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Le " Balanced scorecard " comme outil normé de communication stratégique : une étude des problèmes organisationnels révélés par l'analyse textuelle

Abstract : THE BALANCED SCORECARD AS A NORMALIZED STRATEGY COMMUNICATION TOOL : A RESEARCH STUDY SHOWING HOW TEXTUAL ANALYSIS CAN REVEAL ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES

The balanced scorecard is quite recent as a management control tool. Its main idea is to add some new dimensions to previous systems mainly focussed on financial issues. Kaplan and Norton (1992) have suggested to add to the financial perspective, a customer perspective (the different value propositions), an internal processes one (how value is created), and finally a organizational learning one (role of intangible assets). However, this performance measure approach has been gradually transformed in a communication tool, in order to explain the pursued strategy to all members of the organization. Finally, after a huge number of consulting interventions, Kaplan and Norton have been able to propose a standardized structure, with the main and most usual areas of concerns of managers. Hence, they have delivered a norm of management, with its own structure, set of hypothesis and causal relationships, organizational objectives, and in particular the shareholder value creation. Two questions can then be raised, adopting such an approach. Firtsly, one can wonder if such a tool is structured as agents think and behave. Secondly, using the balanced scorecard, another question remain whether strategic alignement promises can really be reached. These questions are explored using the firm-as-text theory (Cooren and Taylor, 1997). This framework allows to conceptualize organizations as not only producing texts but also being structured by these produced texts. Our case study shows, how using a textual analysis software and lexical approach, one can reveal some misconceptions in the balanced scorecard and some other organizational issues.

Overview of the textual analysis method
ALCESTE in French is an acronym used for a textual analysis software which means Analysis of Coocurrent Lexemes in a Set of Textual Fragments. First applied and developed by a statistician and sociologist, Max Reinert (1993), this software has become increasingly popular in social sciences. Very briefly, the algorithm used is a cluster analysis statistical technique able to identify cooccurrent terms within short texts segments. The clustering tree also indicate how each cluster is close from one another. It also possible to tag texts, and hence test correlations between such tags and each cluster.

Field Research and Case Study
Our field of research is a public administration, in charge of a middle size French town. The epismogic position is an action-research from an interpretative perspective. We have helped this organization in designing and adapting its own balanced scorecard. This teamwork has been achieved with five top managers, in a context where the mayor of the town and the top director of administration were recently arrived. This approach is also known in literature as "top-down" with a system of cascading scorecards. This means that the middle management composed of twenty directors have only been solicited in a second step. Under this information system architecture, the balanced scorecards of departments are gathered in order to elaborate the central and main scorecard, useful for the top director of administration and the mayor.As can be seen, four specific have been selected. The first one is defined as "resources". The second one is about "organizational learning". The third on is classical, and centered on "internal processes". Finally, the fourth one is specific to a public administration, and retains the external, political perspective. The official strategy pursued by themayor is to transform the town in a better generous, ecological and sharing space.

Research design and empirical results
Each director has received an electronic document in order to feel what was his or her view and interpretation of each strategic objective. We have gathered all answers in one common file, where each answer was related to ist origin (department), and place in the scorecard (perspective, orientation, objective).These results can be interpreted in several ways. First of all, it must be mentioned that not all directors have answered and participated to this experiment. Their behavior can be explained by their reluctance to the balanced scorecard project, and their resistance to change. Another result is the number of fragments of texts clustered. The obtained rate is relatively low, not exceeding 53%. This means that directors have in general quite different ways of thinking and interpreting similar strategic objectives. For some specific objectives, there is also almost no answer, showing that directors are unable to put words and actions behind. It is also interesting to understand, through cluster 5, that the sharing objective (*obj_shar) is in fact associated to the internal processes perspective (*per_proc). Another significant example is about the buildings and equipments optimization objective. It has been a priori classified as a process. It can be clearly shown that this objective is textually and cognitively connected to the resources perspective (cluster 4).

The last result we would like to stress is the significant absence of the words "sustainable" or "sustainability". It is all the more astonishing that these concepts are at the core of the oragnizational strategy, as defined by the mayor. In fact directors do not want their local power and influence to be questioned by the Agenda 21 new imperatives. They also try to resist, and conceptualize their missions and objectives outside this transversal and collective strategic project.We have also added to our initial corpus a strategic text published by the political team and the town mayor. Using the same ALCESTE methodlogy, it can be clearly demonstrated that we have within the same organization two very different strategic projects. On one side, there is the political project, related to the town perspective in the balanced scorecard. On the other side, there is the administrative way of thinking with objectives related to other perspectives. This means that the administration still has to integrate in its strategic way of thinking the projects and the political objectives.


As it has been developed in this brief abstract, a textual analysis can provide a great support in understanding the gap between the defined structure of the balanced scorecard and people organisational thinking. The absence of the word "sustainability" is a proof of a major strategic misalignement. The gap between the political discourse and the administration language can also be highlighted. In that sense, espoused theories, as shown in figure 1, are not those that are in use, as shown in our results (Argyris and Schön, 2002). Asking top executives to have a textual production can also reveal their internal strategies, will to cooperate, and lack of understanding of certain kinds of objectives. The ALCESTE statistical ratio of text's units related to clusters is also a way of measuring the group cohesion and strategic alignement.
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Stéphane Trebucq. Le " Balanced scorecard " comme outil normé de communication stratégique : une étude des problèmes organisationnels révélés par l'analyse textuelle. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. pp.183. ⟨hal-00841339⟩

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