The BOS Group is an international supplier to the automotive industry. The company develops, produces, markets and sells systems for vehicle interiors. BOS employees 4000 people at 18 locations worldwide with a focus on Asian markets, the United States and Europe. Marcel Lehmann, a student on the Master of Business and Engineering degree program offered by the Steinbeis Competence Center at Steinbeis University Berlin, created and introduced the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) as a steering instrument for top management at 12 subsidiaries on three continents. Its aim: to provide management with an exact overview of this quickly expanding company.
Lehmann embarked on his project by examining the company mission statement and the resulting corporate strategy – in combination with measurable (and thus comparable) key indicators. Each key indicator was then evaluated according to specific targets before being translated into operative measures. Over and above financial indicators, i.e. hard facts, there were a number of soft factors captured by the Balanced Scorecard. Often one of the biggest challenges is how to make soft factors measurable. But the problems encountered and overcome while preparing the Balanced Scorecard became insightful when it came to subsequent use of the BSC.
In times of globalization, in which information advantage can be a fundamental survival strategy, few companies are likely to stop at conventional control instruments. The nature of international competition makes it essential for growing companies to identify quick-fire, efficient ways to process information. There are a few key issues to be addressed: where does the company stand now, what is the company’s future goal and what is the most efficient way to achieve this goal. By implication, this means a company also has to measure how far it has gone in implementing its strategy. Measuring company success is the challenge faced in bringing about future success.
There are also country-by-country idiosyncrasies to be overcome when comparing performance. To compare a company’s international subsidiaries, you need to keep things relative, if possible by simplifying factors such as the general legal environment and tax laws. Highly different product groups and production methods also make this comparison difficult, not only between countries but also within individual countries from factory to factory. Another critical success factor is how advanced the data is being produced by the enterprise resource planning system when defining original key indicators.
Typically, strategic goals are looked at from a variety of angles: finances, customers, processes and staff. The BOS Group expanded the model to take suppliers into account. There are a variety of Balanced Scorecards formats and BOS also decided to adapt the overall concept to suit the company. Their model pulls together three individual models.
During the project, they reached each milestone as planned and actually exceeded them. In parallel to the implementation process a bi-lingual implementation manual was compiled containing checklists, schedules, comprehensive definitions, calculations and methods. It provides factories with support before, during and after implementation as a reference manual and source of information. Apart from helping the company set up standard procedures, the BOS Group now has a common understanding of the strategy, corporate values, goals and priorities. On top of this, the project led to new performance indicators such as precise productivity levels, and other soft and purely monetary indicators – and even early warning indicators.
The Balanced Scorecard is now a core senior management tool and reporting instrument. It provides decision-making support, is a source of information and is a major step towards mapping the group-wide strategy using key numbers. A key finding of Marcel Lehmann’s project was the realization that people underestimate how difficult it is to identify the right key indicators and how this is influenced by intercultural factors.
Steinbeis Competence Center School of Management and Technology (Berlin/Filderstadt)