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2023 is Half Over. Is Your Strategy Where You Want it to Be?

by Kent Smack on June 29, 2023

How to Leverage Your Balanced Scorecard to Improve Results and Finish 2023 Strong

Businesses today require carefully planned strategies to achieve sustained success. Those strategies need to be aligned with objectives, measures, and an action plan to execute. Leading organizations have used a Balanced Scorecard as a successful execution framework to both track their progress against goals and accomplish their objectives. Establishing objectives and using a Balanced Scorecard is a good start and provides a solid strategic foundation.

However, sometimes businesses lay out a well-defined strategy at the beginning of the year but then quickly get bogged down in keeping up with day-to-day activities, distracting them from the efforts necessary to accomplish their annual goals. What can sometimes stifle progress is the lack of a formalized process for discussing strategy and making adjustments over time. So, coupled with the powerful progress-tracking tool, organizations need to establish a culture of continuous improvement. Of course, this is a lot easier said than done. One way to move in this direction is to have a mid-year assessment to help bring clarity and visibility to the status of each objective so adjustments can be made. This objective review and tactical reset should be scheduled well in advance so that there is no surprise or panic when the leadership team comes together.

linking strategy and planning blog CTAIt's critically important for the strategy facilitator to position the mid-year review for success. Whether your team has maintained disciplined monthly/quarterly reviews or if this is the first time since the strategic plan was defined that you are revisiting its content, you must set realistic expectations. The following guidelines will help you structure a productive check-in with leadership and position the organization for a great second half of the year.


1. Conduct a Mid-Year Status Review

It’s important to confirm your gut feelings by checking the available data and seeing how you measure up against plan. It’s also important to have quantified data that you can share with Leadership prior to the review meeting. Call on measure owners, data analysts, and initiative project owners for insight into what’s on track and what’s falling behind. By putting your progress into numbers and communicating with your entire roster of employees—from the board room to the front lines-- they can more clearly see the effects their individual and team KPIs have on accomplishing the mission.


2. Review Your Original 2023 Objectives

Strategy is a hypothesis that you need to regularly test and adapt. With the passage of time, industry and economic shifts, and other previously unknown events can have a profound impact on your strategy, so it’s possible that some of your primary objectives need to be modified. You may find that one or two are no longer necessary. You might identify a couple that are still important, but are potentially better to include in next year’s strategy. What’s important to note is that a Balanced Scorecard can be and should be adjusted over time. In fact, if you have the same set of objectives and measures year after year you are probably doing it wrong.

With a Balanced Scorecard, your organization will typically look through a performance lens according to four key perspectives: financial or resource, customer or stakeholder, internal processes, and talent and technology. Generally speaking, your business should have between 12 and 18 total objectives. We’ve seen a consistent movement away from bloated scorecards with 25-30 objectives to a lighter, more focused scorecard, highlighting only the most critical strategies impacting the business.

Once the team agrees to the final set of objectives for the remainder of the year, take the time to confirm that each objective is clearly defined, easy to understand, and measurable. It’s equally important to ensure that each key objective aligns with your organization’s overall business strategy, especially if the scorecard is at a division level and maps up to corporate. Without this alignment, your employees will have difficulty devoting their energy, effort, and focus on activities tied directly to meeting your objectives.


3. Identify Gaps and Areas for Improvement

When looking at results, you’ll be able to pick up on trends and patterns in the data over time. Any indication of ineffective initiatives needs to be investigated further. This is where you will go beyond the numbers and look to identify reasons for the lack in performance. There may simply be a lack of focus, or there could be legitimate obstacles or challenges that need to be addressed. Typically, when progress isn’t being made it is because of one of two reasons: First, the original objective may not even be realistically achievable. Second, the objective may not be clearly defined, making it difficult to understand and measure with consistent quantifiable data. When an objective seems impossible or just confusing, employees won’t be able to come up with ways to support and achieve it.


4. “The glass is half full.” Make Adjustments that Position you for Success in the Second Half of the Year

Based on your findings when assessing the numbers, you now have the opportunity to make adjustments that get the organization back on track. It may be a simple adjustment in the targets rather than actually removing or redefining the objectives. If no adjustments are to be made to the objectives themselves, then perhaps the leadership team can adjust by prioritizing the objectives and initiatives to ensure focus. Leadership can also make a productive use of the mid-year review to openly address obstacles or challenges impeding organizational progress. This may mean a change in resource allocation or attempting different tactics or actions than those currently being taken.


5. Communicate and Engage Stakeholders

blog CTA webinar communicating strategyOne of the most overlooked issues in most businesses is the breakdown in company-wide communications. Without clear, constant, and transparent communication, accomplishing your objectives becomes exponentially more difficult. So, be sure to share the results of the mid-year review and keep it real to ensure honest and open dialogue. Remind everyone of the original objectives. Discuss your findings upon review of the numbers. And, of course, communicate the decisions that were made regarding adjustments for the second half of the year. Encourage employees to provide suggestions and engage them in the process. This feedback loop should not be underestimated. I’ve seen many innovative ideas generate from team members where you might not expect it.


6. Implement the Adjusted Strategy

Now that you have completed the mid-year review meeting, it’s time to record and implement specific action plans to support the revised set of objectives. One critical component of action planning is to tie responsibilities to accountability. Each action should have one designated owner to see the action to completion. This does not mean that the owner does all the work, it simply eliminates confusion about who is responsible for what. I will often call these individuals “advocates” to clarify their role as strategy facilitators.


Finishing Strong in the Second Half of the Year

As we rapidly approach the midway point in the year, what better time to reevaluate performance and solidify your execution plan for the remainder of the year. I’m confident that a thoughtfully crafted Balanced Scorecard backed by active engagement from senior leadership and your extended team can serve as a positive step towards achieving your goals in the second half of the year.

Be sure to challenge the organization to NOT shelve the strategy for another 6 months, but rather, participate in regular strategy reviews that continually test the strategy. Empower objective, measure and initiative advocates to engage team members in the action items to improve performance. As a leadership team, commit to talk regularly about the strategy and show the organization that you are actively participating in its implementation. Follow the above guidelines to ensure your organization is positioned for strategic success. Having a continuous improvement approach to using your scorecard gives you a much better chance of accomplishing your key objectives. The Balanced Scorecard, the appropriate approach to using it, and timely assessments of your progress will empower your business to adapt and overcome obstacles as you continue to strive for better and better outcomes.


Topics: Balanced Scorecards Business Strategy Strategic Planning kpi performance management organization alignment

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