How are Italy and Performance Management Similar?

February 24, 2009
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This past week I have been in Milan and Rome presenting seminars and meeting with Italian customers of my employer, SAS. However during the weekend I was tourist. How can anyone not admire the incredible structural achievements of Italian sculptors, artists and architects? As examples in Rome there is the Pantheon, the Coliseum, the Spanish steps and all the wonderful piazzas.

And of course, there are all of the churches including St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican. The structure of these churches, including their tall columns and ornate decorations, is breathtaking. Inside each church I visited, as I gazed at their high ceilings, I asked myself this question: “How much of this beauty built by people centuries before us was the result of art, craft, or science?” And similarly for today’s organizations implementing the various component methodologies of the performance management framework (e.g., dashboards, scorecards, strategy maps, costing models, and customer intelligence reporting), how much is art, craft or science?

When I reflect back on my early years implementing activity-based costing and balanced scorecard reporting systems, the experience was initially an art form for m


This past week I have been in Milan and Rome presenting seminars and meeting with Italian customers of my employer, SAS. However during the weekend I was tourist. How can anyone not admire the incredible structural achievements of Italian sculptors, artists and architects? As examples in Rome there is the Pantheon, the Coliseum, the Spanish steps and all the wonderful piazzas.

And of course, there are all of the churches including St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican. The structure of these churches, including their tall columns and ornate decorations, is breathtaking. Inside each church I visited, as I gazed at their high ceilings, I asked myself this question: “How much of this beauty built by people centuries before us was the result of art, craft, or science?” And similarly for today’s organizations implementing the various component methodologies of the performance management framework (e.g., dashboards, scorecards, strategy maps, costing models, and customer intelligence reporting), how much is art, craft or science?

When I reflect back on my early years implementing activity-based costing and balanced scorecard reporting systems, the experience was initially an art form for me. In the beginning I made design mistakes as surely a young Michelangelo accidentally broke a few of his early sculptures. With time I viewed my work evolving from an art form to a craft. For example, I learned to initially construct rapid prototype models that with subsequent iterative re-modeling my system could later scale-up into full-size, permanent, repeatable and reliable production system. The Italian sculptors, artists and architects did too. They began with sketches and small-scale models.
Today performance management advances beyond the great Italians like Bernini. The art and craft of developing and maintaining performance management designs is evolving into a science. The major catalyst is embedding business analytics into the construction and refinement of the performance management techniques. For example, customer relationship methods are increasingly applying segmentation and predictive analytics into their designs. Strategy map are applying statistical correlation methods to validate the selection of the correct leading key performance indicators (KPIs) and to improve the selection of possibly better measures.
Implementing and operating performance management methodologies may never be fully scientific, and will retain some craft to it. But compared to some floundering organizations that have failed to even begin the journey of systematically improving themselves, being a skilled craftsperson is much better than having no skill at all