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Strategic Decision Making, Balanced Scorecard Profitability: Issues and Challenges

Alao, Esther*

Monisola school of post graduate studies, babcock university. Ilishan, Ogun state

*Corresponding Author:
Alao, Esther
Monisola school of post graduate studies
babcock university. Ilishan, Ogun state

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In order to affect plans for the organization, the area of focus has always been finance in which costs of production, selling and distribution, wages and maintenance have been emphasised. According to Norton `& Kaplan (2012), the finance focus is not enough. Even though the financial health of a business organization is essential, there are other interrelated factors which are necessary for success. Strategic plans aimed at achieving organization goals should consider customer satisfaction, product quality, sales mix along with other drivers directed at attaining organization goals. In line with this, a tool to cater for better measures of the firms’ capabilities that will create long term value by identifying relevant key drivers such as customers, financial and operational plans, innovation etc. is the balanced scorecard.

The effect of the wider focus is to give room to measures that indicate the organization strategies, implementation and execution that enhance goals and yield improvement in the status quo. In order to assess the financial perspective, variables considered are the cash flow, sales growth, market share and return on equity. Equally customer perspective is measured by considering time taken to meet customer needs, quality of goods or service, contribution of the company’s product or service to value creation and customer satisfaction. For innovation, consideration is given to improving and creating value while the operational perspective considers business processes that impact customer satisfaction and competence that maintains market leadership. The objective of this paper is to establish the extent to which firms have embraced the interventionist role of the balanced scorecard in the business sector in Nigeria. This is carried out by examining the contribution of strategic decision making and the use of the balanced scorecard in enhancing organization’s profitability as related issues and challenges are discussed.

Statement of the Problem

Often times the measurement of firms’ performance has been based on the use and application of finance measures. This has set aside other areas that contribute to the ultimate goal of the business. Market has become highly competitive and with traditional financial measures such as return on income (ROI), net profit, sales growth, market share presenting only historic information, there is need to identify a system that can better the lot of the firm’s business. Also it was established that the use of ROI, cash flow, sales growth etc to determine performance could not bring immediate action that is necessary to improve the attainment of organization goals hence the need to examine if the use of the balanced scorecard as a measure of performance has actually enhanced profitability in organizations.

Literature Review

The concept balanced scorecard (BSC) is regarded as a possible effective performance measurement system (Der –Jang & Hsu-Feng, 2011) and it is used for assisting organizations in actualizing its strategy. Strategies are described as plans specifically designed to attain organization goals. According to Bernard (2012), the balanced scorecard is a strategic performance management framework that allows organizations to manage and measure the delivery of their strategy. The BSC is further described by Kaplan & Norton (2001) as an important tool of strategy management which links strategic planning and budget. Budget enables a basis of comparison through which performance is assessed. The balanced scorecard as a tool deals with having strategic plans to achieve set goals. This agrees with the position of Kaplan & Norton, Bernard (2012) and Der-Jang & Hsu-Feng (2011) thus emphasising the importance of having strategic plans to enhance the effective use of the balanced scorecard in appraising performance and possible attainment of progressive profit growth.

Empirical studies indicate that companies using the balanced scorecard could effectively enhance accomplishment of strategic goals and performance; this was affirmed by Der-Jang & Hsu-Feng (2011). Kaplan & Norton (1994) in their research explained the development process of the BSC in order to ensure attainment of organization goal using banks and insurance industries. The BSC is a tool that links strategies to organization goals. According to Ali-Rahimi (2013), balanced scorecard provides a mechanism to align the activities and processes of different groups with long term goals of the organization. He combined the EFQM and BSC models to improve the performance of the organization. Porter (1996) however views the attainment of organisation goals as being achievable through reengineering of organization strategies. Bernard in his studies found out that only one-third of large companies use the BSC but about one-fifth have adopted the latest version of the BSC which makes use of Strategy Maps. This according to Bernard

API (2013), argues however that the balanced scorecard is synonym with almost any other appraisal performance measurement or management system hence he says it is easy for most organizations to claim the use of balanced scorecard since they use the performance appraisal system.

Balanced scorecard refers to a system by which an organization assesses key performance measures from perspectives of performance in the financial, customer, internal business processes, learning and growth. These are means by which each member of staff performing key functions are expected to measure their performances on the job especially their contribution to organization goals of increasing organization’s wealth and profitability.

The application of the balanced scorecard involves strategising in the use of available resources such as human manpower, finances and other resources to attain set goals. A very pertinent link to maximising organization wealth is profitability. Profit making is essential because it is the measure of performance on production of goods or services and it is the means by which the future of the firm is assured.

To attain this, strategic plans are made by the organization such that the roles of employees are clearly stated in line with expected performance goals. Strategy according to Horngreen (2009) is making a specification of how the organization can match its capabilities with available opportunities in the marketplace to achieve its objectives. Practically, strategies will involve keeping costs at its minimum to maximise wealth. According to Porter (1996), formulating strategy involves having a thorough understanding of the industry. Organizations do this by focusing on competitors, potential entrants into the market, equivalent products, bargaining power of customers and bargaining power of input suppliers. These are the factors that determine the profit potential of the firm. With organization strategy, it requires a reengineering process which involves quality management techniques for which staff members need to be trained, institute effective process-control methods, empower staff members to make decisions that will improve quality. Thus Sandberg (2001) affirms that reengineering the business will consider cost reduction and quality improvement. Reengineering means redesigning business processes so as to improve current performance. This is achieved through a process of cost reduction, improving quality and satisfying customer needs. To successfully reengineer the system Horngreen, (2006) suggest the need to involve all functional areas of the firm or organization such as reengineering product quality by reducing defect rates and improving product yield. The reengineering process could equally involve redesigning the firm’s delivery process such as reducing the time lag for product or service delivery. Srikant (2006) opined that this will increase the gain that arises from integrating efforts and eliminating unnecessary steps and waiting time.

Reengineering is necessary as a result of problems identified in the job delivery process. The need to satisfy customer order normally passes through manufacturing, sales, billing and accounting, despatch and shipping. To pass through this process there are usually delays which slow down the process of delivery, therefore the system require being redesigned to conform to the strategies guiding the various aspects of the work process. The balanced scorecard is a comprehensive framework that if used rightly can translate a company’s vision and strategy into a coherent and linked set of performance measures which include outcome measures and performance drivers of those outcomes. Hence, the balanced scorecard is used as a measurement and management system to implement the firm’s vision. In the opinion of Kaplan and Norton (2012), all major forces in the company should be integrated into the definition of measurable goals and their implementation through the use of the balanced scorecard. The essence of using a balanced scorecard is to enhance performance in order to improve profitability. This however considers the entire business process with a view to inculcating necessary change. To make change possible involves re-engineering the whole operational functions in the organization which include the financial process – evaluation of the strategies that are put in place in order to attain the organization goal. The re-engineering process will consider cost reduction in line with costs of outsmarting competitors, recording appreciable growth in sales. It also considers how much of operating income results from reducing costs and increasing quantities of the product that are sold. Kaplan & Norton (2006) equally add that customer perspective is a crucial part of re-engineering the business process. It identifies targeted customers, segmenting the market as well as measuring the firm’s success in achieving the objective of setting it up.

Furthermore, in order to meet customer needs re-engineering strategies also include introducing new innovations in the products and service delivery, the operational processes that will impact customer needs.

According to Horngreen (2009), the role of the management accountant is essential in designing progress reports on strategy implementation using the scorecard. Kaplan & Norton (2006) described the balanced scorecard as translating an organization’s mission and strategy into a set of performance measures to evaluate short and long run performances. Nonfinancial indicators are product quality and customer satisfaction while financial indicators of performance are profitability and growth. Profitability is the ultimate goal of every business without which the business may not survive the long run. Hofstand (2012) posits that projecting future profitability is very important to businesses. Profitability is taken to be economic or normal profit by an economist whereas the accountant regards profitability as the difference between purchase price and the sales to a potential buyer. It is measured by considering the difference between expenses and income from the product or service. Expenses are the cost of resources consumed through the process of product output or service delivery. Davies (2012), opined that profitability could be measured using net- worth or benefit cost ratio. Profitability is used to measure the success of a business and the income statement is a useful means of determining it. However, both Newman (2007) and Hofstand (2012) agree that cost reduction could also be a means of improving profitability. Cost reduction could be done through the payment of mileage to employees instead of giving official car this practice happens to have been introduced by the Federal government in public offices. Also, the use of virtual communication to minimise office space rent, using just-in time system of inventory to avoid storage costs, provision of insurance allowances for employees instead of group health insurance, engaging more net-working to cut advertising expenses, use of a payment plan arrangement in order to minimise collection costs and enhancing sales increase are all means of increasing profitability. In using the balanced scorecard, performance variables considered are revenue, growth, customer satisfaction, rating, order delivery time, percentage of frontline workers that are empowered to manage processes and employee performance rating. According to Horngreen (2009), in setting the target performance, the firm need to aim at attaining better performance level than previously recorded. Thus the commitment of each staff is essential, while leaders are expected to lead by example. The use of team spirit involves discussing and agreeing on issues of organization objective and means of achieving it. This will enhance the commitment of all concerned in the product and service delivery. The final scorecard will be communicated to all employees while the top management will use this to evaluate employee performance. Benefits of reengineering are most significant when focusing on the entire business process. This can be seen in the following:--

Financial perspective: It evaluates the profitability of the strategy and considers cost reduction relative to competitors’ costs and sales growth (a strategic initiative) while the financial perspective focuses on how much of operating income results from reducing costs and selling more units of the product.

Customer perspective: It identifies targeted market segments and measures the company’s success in the segment. It equally considers the number of new customers and customer satisfaction rating.

Internal business perspective: Through the use of financial statements, prevailing prices, industrial experts and financial analysis, it focuses on internal operations that create value for customers. Using strategic initiative, products, services and processes are created to meet customer needs. Based on this, quality is an additional strategy at securing the attention of customers, improving service delivery time by way of reduction in the time taken for goods or services to reach the customer as scheduled. Moreover, the production process is reengineered to meet customer demands for immediate and on the spot delivery or delivery by post. To enhance achievement of internal processes that create value for the customers and shareholders, it is necessary to identify organization capabilities that can enhance a successful reengineering process. According to Horngreen (2009), all four perspectives are linked to the firm’s strategy and should positively affect the financial perspective overtime. When the balance scorecard is implemented employees are able to learn that the aspects of their performance that are measured are very important. Employees are motivated as they report increase in measures for which they are directly responsible. Etim & Agara (2011), however suggest a fifth perspective to improving both staff and corporate performance. This fifth part according to Etim &Agara (2011) is environment and culture owing to the effect which both have on organizations performance.

The following are the challenges identified in implementing a balanced scorecard: linkages between non financial and financial measures must be obtained and this usually creates a necessity for change. There may not be improvement on all the measures all the time. There is usually a need to use both objective and subjective measures. The implementation of the balanced scorecard require IT resource, extant literatures affirm that more than half the businesses in US embraced the balanced score card. API (2012) quoting the Gartner group suggest that over 50% of large US firms had adopted the BSC while 44% of organizations use the BSC. It was stated further that in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, 26% of firms use the BSC. In Nigeria however the BSC has not been given wide recognition. Equally, choosing a balanced scorecard solution may be risky as there are over two dozen solution providers. Determining the best offer require experience and knowledge of the tool.

According to (Behery 2005, Etim & Agara 2011), to successfully implement a balanced scorecard require commitment and good leadership from top management. The score card helps team building as functional departments work together to attain set goals and it is very helpful for profit, non-profit and government organizations. To achieve this, the teams would meet to discuss and agree on the scorecard objectives, establish a linkage across the objectives, the final score card will be communicated to all employees and the top management will use this to evaluate employee performance. For every strategy, different scorecards are prepared hence the need to align the scorecards. For example, company ‘A’ may have products for which cost leadership is critical and some other products for which product differentiation is required. The company then develops separate scorecards to implement the different product strategies. Thus the scorecard will be linked in a cause and effect way to the strategy.

Challenges of Using the Balanced Scorecard

To Employee: The balanced scorecard as a measure of performance challenges the employee to marry his or her goal in line with organization objective and to execute his roles such that attainment of objectives is enhanced. Failure in this wise may determine the job, promotion and otherwise of the employee. This however may serve more as a motivation to perform for the employee since he would rather prefer remaining employed than lose his job.

To Management: Taking advantage of strategic decision making and measuring performance using the balanced score card requires a good top management. The task of setting plans strategically by the organization is a crucial one that requires the management team harmonising their plans since it cuts across basic departments whose functions are involved in attaining the goals of the organization. Equally, the use of the balanced score card is enhanced by the strategic plans thus management cannot afford to treat business issues with levity. The application of the balanced scorecard requires adequate communication procedures and means to enhance interraction that affects the operational perspectives of the organization. To overcome some of these challenges of implementing the balanced scorecard framework, management has to put in place an enabling environment (Kaplan &Norton 2006), Hsu-feng (2011) such as equipments, motor vehicle, policies, line of communication, job conditions etc. for all concerned in the execution of the goals of the activities of the organization. Each of these factors actually impact the employee function and by implication affect the organization overall achievement. As suggested by the motivation theorists such as Herzberg, employees need to be encouraged to perform, therefore management should do its best in this wise to motivate its workforce in order to encourage maximum performance.

The Role of Management Accountants in Implementing the Scorecard

Due to intensified competition, firms increasingly want management accountants (Horngreen 2009) to be involved in the design and implementation strategy. As an effective member of the strategy team, management accountants must understand the economic environment of their industry, competitors and customers. Spechbacher et al (2003) equally stated that management accountants need to have a broad view of the strategies and the implementation of the scorecard. They need to have a solid understanding of the external business environment, internal business issues such as human resources operations and distribution. These will help the management accountant to work with managers in order to prepare a scorecard that represents the realities of the business.

Features of a good Scorecard: Since the balanced scorecard has not been fully embraced by the business and industrial sector in Nigeria, the following characteristics of a good scorecard are highlighted in order to encourage its use.

• It tells the story of the company’s strategy, highlighting the steps of the cause and effect relationships, and the links that describe the various perspectives of the strategy.

• It communicates the strategy to all members of the organization by translating the strategy into a coherent and linked set of understandable and measurable operational targets.

• It guides the managers and employees to take actions and decisions that will enhance achievement of the company’s strategy.

• It serves as a motivator for managers to take actions that will lead to improvement in financial performance instead of managers focusing too much on innovation and quality as an end. When financial and non-financial performance measures are properly linked to strategy implementation is made easy.

• According Kaplan & Norton (2001), the balanced scorecard serve as a bridge between strategic planning and budgeting; a link that allows for reviewing performance with plans.

• Bernard (2012) affirms that the BSC enables the management to monitor performance and manage its strategy. The inherent benefits of using a scorecard are promotion of causal thinking, spurring managers to rely on empirical evidence rather than faith alone for testing the validity and strength of various connections. This enables a company to focus on key drivers that are important for implementing strategy.

• A good scorecard, is characterised by its ability to project the firm’s strategy, strategy communication to all members by translating the strategy into a coherent and linked set of understandable and measurable operational target,

• Motivates managers to take actions that result in improvement in financial performance and limits the number of measures to critical ones.

• Balanced scorecard highlights less than optimal trade-off that managers may make when they fail to consider both operational and financial measures together. Thus, it is expedient for organizations in Nigeria to improve their performance rating by adopting the balanced scorecard.

Theoretical and Conceptual Framework

Several approaches were used in highlighting the concept of balanced scorecard. Bernard (2012), defined the concept as a strategic performance management framework that allows organizations to measure the delivery of their strategy. Kaplan and Norton (2001), describe the balanced scorecard as a bridge between strategic planning and budgeting. They identified four generic perspectives that cover the main strategic focus area of the company; these are financial, customer, internal process, learning and growth. Horngreen et al (2006) view the balanced scorecard as a comprehensive framework that if used rightly can translate a company’s vision and strategy into a coherent and linked set of performance measures which include outcome measures and performance drivers of those outcomes. This agrees with the position of Kaplan & Norton (2003) in which the BSC is seen as four - part perspective which covers financial, customer, internal and learning and growth through which the strategic plans are established to lead to attainment of organization goal.

The Stakeholder theory (1984) by Freeman posited that individuals and groups that have an interest in the well being of the company and or are affected by the goals, operations or activities of the organization or the behaviour of its members have a ‘stake’ in what the organization does. Thus, stakeholders in relation to this paper are employees and management who are internal to the operations of the organization, while customers, suppliers, competitors are external to the operations of the organization. He observed that there are obvious close links between all concerned on which strategies have to be put in place in order to attain the organization goal through which the performance of employees are measured. Employees with key functions actually have a role to play in enhancing organization growth and profitability which is the primary objective of using the balanced scorecard to enhance attainment of organization goal. The duty of the production manager is linked to that of the sales and customer service managers but each person’s timely execution of scheduled duty will determine the success of the next manager. If production is delayed satisfying customer order too will be affected thus the marketing manager is needlessly put on edge. Good as the theory may be a primary challenge of the theory is that of goal congruency as it affects all functional staff. This could however be overcome when employees realise that the survival of the organization has an implication on their remaining gainfully employed. \more so, the aspect of assessment of staff performance in line with set goals is expected to jeer them to perform.


The study is descriptive and combines both primary and secondary methods of data collection. Twenty five organizations were purposively sampled through the use of questionnaire administered in Lagos and Ogun states. For secondary sources, the study relied on relevant text books, journals and annual report of companies. Data from questionnaire are presented on a table showing the analysis of the data obtained. The study approach is used to bring out the current issues pertaining to the application of strategic decision making and balanced scorecard to achieve the set goals of the organization.

Findings and Discussion

Findings indicate that many people are not aware of the use of balanced scorecard hence they strongly disagree on any relationship with profitability or any organization goal, 6 respondents from their little understanding do not see how using the balanced scorecard could increase profitability thus they prefer to be neutral. This is due to their conviction that with proper plans and serious management system profitability could still be achieved. 5 organizations are aware of balanced scorecard but not practising yet.

Descriptive Statistics

N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
POSITION 23 1 4 1.96 .638
EFFECT OF SCORE CARD ON FINANCIAL GROWTH 25 1.00 4.00 2.3600 1.03602
USE OF SCORE CARD ENHANCE SALES GROWTH 25 1.00 4.00 2.3200 1.02956
CREATES MOTIVATION 25 1.00 3.00 1.9200 .95394
USER EDUCES CUSTOMER COMPLAINT 25 1.00 4.00 2.0400 .84063
ENCOURAGES EMPLOYEE TRAINING 25 1.00 3.00 2.1600 .55377
Valid N (listwise) 21

This also agrees with the work of API,2013 and Etim & Agara (2011) that there are organizations that know about the scorecard but do not implement it. This has an implication for the growth and continuity of each of the organizations in Nigeria (a developing country), especially as the importance of applying balanced scorecard is to enhance attainment of organization goal. Quite well, about half the major companies in US, Europe and Asia are identified to have embraced the balanced scorecard (Etim & Agara 2011, Kaplan 2010, Woodley 2006) while it is also noted that strategic decision making enhances applicability of the balanced scorecard. This is because overall organization’s plans are made strategically with the involvement of the key managers. Also each of these managers set their goals in line with the organization goal such that their performance is determined by the plan and the zeal that is put into executing the plan. This affirms the position of API (2013) that many organizations have imbibed the principles of the BSC without recognising it. For example, Guinness’s unaudited half‐year results (see chart below) ended December 2010, showed that the growth recorded was due to aggressive sales, marketing, promotions and advertisement campaigns of its broad line of products (Ademola & Adedeji 2012). This suggests that It is also possible that the performance of Coca-cola bottling company, Wema Bank limited have been positively impacted through improving on turnover and production methods such that delivery time is faster as well as innovations are being introduced to operational systems and marketing strategy. These are aspects already identified for strategically improving performance as well as organization profitability.

Performance of Organizations using the balanced scorecard

Wema Bank Ltd. CocaCola Guinness 7UP
2007 2006 2009 2008 2010 2009 2009 2008
20.5m 11.7% $619,994 $615,206 47.6m 42.6m 34.864bn 30.572bn
Profit b/4 tax 7.61m 4.24m $57,124 $19,877 19.98m 18.911m -- ----
after tax
3.39m $40,543 $11,483 13.7m 13.54m 1.529bn --

According to Kaplan & Norton (2001), Horngreen & Foster (2003) and Quinn (2010) there has to be congruency in the performance of the key functions such as the sales, customer service, that have been using the balanced scorecard in conjunction with strategic decision making have actually recorded improved performance in the key areas which had also translated to enhanced profitability and organization growth as revealed in the responses. Also, it is noted that the use of BSC had a positive impact on service delivery and strategic competitiveness as reflected in the sales growth rate recorded from time to time. Also, employees are motivated to improve their performance in order to reach the set targets thus reducing incessant demand common with employees under the trade union influence. As a result of strategic decision making, this requires direct involvement of staff the need to improve product/service delivery becomes paramount. These agree with the position of Bernard (2012), Kaplan & Norton (2006) and Freeman’s Stakeholder theory (1984) which emphasised that individuals and groups have an interest in the well being of the company and or are affected by the goals, operations or activities of the organization. Since the successful implementation of the BSC is crucial to organization performance, it becomes important then that a good management team be put in place, this fact was also emphasised by Behery (2005) & Etim & Agara (2011). Furthermore, training is required before embarking on the use of the balanced scorecard (API 2013) in order to have an excellent impact on the future of the organization as a whole.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Considering the performance of reputable organizations such as banks, it is evident that evolving strategies in line with organization objectives is crucial to attaining set goals. Equally, the measurement of employee performance is made possible with the use of the balanced scorecard. The benefit of using the balanced score card appraisal system is beneficial to employees as it encourages improved performance without external challenge. It equally benefits the organization as employee performance translates to higher quality of work output, prompt customer servicing, enhanced image making and retaining the patronage and interest of customers. Without doubt, all these will enhance the returns to the business as a result of individual staff effort arising from the use of the balanced scorecard.

Given the above, it is worthwhile that every twenty first century management strategize in line with the organization’s objective. Setting strategies without appropriate performance appraisal cannot yield the right result that would also influence attainment of organization goals. Hence a proper focus on strategic decision making can only yield expected result when appraisal is given its proper setting and perspective. The common practice of setting targets for staff has not always yielded the expected result which leads to downsizing, offering contract appointments due to persistent unrealised expectations however there is hope for a better experience in the combined utilization of strategically arriving at decisions and balanced scorecard. In practice, employees are given the corporate goal for the period in view. The employee sets his/her own goal in line with the main organization goal, based on which each department through the key staff will set up strategies towards attainment of the set goal, which is the means of assessment for the staff performance.


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