Over the last two decades a number of frameworks that have as the main purpose at assisting organizations to develop and implement performance management systems, were developed and presented. However, none of them was so discussed, analyzed, or criticized as the Balanced Scorecard. One of the most vehement Balanced Scorecard criticisms was addressed by the Danish researcher Hanne Norreklit. Norreklit (2003) built a case against the balanced scorecard by showing that it is not based on sound or logical arguments.
The focus of the paper and the starting point of the author’s criticism is the question of whether the great internationally popularity and recognition of the Balanced Scorecard, as one of the best management contributions and frameworks, is due to its substance as an innovative and practical theory, or simply to its promotional rhetoric. Norreklit uses for the analysis Kaplan and Norton’s first seminal work, the book - The Balanced Scorecard, in which the concept is described in detail. To build her case a variety of rhetorical concepts are used, as noted in the sections below.
Norreklit (2003) citing Aristotle (1996) acknowledges that an author may attempt to gain the acceptance of an audience by ethos, logos and pathos, where:
- ethos is concerned with the recipient’s trust in the sender, its credibility
- logos refers to the logic and recipient's intellect associated with the text
- pathos refers to the emotional appeal of the text
The recipient's acceptance in all communication relies to some extent on all three concepts. According with Norreklit (2003), while scientific work (e.g., an academic dissertation) depends mainly on logos (logic), a work open to interpretation such as poetry depends mainly on pathos (intuition and emotion). See the figure below for a graphic view of this continuum.
Norreklit acknowledges that the text that introduces and describes the Balanced Scorecard concept makes extensive use of analogies, metaphors and metonymy, creating variation that appeals to both emotions (pathos) and reason (logos). However, the researcher considers that a number of analogies and metaphors employed are not good images of the phenomena to which they refer to, leading to a lack of clarity. Analogies or metaphors may be used in scholarly arguments, but these rhetorical devices have several limitations and can also be used to hide bad arguments. They can be used to appeal to the recipient's emotions (pathos) with little or no valid underlying logic (logos). Therefore, when used in scientific work, such devices must be extended with logic rather than association. According with Norreklit the author’s argumentation lacks these features.
The story is engaging and persuasive, but according to Norreklit (2003), the dramatic approach used in the BSC relies too much on emotional appeal (pathos) and the reputation/authority of Kaplan and Harvard (ethos), rather than on sound logical development (logos).
Norreklit also considers that the Balanced Scorecard methodology does not reveal anything about the transition between practice and theory. Thus, the work that introduce BSC, though it relates to academia, it violates the requirements of sound argumentation, and gives the impression of something resembling more with propaganda.
Regarding the propagandistic impression of the work, Norreklit bases it conclusion on the fact that the Balanced Scorecard text doesn’t present any discussion or critical attitude towards author’s own theories and their limitation. Thus, Norreklit acknowledges that it is not unreasonable to claim that the Balanced Scorecard work belongs to the genre of management guru text. The authors draw on the prestige and not on the expertise of academia.
As a conclusion Norreklit states that the BSC text relies more on pathos rather than logos. Thus the Balanced Scorecard original work resembles a more poetic line of then a direct, unequivocal academic argumentation.
- Norreklit, H. (2003), The balanced scorecard: What is the score? A rhetorical analysis of the balanced scorecard, Accounting, Organizations and Society, Vol. 28, No. 6, pp. 591-619.