Conceptual Foundations of the Balanced Scorecard

By Robert S. Kaplan (Harvard Business School, Accounting and Management Unit)


David Norton and I introduced the Balanced Scorecard in a 1992 Harvard Business Review article (Kaplan & Norton, 1992). The article was based on a multi-company research project to study performance measurement in companies whose intangible assets played a central role in value creation (Nolan Norton Institute, 1991). Norton and I believed that if companies were to improve the management of their intangible assets, they had to integrate the measurement of intangible assets into their management systems. After publication of the 1992 HBR article, several companies quickly adopted the Balanced Scorecard giving us deeper and broader insights into its power and potential. During the next 15 years, as it was adopted by thousands of private, public, and nonprofit enterprises around the world, we extended and broadened the concept into a management tool for describing, communicating and implementing strategy. This paper describes the roots and motivation for the original Balanced Scorecard article as well as the subsequent innovations that connected it to a larger management literature.

It seems an important number of key academics whose ideas helped to shape business and management thought at the end of the 20th century are coming close to retirement age. “Luminaries” such as Russell Ackoff, Peter Drucker and Alfred Chandler were productive very much until they passed away. We celebrated their life through special editions and “life’s work” edited books. But as the above paper suggests, it seem some are happy to comment on their own work (see also a auto-bio from Eugene Fama at This self assessment is interesting as there is really no tradition in mainstream studies in business and management, to devote a space for reflection on the different aspects of evolution of business, business practice, management and management thought.  This is surprising given that for some authoritative sources, more history in the teaching of business and management is the way forward (see

4 thoughts on “Conceptual Foundations of the Balanced Scorecard

  1. Alistair Mutch

    While I agree that this looks really interesting and that more of thi sort of reflection would be valuable, I’m not sure I agree that there is ‘no tradition’ of this sort of reflection. It depends, I suppose, on what you term ‘mainstream’ but Organization Studies ran a series of essays in which scholars such as Weick looked back at the development of their ideas. Closer to the interests (perhaps) of those on this list, the same journal published an interesting article ‘The Development of the Resource-based View: Reflections from Birger Wernerfelt’ (Lockett, O’Shea and Wright), in 2008 (29(8/9) 1125-1142

  2. bbatiz Post author

    Thanks very much for yours, Alistair. I meant that in most economics degrees there is space for history of economic thought and perhaps to a lesser extent, economic history (depends on location). Instead, there are but a handful of such courses in business and management.

  3. Dylan Miyake

    Hi, I wanted to let you (and your readers) know about a resource we’ve just started for questions and answers on the Balanced Scorecard. It’s the Balanced Scorecard Community, a free, no registration required collaboratively edited, Balanced Scorecard question and answer site.


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