Through this case I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the City of Charlotte as a cutting-edge government institution. Charlotte’s Vision and Mission truly contain its core ideology (values and purposes) and envisioned future, as described by Collins & Porras.
In addition, this case exemplifies what these authors mean when explaining that the core ideology is the organization’s timeless character and it should never change (despite the external and internal contexts), whereas practices and strategies should change continually. Hence, in the 90’s the city manager, Pam Syfert, had to downsize the organization—due to a decrease in tax revenues— and change the organizational structure. 27 departments were consolidated into 9 key “business” units, 4 support “business” units, and 4 administrative functions. In addition, she decided to define 5 strategic focus areas. However, the Management by Objectives (MBO) program used since the 70’s no longer served to these new practices, so the city needed a new system to enhance planning and not control. The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) was the system they needed. Despite all these changes the city remained true to its vision of being a model of excellence that puts the citizens first.
Moreover, this story is consistent with Porter’s definition of Strategy, which is the “creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities, and creating fit among those activities." The uniqueness and valuable position of this city is that it is managed with strategic business planning, hence like a business. This is clearly stated in its main value: “Public Service is Our Business.” Moreover, by implementing the BSC the city found an efficient way to create fit among its activities.
According to Kaplan and Norton, BSC puts vision and strategy, not control, at the center. That was exactly what Charlotte was looking for. While giving managers information from 4 different perspectives, it minimizes information overload by limiting the numbers of measures used, as opposed to the 70’s MBO. This measures are in fact goals to achieve. Hence, it allows managers and staff to focus only in a few most critical goals. In addition, it enforces equilibria by allowing to see if an improvement in one unit has been achieved at the expense of other.