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In business performance management, a third-generation balanced scorecard is a version of the traditional balanced scorecard, a structured report, supported by proven design methods and automated tools, that can be used by managers to keep track of the execution of activities by the staff within their control, and to monitor the consequences arising from these actions. The third-generation version was developed in the late 1990s to address design problems inherent to earlier generations. It is distinguished by the components making up the balanced scorecard and the design process used to develop these components.

(see: Kaplan/Norton, HBR 1992; Balanced Scorecard - Measures that Drive Performance)

Components of a third-generation balanced scorecard:

  • A third-generation balanced scorecard has four main components: A destination statement. This is a one or two page description of the organisation at a defined point in the future, typically three to five years away, assuming the current strategy has been successfully implemented. The descriptions of the successful future are segmented into perspectives for example financial & stakeholder expectations, customer & external relationships, processes & activities, organisation & culture
  • A strategic linkage model. This is a version of the traditional ‘’strategy map’’ that typically contains 12-24 strategic objectives segmented into two perspectives, activities and outcomes, analogous to the logical framework. Linkages indicate hypothesised causal relations between strategic objectives.
  • A set of definitions for each of the strategic objectives.
  • A set of definitions for each of the measures selected to monitor each of the strategic objectives, including targets.

Design process for a third-generation balanced scorecard

The design process for third-generation balanced scorecard requires the active involvement of the entire management team who will eventually use the balanced scorecard. The managers themselves, not external experts, make all decisions about the balanced scorecard content. The process begins with the development of a ‘destination statement’ to build management consensus on longer term strategic goals; this document is then used to build a ‘strategic linkage model’, describing the shorter term management priorities, both the strategic activities to complete and the strategic outcomes to achieve. Once the ‘strategic objectives’ are decided these are assigned ‘owners’ from within the management team, who subsequently define the objective itself, plus the measures and targets associated with the objective. The main apparent improvements with this third generation of balanced scorecard relate to the greater relevance of the strategic objectives, because objectives are selected in the context of the organisation’s longer-term strategic goals, using a destination statement, and the greater “ownership” of the objectives by managers, because objectives are selected and defined by the responsible managers themselves.