Revisiting alignment and its relation to performance measurement
03 September 2018
On September 3, 2018, I presented my research on the use of cognitive mapping as a means of understanding strategic alignment. Below is a summary and some thoughts on where the project needs to go next.
“Alignment” is a much used and much abused term in strategic management. Essentially the term is meant to mean “harmony in action”. Scholars interested in the topic have used a metaphor of rowers in a boat, where an aligned group paddles in the same rhythm, same direction, etc., to some maximum level of efficiency. It’s an over-simplification for even a relatively simple organization, but it does speak to an ideal, unhindered pursuit of some gloriously clear organizational objective.
Unfortunately, in performance measurement and management, “aligned” is often used synonymously with “cascaded”, meaning that an aligned performance measurement system is one in which the measures can be cascaded from top to bottom, meaning that performance measures used at the top (typically financial, in a for-profit organization) correlate to measures at a lower level, down to operations. This is certainly the sense I got when reading Kaplan and Norton’s text “Alignment”, and also features in some major academic works on the topic like Decoene’s Strategic alignment and middle‐level managers’ motivation in a balanced scorecard setting.
Instead of cascading, group causal mapping can help teams align their performance measurement systems to their strategy at any level and between levels. The advantage is that it avoids attempting to correlate measures that are very likely entirely uncorrelated (or subject to becoming that way quickly in an environment of rapid change).
You can read the working paper here. I’d like to finish the research by using the technique in a workshop in the field. If that sounds interesting to you, I’d love to hear from you!