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Case study: creating a balanced scorecard strategy map - the case of Saatchi & Saatchi


Published: 14 Jan 2013 Updated: 16 May 2023 Update History

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Since its launch the balanced scorecard has been popular with both profit and not-for-profit organisations and there have been numerous examples of quite stunning successes. This case study looks at the New York headquartered communications agency Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide.

Saatchi & Saatchi used the balanced scorecard system as its strategic management framework for transforming the firm from the brink of bankruptcy in 1995 to being purchased by the Paris France headquartered Publicis Groupe SA in September 2000 for close on $2.5 billion (indeed it is still a scorecard user today). This represented a multiple of about five times the company’s then market worth and is powerful evidence of the agency’s strategy implementation success.

First step: create a strategy map

The first step in any balanced scorecard system implementation is to create a strategy map outlining the strategic objectives of the business before translating them into a balanced set of business metrics. The strategy map used by Saatchi & Saatchi in the late 1990s identifies a number of value drivers of the organisation.

Note how simple the map is with just 12 strategic objectives. When the new management team was put in place in 1997 (led by CEO Kevin Roberts, who still held that post in 2009) Saatchi & Saatchi was highly complex and fragmented organisation that had largely grown by acquisition in the 1980s and early 1990s. The organization contained many different cultures and had little commonality of focus on key customers or what the organization had to do to drive value to those clients. 

In 1997 Roberts and his senior team spent several months visiting the organisation's 45 country-based business units to understand the challenges and to shape a new unified vision for the organization (it now has 150 offices in 86 countries and 6,000 employees). It is notable that Roberts and his team focused on answering two core questions (apart from the obvious one: how to return to financial profitability). 

These questions were essentially around:

  1. What must we do to inspire our clients?
  2. How can we get an organization that is culturally very diversified to act and behave as one global team?

'The hothouse for world-changing creative ideas'

“Be revered as the hothouse for world-changing creative ideas that transform our clients’ businesses, brands and reputations.”

Saatchi & Saatchi

As we can see from the strategy map, Saatchi & Saatchi formulated their vision to:

“Be revered as the hothouse for world-changing creative ideas that transform our clients’ businesses, brands and reputations.”
This vision was seen as powerful because it contained a value proposition to the employee (organisations such as Saatchi & Saatchi compete for some of the most creative people on the planet who might be attracted by the idea of working for a company that is “revered as the hothouse for world-changing creative ideas) as well as to the customer “transform our clients businesses, brands and reputations.”

Saatchi & Saatchi's strategy map

As an aside consider the power and inspirational value of this mission compared to most visions that are found within organisations that typically focus on “being the number 1 supplier to the customer” or something as equally uninspiring.

Note that in implementing this vision, Saatchi & Saatchi settled on just one strategic objective for the client perspective (“create permanently infatuated clients,”). It even went as far as to identify which were the top customers that it had to permanently infatuate worldwide; therefore irrespective of how much business the client did in individual companies, if those clients asked for something, they got priority.)

There is also only one strategic objective for the people and culture perspective: “One team, one dream - create a rewarding, stimulating environment where nothing is impossible.” Core to this objective was the cementing of a common, unified culture across the culturally diverse 45 business units. 

To drive the new vision and to create globally infatuated clients and a common culture the same strategy map was mandated to every business unit, although local targets might differ.

Crucially in deploying the strategy map and delivering to the vision, everything the organisation did had to visibly support the critical few strategic objectives that appeared on the map.

'A purpose', rather than a vision

It is interesting to note that such has been the success of Saatchi & Saatchi’s vision that the core components are still highly visible and still driving the organisation’s decision-making processes.

However it no longer has a vision, rather stating it has “a purpose”. On its website the organisation notes that:

“…we have a purpose with these components: our inspirational dream, to be revered as the hothouse for world changing ideas that create sustainable, profitable growth for our clients. Our Focus: To fill the world with Lovemarks. Our Spirit: One team, one dream, nothing is impossible.”

Saatchi & Saatchi is today one of the most successful creative agencies and one of the most respected (by clients and the industry alike). This is a far cry from its position in the mid 1990s.

Lessons learnt

  • Start any balanced scorecard initiative with the design of a strategy map
  • Create a strategy map that is simple and doesn’t contain too many objectives
  • A strategy map should capture and communicate the strategic intent of a company
  • Ensure a strategy map spells out the strategic vision as well as the key drivers that will enable a company to deliver on its vision.

Further reading

The ICAEW Library & Information Service provides full text access to leading business, finance and management journals. Further reading on strategy maps is available through the article below.

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Changelog Anchor
  • Update History
    15 Jun 2023 (12: 00 AM BST)
    First published
    16 May 2023 (11: 40 AM BST)
    Page updated with Further reading section, adding related articles on strategy maps. These new articles provide fresh insights, case studies and perspectives on this topic. Please note that the original article from 2013 has not undergone any review or updates.

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