associates, SmithGroup, TATA Chemicals North America, and Mary Kay Inc. Learn more about Gail and the Balanced Scorecard Institute at www.balancedscorecard.org.
* This post originally appeared on the BSI blog in October 2013.