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Tactical Decisions Essay


The purpose of this report is to critically evaluate Balanced Scorecard (BSC) as a performance measurement tool available to Management Accountants. In conducting this study, classical and modern literature on BSC as well as its real world applications in a potentially global company was reviewed. It was found that BSC provides valuable information that supports managers in taking strategic as well as tactical decisions. In addition, BSC appears to be positively associated with profitability and managers’ job satisfaction. In terms of real world application, BSC was found to be widely applied among businesses. It is used mainly as a tool of ‘Strategic Decision Making’ but exerts greatest influence on ‘Business Actions’.


Performance measurement is as a management tool used by organizations, to evaluate whether their targets have been accomplished or not (Eccles, 1991). Organizations, whether manufacturing or service, set internal targets which aggregate into their strategic goals. The main thrust of performance evaluation therefore is, at the tactical and operational levels, to monitor, budget, encourage, understand and recognize (Behn, 2003). Balanced Score Card (BSC) is one of the widely applied performance measuring tools in the business world. BSC has been described as: “A strategic planning and management system that is used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improve internal and external communications, and monitor organization performance against strategic goals” (Ebnerason, Yavarian, and Azodi, 2009, 43).

Previously performance measurement had been done mainly through financial and quantitative tools like accounting ratios (i.e. return on assets ROA and return on sales ROS). Norton and Kaplan (1996) created BSC and proposed that it measures along four domains which are; Financial, Customer, Internal Business Process as well as Learning and Growth. A key contribution of BSC, therefore, was that it highlighted the importance of non-financial events in organizational performance thus highlighting the necessity of factoring them along with financial measures when evaluating performance (Ittner, Larcker, and Meyer, 2003). Ittner (2003) has suggested that BSC might be subjective because of its inclusion of qualitative measures.

This report is structured as follows. It continues in section two with a justification of the need for performance measurement. Section three examines the origins of Balanced Scorecard. In section four the merits of Balanced Scorecard are discussed. Then in section five its demerits are explored. Results of a real life business case study, and a survey are presented in sections sex and seven respectively. A conclusion follows in section eight, and recommendations are suggested in section nine.

2.The Need for Performance Evaluation Systems

Atkinson et al (1997, P26) defined performance measurement system as; “The performance measurement system is the tool the company uses to monitor those contractual relationships (with stakeholders)”. A significant body of literature show that a strong relationship exists between Motivation and performance measurement. See for example; Brownell and Mclnnes (1986); Shields and Young (1993), Kaplan and Atkinson (1998) cited in Schiehll and Morissette (2000) According to Schiehll and Morissette (2000, p13) “It is possible to infer that motivation to perform is provided by the incentive compensation, which makes the individual performance partly a function of the extended and effectiveness of reward system”. Therefore, it is posited that a reward system that relies on performance measurement systems –one of which is BSC- would be one of the most significant models for increasing motivation and individual performance.

Nonetheless, it is not proven that an increase in the performance of all individuals within an organization does not necessarily map into an increase overall organizational performance. Indeed, it could very well be the case that a reward system fosters unhealthy rivalry and competition among employees in the same organization whereas the more desirable situation would be cooperation. Furthermore, the reward system might lead to an increase the falsification of reports as employees seek to present their work in the best light. This may lead decision maker to take suboptimal if not totally incorrect decisions. (Schiehll and Morissette, 2000).

2.1. Performance measurement as a tool

Behn’s (2003) positioned that “Performance measurement is not an end in itself” is very apposite here. It is therefore important to know directors’ motivation for undertaking performance measurement. It is hypothesized that directors undertake performance measurement because they might find the outputs of such exercises very invaluable in attaining a range of managerial objectives. According to Behn (2003), some of such objectives include evaluating, controlling, budgeting, motivating, promoting, celebrating, learning and improving. Thus the challenge for managers is to ensure that any tool they employ generates valid information. Furthermore he lists some of the likely drivers of performance measurement as presented in the table 1 below: Table1. Eight purposes that managers have for measuring performance The purposeThe public manager’s question that the performance measure can help answer Evaluate

How well is my public agency performing?


How can I ensure that my subordinates are doing the right thing? BudgetOn what programs, people, or projects should my agency spend the public’s money? MotivateHow can I motivate line staff, middle managers, nonprofit and for-profit collaborators, stakeholders, and citizens to do the things necessary to improve performance? PromoteHow can I convince political superiors, legislators, stakeholders, journalists, and citizens that my agency is doing a good job? CelebrateWhat accomplishments are worthy of the important organizational ritual of celebrating success? LearnWhy is what working or not working?

ImproveWhat exactly should who do differently to improve performance? Adapted from: (Behn, 2003).

3.Origins of Balanced Score Card (BSC)

Historically, the traditional measurement of organizational performance was based on financial measures (Kaplan and Norton, 1996). These measures tended to focus on determining short-term financial results (Ittner, Larcker and Meyer, 2003). However, the intense competitive pressures unleashed by globalization enabled firms to see the limitations of data from traditional measurements (Kaplan and Norton, 1996).

A good illustration of this is that the traditional measurement of performance failed to alert major airline companies to the potential huge valuable in the budget air travel sector until the emergence of low cost airlines like Ryan Air and Easy Jet who quickly established themselves as strong players in the sector. In response to these new realities firms had to seek non financial measures that could better capture changes in their markets (Lawrise, 2009). In late 1985, Analog Devices, a US electronics firm, developed “a simple but effective management reporting system”. That included both financial and non financial measures. That reporting system has now come to be known as Balanced Score Card, BSC (Stata, 1989 cited in Lawrise, 2009; p4).

Kaplan and Norton (1996) argue that management requires BSC measurement system to finalize their decisions outside, and inside the companies. They posit that BSC should consists of four categories of measurement which are; “(1) financial and non-financial; (2) external (financial and customer) and internal (critical business process, innovation, and learning and growth); (3) inputs/drivers and outcomes/results; and (4) objective, easily quantifiable measures and more subjective judgmental measures” (Kaplan and Norton, 1996 cited in Itnner, 2003; p728).

As Ahn (2001) pointed out, BSC has a feature that prevents over reliance on financial measures; these include short and long term, financial and non-financial measures. BSC maps out the hierarchy system within firms and covers four areas: Financial, internal process, customers and learning and growth (Ittner, Larcker and Meyer, 2003). These areas are examined below.

3.1. Customer Domain

In recent decades, organizations have set themselves the mission of increasing customer satisfaction, extending customer relations and winning new customers (Bontis et al, 1999). Kaplan and Norton (1996) argue that, if organizations wish to succeed they must formulate and implement strategies that enable them develop new products, services and approaches as consumers want. For instance, customers seek the delivery of high quality products in the shortest possible time period. BSC enables suppliers to evaluate customer requirements and develop the capacity to improve their products and services or develop new ones in order to satisfy those customers (Kaplan and Norton, 1996).

3.2 Financial Domain

BSC maintains the financial domain and these financial measures capture the economic manifestation of events already measured in other BSC domains. According to Kaplan and Norton (1992), financial performance measures can spur a fundamental enhancement of financial numbers and an organization’s strategy implementation and execution as well as contribute to the bottom line (Amaratunga, Baldry and Sarshar 2001).

3.3. Internal – Business – Process Domain

The internal business process domain refers essentially to the process by which a firm generates its value chain. This domain examines two areas. First, it considers outcomes of internal processes which are due to financial success and fulfilled customer expectations. Second it then focuses on the internal processes themselves. As Kaplan and Norton (1992) argue, managers pay more attention to internal operations as a means to satisfying customer demands (Amaratunga, Baldry and Sarshar, 2001). Organizations need to determine how both measures apply to their internal processes. This linking domain serves to ensure that the lower echelons of organizations have enough information about actions, decisions and improvement activities decided at the strategic level.

3.4. Learning and Growth Domain

The learning and growth domain serves infrastructure for the three other domains (financial, customer and internal business process) of BSC (Kaplan and Norton, 1996). Learning and growth have three dominant areas; people, systems and organization items (Figge et al ,2002 ). They argue that the most important areas are qualification, motivation and goal orientation of employees, and information systems as Figge et al (2002, p271) suggest. In other words, Customers and internal business process measures are considered the most competitive successful areas within the organization.

There may sometimes be a tendency for the emergence of “large gaps between the existing capabilities of people, systems and procedures and what will be required to achieve breakthrough performance in an organization. Businesses will need to invest in training employees, enhancing information technology and systems that will close those gaps (Kaplan and Norton, 1996). As a result, the objective of this domain is looking at employee based measures such as skills and training (Kaplan and Norton, 1996).

4.The Merits Balanced Score Card

The objective of BSC is to generate information that serves as the basis for driving forward a successful organizational strategy. Through this unique contribution, BSC has brought innumerable benefits to private, public organization or profit and nonprofit sectors. This information is also the most significant link between the four domains of performance (Church and Smith 2007). This also relates to another benefit of BSC as organizations already using BCS have praised the advantage of being able to combine these domains in a single management report. This has the effect of bringing together seemingly diverse demands. For instance, meeting client needs requires improving quality and becoming more efficient at launching new products (Storey, 2002).

Furthermore, a significant benefit is that organizations have to reflect on all essential performance measures together. The potential side effect of this process that it may draw so much attention away from other vital activities to the extent that implementing BSC in the organization becomes more important than the result or potential outcome. A further merit of BSC is the strong correlation between its use and maximum shareholder wealth reported by De Busk and Crabtree (2008). The authors had examined a wide range of organizations some of which used BSC, and others which did not use BSC. The result of this examination could be that organizations’ shareholder’s wealth is increased by a significant percentage than others that do not use the BSC.

4.1. The Relationship between Balanced Scorecard Characteristics and Manager’s Job Satisfaction Kaplan and Norton (1996) posits that ”if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. A significant number of organizations, craft their strategy relying on customer relationship, essential competence, and organizational systems as the core value generating domains. An organization’s performance measurement scheme being related to value generation therefore has a motivational effect on its people.

Traditionally, companies sought to improve their competitive strength by drawing on core competencies and then determining the level of performance with a financial measure. The BSC retains the financial assessments as a brief abstract critique of management performance and work, yet it focuses on a further appraisal domains that connect the organisation’s present consumers, internal procedures, and workers. Presently two of BSC’s features viz Perspective framework and Strategy Link, that both impact on management behavior will be examined.

4.1.1. Perspective framework

Corporations use a mixture of both financial and non-financial schemes to develop their performance management systems (see Brancato (1995), Bryant et al (2004), Epstein and Manzoni (1997), and Stivers et al (1998 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010) for examples). However, a considerable number of these organizations concentrate solely on financial results in their assessments. BSC broadens this traditional method by adding three other domains; Consumer, Internal Procedure, as well as Learning and Growth (Maiga and Jacobs, 2003 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010).

To achieve a corporation’s goals the perspective framework draws on input from all four domains (Burney and Matherly, 2007; Kaplan and Norton, 1996 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). No single one of the four domains predominates in the application of BSC, all four domains are accorded the same weight. BSC enables managers acquire a comprehensive outlook of the organization and its industry in general along with attaining their strategic goals (Epstein and Manzoni, 1997 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010).

Performance measures consist of a combination of indicators some of which may be considered more significant than others as indicators of performance (Albright and Lam, 2006 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). The more significant indicators tend to be correct predictors of future financial performance. For instance domains of BSC survey and report on jobholders’ and clients’ satisfaction level. When client’s satisfaction level is high, the future financial result would also be profitable as consumers would return to purchase again. The less significant indicators report on past financial performance and contain measures, such as Earning Per Share (EPS), and return on capital employed ROCE. It is hypothesized that the use of significant indicators embedded in BSC should concentrate the attention of managers on long term value creation.

Research suggests that managers’ attitude to the framework perspective vary. Managers that used performance measurement as a tool in decision making had a more favorable disposition than those that did not (Lipe and Salterio, 2002 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). Hoque and James (2000) investigated the impact of BSC on employee commitment in organizations and discovered that beyond the performance measure generated, there was a significant element of affirmative affiliation created in employees.

4.2. BSC and Strategy

Among the goals of performance management systems is enabling senior managers to take informed strategic decisions (Kaplan and Norton, 1996 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). Recent studies show that one of the features that distinguish BSC above traditional systems is its ability to show a clear connection between a corporation’s policy and its achievement. The corporation’s processes develop this connection which in turn demonstrates the theory between the reason and the result (Kaplan and Norton, 1996, 2008 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). Moreover, BSC outcomes enable administrators to recognize they can be used to positively impact on their achievements (Atkinson, 2006; Burneyand Widener, 2007; Kaplan and Atkinson, 1998; Maiga and Jacobs, 2003 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010).

Therefore, instead of making decisions driven by personal judgments directors are supported and motivated to make decisions that better help attain the corporation’s goals (Kaplan and Norton, 1996 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). Studies on BSC and strategy reveal that majority of organizations that apply BSC also apply another tool as part of their performance management systems (Sandhu et al., 2008; Towers Perrin, 1996 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). Thus managers now have enhanced knowledge about BSC than what they had in the traditional achievement management schemes (Ittner and Larcker, 1998; Towers Perrin, 1996 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010).

4.3. Managers’ job satisfaction

Job satisfaction is considered as a critical factor to in motivating employees to create competitive advantage for an organization (Rusbult et al., 1988 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). Essentially, job satisfaction reveals an employee’s emotional attachment to their job. Research shows that there might be an effective relationship between corporation’s profit and occupational fulfillment (Banker et al., 2000 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). Positive feedback is thought to play an important role in this link. Here feedback is explained as “degree to which carrying out the work activities required by the job results in the individual obtaining direct and clear information about the effectiveness of his or her performance’’ (Robbin, 2003; 465 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010).

Following the previously mentioned studies, it is posited that BSC has a positive effect on job satisfaction in two ways. Balanced scorecard enables managers to have a clear understanding of their targets within the corporation’s strategy. Other studies have shown that a well defined job description raises the level of job satisfaction (Ameen et al., 1995; Jackson and Schuler. 1985; Sawyer, 1992; Van Sell et al., 1983 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). Secondly, there is a negative impact on employee satisfaction when they do not have sufficient knowledge about how their performance is evaluated (Penney and Spector, 2005; Spector, 1997 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010). Lan and Tan (2003) found that when the employee has enough data about their job, they are able to accomplish their jobs perfectly (Lan and Tan, 2003 cited in Burney and Swanson, 2010).

5.Demerits of Balanced Score Card

Perhaps the most significant argument against BSC is that it appears not to be applicable to the control of strategic systems in the pursuit of corporate goals (Simons 1990). Another argument against BSC is that it does not represent the character of community in environment system. A further problem of BSC is that the inclusion of employees in its domains appears to be an afterthought. For instance IT and personnel are grouped together with IT systems in the learning and growth domain (Bontis et al, 1999). Furthermore, “innovation (the result of human learning and action) is actually part of the internal business process focus’’ (Bontis et al, 1999, p 397). This is particular challenge of managing employee and their knowledge seems to be undervalued by BSC. This could have an undesirable effect on employee in an organization. One way to reduce this misunderstanding is that directors should always be aware of employee needs and value them (Bontis et al, 1999).

Beyond the weaknesses stated above, it is noted that BSC appears not to accord any importance to the community/environment in which a firm operates and wonder if such organizations can be sustainable in the long run. Finally and as with other performance management systems, it could be argued that BSC measures can be deliberately manipulated by employees who wish to be portrayed in a positive light.

6.Case Studies
6.1. Zenith Systems

Zenith Systems is an engineering services company in the UK. It provides services to companies in the UK, Europe, and more than 80 companies spread across other countries. Zenith Systems are structured are follows; there is a field engineering force, a Business Development team, an in-house engineering support team, and some administration support. In 2006 Zenith Systems were taken over by new owners who wanted a different strategic direction for the company. They were mainly concerned with the financial and strategic performance of Zenith and sought improvements in three domains; Corporate, Client Service and Business Development.

2GC Ltd, a private consultancy applied BSC to help the new owners attain their strategic objectives. The consultants delivered workshops to inform Zenith’s managers about the process and target. At the first workshop Zenith was supported to build a divisional destination statement, strategy map and define objectives to be attained over four years. Another workshop examined in depth the main tactical elements of the company’s objectives. Zenith’s board took direct responsibility for monitoring progress of the new strategy development and implementation.

BSC helped the company in two main ways. First, the organization was supported to create long term goals that were realistic and attainable given their current as well as potential assets. Second, the company was supported to analyze their desired outcomes and identify concrete ways by which they could be achieved. The drawback experienced by the company was the fact that managers found the process time consuming and it was difficult for them to create time to complete the identified measures and targets.

6.2. Health Care Industry

BSC was applied in the health care industry in 1994 for the first time (Zelman, 2003). Although, health care companies are likely to be similar to other service companies many ways, they have some unique characteristics that made the process of applying BSC more challenging. For example, medical staff relations and the quality of care that are not easy to be measured (Zelman, 2003).

When Kaplan and Norton proposed the four key domains of BSC, they recommended it as a flexible tool that could be adapted to the unique requirements of any industry. Furthermore each organization was expected to modify it and adapt it to its own strategy (Kaplan and Norton 1996 cited in Zelman, 2003). Writers such as Provost and Leddick recommend that in both manufacturing and service companies, paying more interest to investment in the human capital would make this area more important (Provost, L. and leddick, S. cited in Zelman, 2003). ‘Human capital’ is so called because education and training are seen as investments that will deliver higher levels of income for individuals and societies in future through their betterment of human capacity (Woodhall, 2004). Health care corporations have found that it is useful to modify the original formula of Kaplan and Norton.

Health care companies are not likely to have reliable saving and multiple information systems. This characteristic makes the process of obtaining reliable information in a timely manner difficult. Oliviera stated that, to support the process of decision making process, it is recommended that to establish an independent organizational data saving of all dependents in the health care companies (Oliviera, 2001 cited in Zelman, 2003).

7.Balanced Scorecard Business Survey

2GC Limited (2010) conducted a field survey on the use of BSC among businesses. The survey covered both profit and not-for-profit organizations,
as well as manufacturing and service companies. Some of their relevant findings are reviewed below.

7.1. Uses of Balanced Scorecard

Figure 1. Uses of BSC in Organizations (Source: 2GC Ltd)

Figure 1 shows that the main use of BSC is as a tool of ‘Strategic Management’. This is followed by ‘Reporting’ and ‘Operational Management’. The least use to which BSC is put is on setting goals and incentives.

Figure 2 (below) reports on a range business processes influenced by BSC in organization that apply the tool. It is noted that BSC greatest influence was on ‘Business Actions’ followed by ‘Behavior’. This is not surprising as employees who know they are being evaluated will modify their behavior to present the best view of themselves to the appraisal system. It is quite surprising that ‘Appraisals’ ranks third as an area influenced by BSC given that it is a tool concerned with performance.

7.2. Influence of BSC on Processes

Figure 2. Influence of BSC in Organizations (Source: 2GC Ltd)

7.3. Reporting Frequency

Figure 3. BSC Reporting Frequency in Organizations (Source: 2GC Ltd)

According to figure 3, BSC reporting is done mainly of a quarterly or monthly basis. This may be to allow for immediate corrective steps in cases where there is significantly weak performance.


In conclusion, it can be seen that balanced scorecard (BSC) is a significant strategic management tool which is used in many companies. BSC was applied for the first time in 1985 when, Analog Devices (United States of America) used the BSC in their performance evaluation system (Stata, 1989 Cited in Lawrise, 2009 p4). The motivation for developing BSC, arose from the weaknesses observed in the traditional performance measuring systems. These weaknesses may have been due to the fact that traditional systems only considers short term financial indicators such as EPS, and Return on Capital Employed ignoring the non-financial indicators which may be more subjective. BSC benefits clearly outweigh its drawbacks.

One of its most important benefits is in the generation of information about an organization’s performance that supports strategic decision making. Furthermore BSC’s feedback system is associated with positive job satisfaction among managers and staff. On the other hand, BCS has limitations, such as treating the knowledge as a physical asset that could be controlled. According to the 2GC limited survey done in 2009 and 2010, it could be argued that the BSC is still considered as a strategic management tool, and widely used in different types of organizations.

9. Recommendation

•As BSC is a generic tool, it is recommended that each company establishes their own bespoke form of it which should take account of their unique characteristics. For example, healthcare companies, the generic BSC should be modified in accordance with the organization’s characteristics, such as staff relations. •It is also recommended to give preponderant emphasis to the particular domain of BSC that fits with the firm’s activities. For instance, materiality of the customer perspective could be different in a hotel from a heavy equipment manufacturer. This area might require further research in the future.


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