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This article is taken from the December 2003 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

Implementing the Balanced Scorecard

Implementing the Balanced Scorecard imageIn the August Phatlalatsa, 5(1) Matthew and Iole Matthews from the Independent Projects Trust (IPT) explained how they were using Balanced Scorecard methodology to shape the monitoring and evaluation framework for IPT's work with the Public Prosecutors in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN PPA) . In this article we update readers on how we have embedded the Balanced Scorecard to assist management within the PPA as they strive to become more effective and efficient.

Readers will be familiar with the concept behind the Balanced Scorecard, devised by Kaplan and Norton in the 1990s, namely that organisations are best viewed and measured from four perspectives:

  • the learning and growth perspective which measures issues such as staff development
  • the business process perspective which measures issues such as the case management procedures being used by the prosecutors
  • the customer perspective which measures, for example, the satisfaction levels of clients when they interact with the prosecutors
  • the financial perspective which measures the financial aspects of the prosecuting authority including the efficient use of resources.
  • Typically, when assessing whether the scorecard is balanced or unbalanced for an organisation there are several generic steps that need to be taken. These steps include:
  • defining the objectives for the organisation in terms of the four perspectives
  • determining the measures that will be used to assess whether the objectives have been met
  • defining the targets (milestones) for each measure (typically an organisation sets monthly or quarterly targets for each overall measure)
  • outlining the initiatives that are necessary to ensure the organisation meets the objectives it has set itself.

In part because of the nature of IPT's intervention and in part because baseline data was not readily available for the accurate definition of measures for all four perspectives, we decided to develop a scorecard for the KZN PPA that took into account both quantitative and qualitative measures. This meant in practice that not only would we be looking at issues such as court hours, number of cases on the court roll, numbers of awaiting trial prisoners and absenteeism rates, but that we would also measure issues such as staff perceptions of internal communication and the quality of initiatives to improve case management.

In order to systematise this process and also to ensure that the system will produce reliable data which is reflected upon regularly, we have implemented the following steps:

Step 1: Established the initiatives to be undertaken in each cluster, selected the measures which would be used to assess the progress of the initiatives and allocated resources to facilitate the initiatives.

Step 2: Developed a system for data collection, analysis and reporting. This involved designing a standardised reporting form which each cluster manager completes on a monthly basis. The form requires each manager to report on initiatives, against each objective, undertaken during the month. The manager is also required to reflect on those initiatives and comment on the steps she/he plans to undertake to rectify actions that deviate from what was previously planned.

Step 3: At the same time that the managers complete their monthly reports we also collected monthly quantitative data that speaks to issues such as court performance and absenteeism rates.

Step 4: Prepare scorecard report based on the information gathered from the previous two steps. The report outlines, with regards to each objective:

  • the achievements of the KZN PPA during that month (e.g. implementation of a client satisfaction survey or decrease in the number of awaiting trial prisoners)
  • areas identified for improvement (e.g. absence of a coherent media strategy or decreasing court hours)
  • the learning moments (i.e. what can we learn from the initiatives implemented this month? e.g. successful initiatives for sharing information with the public)

Step 5: Conducted a new style of monthly management meetings at which the scorecard report is presented in order for the managers to reflect on the information in the report and to then take decisions to address issues raised in the report. In addition, the meetings provide an open forum to focus on performance shortfalls, discuss possible solutions and to learn from each other.

Step 6: We are now tracking on a monthly basis whether or not decisions taken at the monthly meeting are being enforced.
In reflection, what the past six months have shown us is that whilst the Balanced Scorecard was devised by Kaplan and Norton for the private sector, it does have some resonance in the public sector. Moreover, it has taught us that it is possible for a government organisation to incorporate customers, employees and stakeholders into their efforts to improve performance. To do so, such efforts must be shaped in such a way as to achieve some balance between the needs of these different groups and the aims and objectives of the organisation.

 

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