Designing and Implementing
Balanced Scorecards for the Architectural Firm
Cliff S. Moser, AIA, MSQA, LEED
E-mail address: email@example.com
This paper outlines how an architectural firm can implement a Balanced Scorecard (BSC) to improve the quality of its
service and deliverables, attract and retain talented and productive staff, satisfy and retain clients, manage consultants, and
achieve greater financial and market success.
WHAT IS A BALANCED SCORECARD?
The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) began as a Harvard Business School research project on performance measurement by
Robert Eccles, who published The Performance Measurement Manifesto in 1991. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
adding to this body of knowledge published their seminal paper The Balanced Scorecard – Measures that Drive Performance
in 1992 as a challenge to existing financial-based business measurement systems. Traditional performance metrics including
fees, sales and profits are lagging indicators which couldn’t measure the intangible assets of design portfolio, customers,
brand, or staff talent.
The BSC recognized these limitations and developed a model for performance based on measures through four separate
but linked business perspectives which achieve performance balance:
Employee Learning and Growth (People)
Internal Processes (Processes)
People identify and manage the intangible assets of people, including management, architects, drafters, and
administration staff. With this perspective the firm can develop metrics for measuring people performance, such as employee
attraction and retention, employee training and professional development. This perspective links to the firm’s internal
Processes -are activities the firm completes in order to exist, including design, document production, and marketing. The
measure of internal processes is a leading indicator of improvements in customer and financial perspectives.
Customers -defines the firm’s value goals for its customers. Using measures of internal customer success such as
complete inter-team document packages, as well as external customer measures such as satisfaction, retention, and referrals,
will help performance in this perspective.
Financial -is made up of the traditional lagging indicators of sales, fees and booked work, as well as new leading
indicators of market directions and growth help balance out the measurements of the organization’s success.
With these perspectives, the BSC recognizes the workings of the firm as a system and leverages Dr. Deming’s theory of
Profound Knowledge (System, Variation, Knowledge and Psychology)(Deming, 1992). This identification helps create and
align organizational processes and performance.
WHAT IS AN ARCHITECTURE FIRM?
An architecture firm is a professional service, project based organization which provides design service for individual
clients. Its products and services are unique and one of a kind. According to Tennant Insurance Risk Services for Architects
and Engineers (Tennant, 2004), there are approximately 130,000 licensed architects in the U.S, of which 86 percent practice
in or own one of the 15,000 firms. These firms bill their clients an estimated $26 billion annually. Of that work, 58 percent is
new construction, with the remaining 42 percent rehabilitation or renovation projects. Other Tennant reported statistics
-Sole practitioners make up about one third of all firms, and are responsible for 4 percent of the billings. Small firms
with two to four employees comprise another third and bill 6 percent. Firms with five to nine employees account for 13
percent of the billings, firms with 10-19 employees account for 16 percent, 20-49 employees account for 23 percent, and
firms with 50-plus employees account for 38 percent of all industry billings.
-California leads the nation in number of firms (3,100) and annual dollar volume of billings ($2.9 billion) double that of
second-place New York in both categories.
-Nearly three quarters of all firms have annual billings of less than $500,000, and collectively their billings account for
20 percent of the industry. In comparison, less than 2 percent of the firms-those with annual billings of $10 million or more-
account for 25 percent of the billings nationally.
-More than 40 percent of architecture firms have been in business at least 20 years, 35 percent were established in the
1980s, and nearly 10 percent were established since 1990. In terms of billings by client type, local, state, and federal
governments collectively are responsible for the largest share of architects’ billings-nearly 30 percent. Businesses generate a
quarter of architects’ work, with private institutions generating the same amount.
-Distribution of billings by building type shows 40 percent from institutional buildings, 30 percent from commercial
buildings, and 15 percent from residential work. Education facilities make up the single largest market sector, followed by
office buildings and health-care facilities.
WHY SHOULD AN ARCHITECTURAL FIRM USE A BALANCED SCORECARD?
Highlighted in Kaplan and Norton’s research was an inability of traditional measures to identify intangible assets.
Financial metrics describe only a small part of firm performance. A BSC helps determine what is important for existence and
sustainability by addressing multiple layers of the firm through its perspectives of People, Processes, Customers, as well as
Finance. Traditional performance measurement systems are prescriptive and specify the particular actions they want
employees to take and then measure to see if employees have taken those actions. Traditional systems try to control behavior.
The BSC provides direction for the kind of organization many companies are trying to become. The BSC puts strategy and
vision, not control, at the center of the system. It establishes goals but assumes that people will adopt whatever behaviors and
take whatever actions necessary to achieve those goals. The measures are designed to pull people toward the overall mission
and vision. Management may know what the end result should be, but they cannot tell employees exactly how to achieve that
result, if only because the conditions in which employees operate are constantly changing (Kaplan & Norton, 1992).
Changing conditions to the profession include rising professional liability, standard of care and negligence claims. Siegel
outlines people and process metrics of design team “capability issues” (where someone on the project team commits or
exacerbates an error) result in approximately 26 percent of claim losses (Siegel, 2000). Included in this category are problems
resulting from unqualified or insufficient staff. Process and customer metrics of communication issues were determined to be
a factor in 22 percent in claim losses. These include inadequate documentation and client communications; a lack of
procedures to identify and address conflicts; staff unsure about their responsibilities; poor documentation regarding changes
in scope, schedule and budget; lack of or inadequate progress reports; and poor client education regarding project
requirements. A process metric of better attention to quality control would have enabled prevention of another 15 percent of
the losses. Additionally 80 percent of claims filed against design firms have nothing to do with professional negligence and
nothing to do with their technical skill of their staff. These claims are the result of other factors such as client service, and
failure to meet owners’ expectations as well as financial issues (Siegel, 2000).
This paper will present three types of Balanced Scorecards for the architectural firm:
PROJECT BASED BALANCED SCORECARD
As a project-based organization (PBO), the easiest type of BSC to implement is a Project-Based BSC. Firms can modify
and align the traditional project measures of deliverables, budgets, and schedules with the perspectives of a project-based
MISSION AND VISION STATEMENTS
Mission (or Direction) Statement
To establish a foundation for the BSC, the team should establish project mission and vision statements. The mission
should identify the project’s Core Purpose and Direction, which sets it apart from other firms. The mission should be
something the firm’s stakeholders should easily recognize and can be proud of. Mission and vision statements are sometimes
considered to be organizational-level, not project-level activities (C. Nelson, personal communication, March 12, 2005)
however firms typically differentiate goals from project to project. In some cases a project goal may be to win a design
award, another project may be outlined as relationship building, while another for cash flow. The terms and activities are not
as important as the team recognition of strategy and direction for the project. Giving it a name ensures that the activity and
acknowledgment occurs, and that metrics and goals can be created to measure the mission’s success.
The Vision should embody the project’s “I have a Dream” goals. The Dream delineates the project’s long term and most
challenging goals. There may be only a 50/50 chance of realizing the Dream, but the stakeholders should believe that they
can. The Dream’s goals should be demanding enough so the stakeholders feel inspired and challenged.
Vision statements include:
Target – quantitative/qualitative goals.
Common Enemy - overtaking another organization or project.
Role Model - to become like another firm/project in a different industry or market.
Internal Transformation – identification of goals to realize stakeholder transformation. This is important for difficult or
The successful identification of mission/vision will help identify and align the goals of the project. Once the team has
outlined its mission and vision, it should identify the strategy of the project, creating metrics which align:
People - To achieve mission/vision goals, how should the team learn and improve?
Processes - To satisfy customers, which processes need to excel?
Customers - To achieve mission/vision how should we look to our customers? All customers, both internal
(consultants and departmental teams) and external (clients, agencies, and contractors).
Financial – If we succeed, how will we look to our stakeholders?
The team identifies the project metrics, goals, and reporting period. Each perspective should have several measures. The
measures should be “SMART” (Carnegie, 1996):
Specific (S) - Identifiable with a relevant variable and represented accurately
Measurable (M) - Measurable, with mechanisms necessary to generate the corresponding quantifiable information
Action-oriented (A) - In relation to critical processes of the organization
Relevant (R) - Differentiates between trivial many, vital few
Timely (T) - Lagging / leading indicator, for timely decision-making
Table 1 below categorizes the project Perspectives, Objectives, Lag and Lead Measures, and Target for each Project
Goal. This one is delineates the Processes Perspective.
Project Goal Perspective Objective Lag Measure Lead Measure Target
1 RFI Turnaround
3 Error Free
4 Timely Field
4. Team Problem
In a CA-phase project-based BSC, stakeholders include the design team, contractor, reviewing agencies, and owner. The
BSC is to help the team meet its goals and stay focused on improvement and new value for the project.
People-use employee training and education, retention, and advancement as lagging indicators. Leading indicators are
staff training signups and employee cycling.
Processes-use collected lagging indicators measures of RFI and Submittal Turnaround. Then add Error Free Drawings,
Timely Field Decisions, and Inspection Approval. Leading measures include Anticipated Drawings (from the lagging
indicators of Field Decisions), Scheduled To-Be Constructed, and new metrics like Team Problem Solving. Metrics like
Team Innovation help the team augment traditional biased lagging measures and propose leading indicators such as
innovative ideas or processes.
Customers- include internal customers of suppliers/consultants, and external customers of client, contractor and agency.
The team creates objectives and goals that measure deliverable accuracy and schedule.
Finance- lagging measures include contractor pay application turnaround, change order approval, and labor hour budget
compliance. Change order requests, and proposals are leading measures.
Ranking and weighing the measures.
An example of process measures for the CA portion
of a project (Table 2). Five balanced lagging measures
are used: Submittal Turnaround, RFI Turnaround, Error-
Free Drawings, Timely Field Decisions, and Inspection
Approvals. The identified measures need to be weighted
after collection. This is the critical link back to the
project’s mission/vision and strategy. Without goals and
weighed measures, success will only be anecdotal.
Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP)
The Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) is used to
create a table of paired measures (Terninko, 1997).
The measures are paired against each other. 1s are
placed in each similar paired set (submittal turnaround to
submittal turnaround for example). Next, submittal
turnaround is compared to RFI turnaround. The team
determines that there is no difference in weight, so a 1 is
placed in the box. Error Free Drawings is considered more important than Submittal Turnaround, so a 1 and a slash (1/ ) are
placed in this box. (The /5 is added once the Error Free Drawings row is measured against Submittal Turnaround the row
below). Continuing the paired weighting, the team determines that Error Free Drawings, Timely Field Decisions, and
Inspection Approval are more important than Submittal Review and RFI Turnaround (by 5, 8, and 9 times. The team totals
each of the columns. (Table 3)
Submittal Turnaround 1 1 1/5 1/9 1/9
RFI Turnaround 1 1 1/4 1/8 1/9
Error Free Drawings 5 4 1 2 1
Timely Field Decisions 9 8 2 1 2
Inspection Approval 9 9 2 1 1
The team divides each box number by the column total, which normalizes the table so each column adds to 1 (Table 4).
The table shows that Timely Field Decisions (0.36) is the most important metric, 3 times more important that Submittal
(0.03) and RFI Turnaround (0.04) and half again as important as Error Free Drawings (0.25). Inspection Approval shows
The analysis and presentation of these metrics
enables the team to understand what constitutes success
and improvement. The team lists the following goals for
the metrics listed above for reporting:
Submittal Turnaround - a goal of 90% is set
for all submittals to be turned around within their
contracted time requirement.
RFI Turnaround –a goal of 90% turn-around is
Error Free Drawings - Error Free Drawings is
the most important metric. Every week there is a team
site walk with resultant questions. Timely designer
response is required to keep the project on schedule.
The team sets a 90% goal.
Inspections Approval - This project has third
party oversight. Inspection approvals are required to
keep the project on schedule. The team initiates a 90%
rating for inspection approvals.
Submittal Turnaround –The goal was
90%. The actual submittal turnaround time
was 87%. Congratulations!
RFI Turnaround –Again the goal was a
high 90%. The actual turnaround was 85%.
Error Free Drawings –During the time
period only a single bulletin was issued.
There were no significant coordination
issues. The team exceeded their goal of
90% by 8%.
Timely Field Decisions –The team fell
short for this metric, earning only 65%
because a number of field decisions were
carried over into subsequent weeks.
Inspection Approval –This is also a
disappointment, with the team meeting
only 70% of its goals.
Each reporting score is calculated by
multiplying the goal to the normalized weighted number, and then summing the results. The monthly score is as follows:
Submittals - 3% below goal of 90%. Therefore the team multiplies 0.97*0.03 = 0.0291
RFIs - were 5% below the goal of 90%. The team multiplies 0.95*0.04 = 0.038
Error Free Drawings - were above the goal by 8%. The team multiplies 1.08*0.25 = 0.27
Timely Field Decisions -. 65% creates a 25% gap. The team multiplies 0.75*0.36 = 0.27
Inspection -. This was a bad month, 20% shy of its goal of 90%. 0.8*0.32 = .256.
Submittal Turnaround 1.00 1.00 0.20 0.11 0.11
RFI Turnaround 1.00 1.00 0.25 0.13 0.11
Error Free Drawings 5.00 4.00 1.00 2.00 1.00
Timely Field Decisions 9.00 8.00 2.00 1.00 2.00
Inspection Approval 9.00 9.00 2.00 1.00 1.00
Total 25.00 23.00 5.45 4.24 4.22
Submittal Turnaround 0.04 0.04 0.04 0.03 0.03 0.17 0.03
RFI Turnaround 0.04 0.04 0.05 0.03 0.03 0.18 0.04
Error Free Drawings 0.20 0.17 0.18 0.47 0.24 1.27 0.25
Timely Field Decisions 0.36 0.35 0.37 0.24 0.47 1.78 0.36
Inspection Approval 0.36 0.39 0.37 0.24 0.24 1.59 0.32
Total 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 5.00 1.00
Reporting achievements: 0.029 + 0.038 + 0.27 + 0.27 + 0.27 + 0.256 = 0.836 or 84% to a goal of 90%. The AHP showed
that a 100% win in Inspection, Field Walks, and Error Free Drawings deliver results immediately. A BSC keeps the team
from creating arbitrary or impulsive metrics, and allows it to focus and improve on activities which matter.
THE INITIATIVE BASED BALANCED SCORECARD
Once several Project-based BSC’s have been completed, the firm has mechanisms in place for capturing, weighing and
successfully reporting and improving results. It can now implement an initiative-based BSC. Firms create initiatives as part
of growth and development plans. However, initiatives are created with only loose connections to other processes in the firm.
A BSC helps solve that problem, by aligning measures through the four perspectives.
One of the tools an Initiative-Based BSC should enable is to help the architectural firm correct what can be described as
organizational learning disabilities. These occur when an organization fails to learn from experience and fails to disseminate
the organizational lessons-learned. Learning disabilities also happen when project or process knowledge is lost through the
erosion of institutional memory. This happens because of a failure to capture, preserve, and disseminate knowledge.
The architectural firm’s organizational knowledge is explicit or implicit. To understand the difference between these
types of knowledge is to appreciate how architects are trained and how they learn. Design related issues and problem solving
cannot typically be solved by explicitly outlined protocols. While the profession can utilize explicit knowledge including
standards, codebooks and established problem-solving skills, the designer typically still relies on an apprentice-based
pedagogy. The apprentice designer learns by watching and by doing, with knowledge and experience developed by trial and
error. This type of learning and knowledge is implicit. The senior designers filter this learning and training, continuing the
discovery and presentation learned in school. Since this learning and knowledge cannot be written down as rules, protocols
and procedures, and cannot easily be transferred, it exists fleetingly as controlled implicit knowledge.
Therefore when the firm is ready to roll-out an initiative it should carefully delineate the measures required in the four
perspectives to align, measure, and support the initiative. For example, if the firm were to leverage a Lean Design production
initiative (based on the theories of the Toyota Production Systems (TPS)) it should first create mission/vision statements, then
create the perspective metrics and reporting structure to indicate that the organization is aligned behind the initiative.
Mission – to leverage the core capabilities of the firm to create processes that support the goals of the TPS, applied to a
professional service organization and Lean Design Concepts for creating customer value and profit.
Vision – to achieve Toyota-type market success in the design field.
People – to provide staff with training and resources to achieve Mission and Vision/Management and Staff training,
reward categories identified measured for achieving goals. Identify leading/lagging metrics.
Processes – identify internal processes from marketing, design, to document production and construction administration
which can be value-mapped and streamlined to support lean goals. Each department within the organization including
accounting, front desk and back of house administration, specifications, contract writing, and business development should
participate and offer metrics for support of the goals/improvement metrics of value mapped step reductions –proposal
turnaround, cad printing steps, reducing long-distance telephone call access codes. The organization’s internal processes
drive customer satisfaction and should be screened for lean resizing.
Customers – let external customers know of the firm’s initiative offer incentives to become a part of the training, create
similar goals for the internal customers of design, production, and administration teams. Remember the People perspective
goals/metrics and reward customers similarly. The leading metrics of customers aware of program, lagging measures of
customers signed up with a lean project.
Financial – all perspective lead to financial success. Customers are to be won, processes to be changed, and people
trained and rewarded based on the success of the financial perspectives. Capture and report the leading metrics of lean
financed projects in the pipeline to lagging measures of successfully completed projects and marketing.
The purpose of the Initiative-based BSC is to support the mission/vision and strategic goals of the initiative to enable its
success. The initiative team and organization should align and support its success. Metrics should be determined, weighed
and ranked similar to the AHP method outlined under the project-based BSC.
One example of a successful Initiative-based BSC was the firm of Perkins & Will who informally utilized an initiative-
-The process knowledge –these are the predictive principles and intrinsic/extrinsic knowledge base that shapes and
directs the activities of the process. Process failures are embodied in process knowledge. Process knowledge is driven by
training; however most firms refuse to fund training, believing that a firm trains its employees just to see them leave (C.
Nelson, 2005). However, a BSC should help identify how to retain and attract qualified and skilled staff.
-The process human resources –what inherent skills or deficiencies exist with the process team? Is there lots of potential
which is not being tapped, or are the teams struggling for lack of skill, training or leadership? In architecture there are
teammates who will refuse to work in a process-based structure. They will boycott and destroy at worst, maliciously comply
at best, as they have their own ideas about how creative endeavors, let alone, processes work. Spending time and resources
trying to “re-train” these specific resources without their endorsement can undo the best efforts of process realignment.
-The process methods and approaches –this aspect captures the requirements of the list above. How do the process teams
function? What are the rules, the guidelines, and the techniques to use and apply for the best results?
Using these categories the BSC team can determine whether the mission/vision goals can be achieved by facilitating
complete cultural change, or by just providing better tools (Mejabi & Black, 1997). The linked BSC perspective goals
facilitate a systems approach so that a single throwaway idea, like laying-off a number of employees to attain a short-term
goal, cannot gain greater credence into the process.
By utilizing the three types of BSCs the firm can achieve new and sustaining balanced performance success.
The Project-Based BSC enables a firm to utilize existing project metrics as aligned performance goals. The BSC also
identifies methods for identifying collection metrics, and then determine weighing opportunities based on each project’s
mission and vision goals.
The Initiative-Based BSC builds on the success of the project BSC by creating balanced measures around a firm’s many
initiatives. It also enables opportunities for capture and dissemination of firm knowledge and culture.
The Organizational-Based BSC helps the firm realize the transformational abilities of a BSC and create and align
organizational goals and strategies. The firm which utilizes a BSC can adjust more quickly to new opportunities and threats,
and has a better understanding of its tangible and intangible assets. The organizational-based BSC should be built around the
firm’s core capabilities as well as help identify and limit the firm’s core rigidities. This BSC can also be used to identify and
manage potential disruptive technologies facing the firm. One particular focus of this BSC could be to focus on Process
issues, the co-production of services and deliverables with the firm’s customers, which drive the value of the firm.
In conclusion, a firm can decide to use a BSC just to help manage its projects, to measure and align the success of its
initiatives, or to ultimately manage and transform the organization.
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