Articulating Strategy Objectives – The Good vs. The Bad

Since the early 90s, the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) has been the gold standard for strategy execution and management. However, management teams often create a long sentence when articulating strategy objects, which are essential to successful strategy implementation and execution, as in the figure below.


Not only does it overflow from the bubble, but it also is very hard to see clearly. When using the BSC to keep your strategy map functional, you have to keep it simple so your management, department heads, and managers at all levels within an organization can easily understand it and explain it to others. However, do not make it too simple.

Another problem is putting too little text in the objective bubbles. That’s also bad because it is not descriptive enough to mean anything. Look at the objectives below. They could be a strategic objective from any company’s strategy map. There is nothing unique about them. By the time your senior management team revisits this at the next monthly meeting, everyone will have forgotten the underlying discussion that drove the creation of that objective, and its whole purpose will be lost.


The Good Way

The good way is to make objectives not too long and not too short. It has to be just right.


There is one other thing to keep in mind to create good objectives. Be very careful about the intensity of the objective and ensure it states what you want to achieve. Sometimes management teams get carried away in a workshop, and will add the word significant to just about anything. For example, they want to “Significantly exceed customer expectations.” Consider the implications of this commitment. By adding the word significant, you have turned this objective into a stretch target. If your current customer satisfaction is 5 out of 10, significantly exceeding customer expectations means increasing that number to at least an 8 out of 10. That means you have to show a huge improvement. Do you have the wherewithal to make that happen? Do you have the resources to make that happen? Is it even really necessary? Do your customers really expect it? Are they willing to pay for that level of service? Take it easy and don’t get carried away. Commit to objectives that are both necessary and feasible.

Customer Objectives

 In using the BSC to execute strategy, customer objectives are articulated differently than the other objectives because they are written from a customer’s perspective. The logic is simple. If you do everything right in the coming year in terms of learning, growth, and your processes, what would you like for customers to say in a survey about the organization? Keep in mind that customer experience is connected to financial objectives. Look at the Strategy Map below and you can see how this has been done. In my view, these areas would be the top five areas in any customer survey that one designs and executes.


Adapted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Execution Excellence: Making Strategy Work Using the Balanced Scorecard by Sanjiv Anand. Copyright (c) 2016 by Sanjiv Anand. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.