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Should You Use the Balanced Scorecard Framework?

Brand name planning framework vs. generic? Which one should you choose?

One of the questions I receive on a regular basis is, “What is the best plan framework to use?”

When customers ask that question, it’s often not the real question. They’re really asking is if they should use a brand name planning framework, like the Balanced Scorecard, or a plan structure of their own design.

I personally love this question because there’s no right or wrong answer. There are only preferences. My personal preference has little to do with what you should pick for your organization.

While we have our own recommendations on best practices, this blog is all about deciding on what’s best for you.

Determine your Planning Framework

So, I know what you’re thinking. “You’ve been working on strategic plans, with hundreds of organizations, for more than 8 years and you can’t just give me a straight answer on what plan structure is best?”

The answer to your question is, “No, I can’t.” The selection of your plan structure needs to be the result of a discussion with your organization.

I made the mistake early at AchieveIt to try and get everyone to plan the same way every single time. Over time I’ve evolved my thinking. For each organization, there’s a different answer.

But here’s the decision tree you should leverage when discussing the topic of plan structure with your stakeholders:

  1. Are you starting your planning process with a plan structure you’ve used before?
  2. Are you starting from scratch?

These two simple questions will lead you to the selection of a brand name planning framework, like the Balanced Scorecard, or something more custom.

When you have an existing planning framework

Let’s assume you’re currently using a planning framework for your previous strategic planning process. How’s it working for you?

If I were to poll random members of your organization and ask them if they understand the framework, what would they say?

My experience leads me to believe you wouldn’t like the answer to that question. I’ve experienced this scenario many times. If I’m in a room full of plan stakeholders and I ask them what a ‘Goal’ means, 15 different answers will be given.

This is problematic on many fronts but it’s not problematic enough to throw out your framework and start from scratch. You are better served by asking your trusted stakeholders a different question. Why is it difficult to define each level of your planning framework?

What you’ll hear is that the words being used are too generic. The words are confused with other similar terms. The word ‘Goal’, for example, is used in nearly every strategic plan I’ve seen. And it means something different to each organization. It’s also the most difficult word for people to understand.

If a word or a level in your plan is causing any confusion, get rid of it. There are so many other words to use, don’t settle.

If you already have a generic planning framework in place, start by making small changes. Change ‘Goal’ to ‘Outcome’, or ‘Project’ to ‘Initiative’. And then go on a listening tour to make sure everyone understands the changes you’ve made.

With this approach, instead of disrupting previous work, you’re making meaningful change to ensure high levels of execution.

When you need a new Planning Framework

What happens if you have no plan, no structure, or your old framework was so bad you just need a fresh start?

Then it might be time to work with a brand name framework like the Balanced Scorecard or OGSM.

Why? Because you have volumes of material you can reference when rolling everything out. What’s a certain level in the balanced scorecard mean? Your answer can sound like, “Let me direct your attention to page 10 paragraph 2.” This is a great advantage to have when you’re trying something new.

But there has to be a downside, right? The downside typically reveals itself when you try to stick to the letter of the law in the new brand-named frame. This often leads to more time spent working on the governance than actually making a plan.

So, what Framework should you use?

This leads to my final recommendation.

A good planning framework makes it easy to develop a stellar strategic plan that is easily understood by everyone in your organization.

If you find yourself spending more time on the framework than on plan creation or execution, hit the pause button.

Brand name frameworks can, and often do, work as well as a generic, home-grown frameworks. It all comes down to asking the right questions and selecting what’s best for you.

Good frameworks lead to great execution. The time spent up-front is key to long-term outcomes. Good luck!

About AchieveIt

AchieveIt is the platform that large organizations use to get their biggest, most important initiatives out of the boardroom and into reality. Too many great ideas never quite make it across the finish line, because there’s no real way to keep everyone on course and keep everything on track. What does it take to actually guide these initiatives all the way through to completion? You’ve got to:

  1. Get everything in view – so you can see what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual, in real time.
  2. Get everyone engaged – with an easy-to-use platform that connects your organization from the executive leadership to the project teams, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page.
  3. Get every possible advantage – not only because you have the premier platform in this space, but because you can draw on the experience and best practices of our execution experts.

That’s why everyone from global corporations, to regional healthcare systems, to federal agencies have turned to AchieveIt for their Integrated Plan Management. Let’s actually do this.

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