It is noteworthy that Robert S. Kaplan wrote the Foreword to this book. He and David P. Cohen are the co-authors of three other books on this important subject: The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action, The Balanced Scorecard: Measures That Drive Performance (HBR OnPoint Enhanced Edition), and most recently The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment. In the Preface, Kaplan graciously welcomes "this new book to the Balanced Scorecard literature" and goes on to suggest that "Niven's contribution will enable many more organizations to achieve successful Balanced Scorecard implementations."
Given the potential benefits of such a program, one which provides a measurement system that balances the historical accuracy and integrity of financial numbers with today's drivers of economic success, I strongly recommend that Kaplan and Norton's books also be consulted. The total cost seems a small price to pay for the substantial value that will be derived.
Here is how Niven organizes his material :
Part One: Introduction to Performance Measurement and the Balanced Scorecard
Its purpose is to "familiarize [the reader] with the field of performance measurement and provide a solid grounding of Scorecard background and principles."
Part Two: Step-by-Step Development of the Balanced Scorecard
Next, Niven provides his reader with "a detailed review and description of the elements necessary to construct this new and powerful management tool."
Part Three: Embedding the Balanced Scorecard in the Organization's Management System
Then Niven shifts his (and his reader's) attention to implementing -- literally step-by-step -- a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective system based on the aforementioned principles (Part One) and elements (Part Two). This marks the "Scorecard's transition from a measurement system to a strategic management tool." Niven explains in Chapter 8 how to align every employee's actions with the organization's overall goals.
Part Four: Sustaining Balanced Scorecard Success
Niven carefully examines the importance of frequent reports on results (to date) which both broaden and (more importantly) deepen support of the Scorecard within the organization. To repeat, the Scorecard is an effective management tool as well as a source of measurement information.
Part Five: Balanced Scorecard in the Public and Not-for-Profit Sectors and Concluding Thoughts on Scorecard Success
The "many advantages conferred by a the Balanced Scorecard" were recognized and appreciated almost immediately by public-sector and not-for-profit organizations. This "rising trend" serves as Niven's focal point in Chapter 13 and then, in the final chapter, he shares some concluding thoughts.
These specifics are provided so that those who read this review will have a clearer understanding of the scope of what Niven offers. No brief commentary such as this, however, can adequately suggest the depth of his probing analysis. He wrote the book for decision-makers in organizations which are now deciding whether or not to commit to a Balanced Scorecard program. Also for decision-makers in other organizations within which such a program is now underway. Niven concludes his Preface with Euripides' especially relevant comments on the importance of balance, first expressed almost 2,500 years ago: "The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, you are really a wise man." I wholly agree with Niven that "the same applies to organizations."