Strategic Review Meetings: Tips for Surviving the First Year
One of the most difficult practices to implement during the first year of the Balanced Scorecard methodology is the Strategy Review Meeting. Here are some tips on how to prepare for it to optimize the time you and your executives spend together.
Executives that have been successful in implementing the Balanced Scorecard methodology within their companies agree on one thing: Strategy Review Meetings are the most valuable discussion forum that the executive team has together. The purpose of these reunions is to generate strategic perspectives, optimize performance management and emphasize accountability in order to allow the organization to achieve outstanding results.
The first of the Strategy Review Meetings is especially decisive as it sets the stage for subsequent meetings. Yet, its development is often clumsy or awkward. However, with commitment, time and planning, over the course of a year, the team will be able to substantially improve the meetings and the processes they entail.
Preparing for the First Meeting
The first Balanced Scorecard reports will hardly ever include data for every performance indicator. To counter this lack of information, it is important for executives to summarize each indicator’s results at least in a qualitative way to describe the actions being taken to obtain the missing information and the plans that have been developed to abridge execution gaps.
Additionally, to ensure a productive meeting, sufficient time and effort should be put into its preparation. Another key factor for its success is programming it within the two following months to when the indicators were chosen.
Roles and Responsibilities
Each team members’ roles and responsibilities regarding the development of reports and reunions should also be allocated beforehand. These are:
a) Performance Advocates: They are responsible for coordinating the long-term efforts taken to ensure that the organization reaches its objectives. They collaborate with Measure Advocates to develop report content and are responsible for leading objective-focused discussions during meetings. Between meetings, their functions include following up on performance issues, promoting strategic activities, cooperating to solve setbacks and preparing themselves for the next meeting.
b) Measure Advocates: They help design the indicators, as well as collect and analyze their performance along with the Performance Advocates. They are generally chosen for their expertise in the field.
c) Editor: He or she is responsible for consolidating report content from Performance and Measure Advocates to ensure the general Balanced Scorecard report’s timely release. During the meeting, he or she is also responsible for taking note of the key point discussed and any agreements reached.
d) Facilitator: He or she is responsible for moderating and managing the meetings. The facilitator is responsible for guiding the executive team in the interpretation of the information presented in the quarterly Balanced Scorecard report. As such, he or she must be familiar with the business and the strategy, as well as with the dynamics of the executive team.
Before the first meeting, the Facilitator and the Editor must work closely with the Performance and Measure Advocates to prepare properly. The report must be distributed to the executive team beforehand to allow Performance Advocates to arrive at the meeting prepared to present their results and generate enriching discussions.
The dates for the meetings must be set well in advance; we recommend setting the dates up to a year beforehand to ensure that every member has the availability for it. Most organizations set aside either a half-day or an entire day for the meeting.
The First Meeting
The Facilitator must start the meeting by going over the meeting’s fundamental objectives: to evaluate the strategic objective’s performance, to identify performance gaps and to agree on corrective measures to close them. Furthermore, he or she should convey the meeting’s expectations and the process it will follow. It is also important to encourage the discussion of negative news.
The Facilitator must guide the team so that it focuses on performance issues. Therefore, he or she has the authority to deter discussions that have veered off-topic, as well as those that focused on operative or process-related issues.
Color-coding each objective’s performance is advisable to facilitate their analysis.
- Green: The objective or indicator’s performance is satisfactory and this trend is expected to continue.
- Yellow: The objective or indicator’s current performance falls short of the desired thresholds but measures are being taken to remedy it.
- Red: The current performance is unsatisfactory and requires initiatives and resources to improve.
The team must focus mostly on red and yellow instances. The plans of action agreed upon during the meeting must be registered to allow for their monitoring and enable accountability.
The First Year
During the first year substantial improvements to the meeting’s efficiency are achieved.
The first reunions are many times disjointed and accountability for negative performance is evaded. Likewise, the Facilitator may not know the best way to intervene in the discussions to keep them focused on strategic issues.
However, as time progresses, team members become more comfortable with being questioned about their areas’ performance. Additionally, data becomes more complete and reliable.
By end of the first year, the Strategy Review Meeting process is viewed as an integral part of strategic management. In many organizations these meetings even replace all other executive team meetings.
During the first year targets are adjusted to “stretch” the organization. Performance indicators are added or eliminated depending on their usefulness or as new opportunities emerge.
Likewise, the team gets better at recognizing what matters are more relevant from a strategic point of view and meetings become more effective.
Even though it is not recommendable for the team to modify the strategy map during the first year, the strategy itself will evolve as the most critical issues of the operation are addressed during the meetings. Most organizations choose to refresh their strategy during an annual strategy session where they review the most important issues, challenges and performance gaps discussed throughout the year and incorporate the agreed action plans into the budgetary process. This way, they make sure to adapt the organization’s targets to its ever-changing environment.
Therefore, the Balanced Scorecard reporting process and the Strategy Review Meetings truly become the focal point of corporative management, helping maintain the organization competitive, regardless of its surroundings.
Are you implementing your own Strategy Review Process?
First of all, we congratulate you on taking the next step in ensuring your strategy gets executed properly. We’re sure that this process will help your organization gain a considerable competitive advantage over your industry peers.
At TRISSA we can guide you through this process to make it as smooth and to-the-point as possible. We offer a comprehensive set of consulting services, executive education and software solutions to help your organization adopt the best practices in strategy management and achieve better results.
Author: Trissa Strategy Consulting
Source: Gold, Robert S. and Jay R. Weiser. "The Balanced Scorecard Strategy Review Meeting: What to Expect the First Year." Balanced Scorecard Report (2005): 1-5. Online journal.