Audit Scotland - Building a One-Page Strategy Map to Drive Performance Accountability and Improvement

Audit Scotland - Building a One-Page Strategy Map to Drive Performance Accountability and Improvement

Audit Scotland is an independent public body responsible for auditing Scotland's public organisations.Audit Scotland was created in 2000 to provide the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission with the services that they need to check that public money is spent properly, efficiently and effectively. With about 300 full-time equivalent employees the organization arranges the audits of about 220 public bodies, such as the Scottish Government, 32 councils and 44 joint boards and committees (including police and fire, health boards and rescue services).

Audit Scotland wanted to create a simple and focused strategy and create a state-of-the-art performance management framework. After the organisation amassed a wealth of data from their stakeholders regarding what they see as priorities, Audit Scotland faced the not uncommon challenge of distilling this down into a strategy that was focused and manageable.

To achieve this, Audit Scotland hired me to help them craft a strategy map to put the organisation’s goals on a single page and develop Key Performance Questions (KPQs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) - to provide relevant and meaningful insights into how the organisation is progressing toward those strategic goals.

Distilling The Corporate Vision

To support the strategy distillation, I worked with Audit Scotland on creating a corporate strategy map, which you can see below.

At the top of the strategy map sits the corporate vision, which was created during the process: "On behalf of the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission, we will provide assurance to the people of Scotland that their money is spent appropriately and we will help public sector organizations in Scotland to improve and perform better."

This vision speaks directly to the efficiency (value for money) and effectiveness (performance improvement) strands of Audit Scotland’s responsibilities. As with any useful vision, this became the anchor of the subsequent internal discussions that focused on crafting the strategy map.

Creating the Corporate Strategy Map

After I reviewed the external stakeholder consultation I conducted individual interviews with each member of the executive management team and the assistant directors as well as the organization’s chair and another board member. I then analysed all the data and facilitated a series of workshops in which we debated the findings and created a draft strategy map.

In-house consultation

The initial draft strategy map was then taken to the staff of Audit Scotland for consultation. Wide-ranging staff engagement was seen as crucial for securing buy-in to the strategy map concept. "Through focus groups and discussions with small groups of staff we gained feedback on what they thought of the map, what they thought were its strengths and weaknesses and where they saw areas for improvement," recalls McGiffen.

McGiffen adds: "Within the group discussions it became evident that colleagues could see how it all fits together, what Audit Scotland is trying to achieve, how it will be achieved and what they must do in their own jobs to make it happen." This, she adds, was largely due to the map’s simplicity and accessibility.

Developing KPQ

Once the map had gone through a number of iterations the focus shifted to performance indicators in order to help monitor how well Audit Scotland is performing. In order to identify the most relevant and meaningful indicators we first developed Key Performance Questions, or KPQs for short. KPQs serve as a filter, enabling the organisation to identify the strategic performance questions that the organisations requires answers to, before developing any KPIs.

KPQs introduce the discipline of making sure there are clearly articulated information requirements so that Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can then be selected to help answer these questions. "People in most organisations, and we are no exception, have quite rightly developed strong disciplines in KPIs as a way to monitor and improve performance," says McGiffen.

"KPQs do not replace KPIs but are an enhancement. KPQs help us to capture a much richer set of information than can be gained solely from performance data."

Today, KPQs are used to discuss performance at many organisational levels within Audit Scotland and Audit Scotland has been refining and developing its collection and reporting of data to address the KPQs.

Selecting KPIs

Once the KPQs were defined it was time to identify indicators. Examples of KPI include:
• To what extent has our work led to improvement
• To what extent are we identifying and actively promoting good practice (or better ways of doing things) to help public bodies improve

Note that the KPQs focus on both "lagging‟ (that is how we have performed) and "leading‟ (how we will improve performance) dimensions, enabling a fuller overview of past, present and likely future performance. KPIs for these KPQs include:
• Client feedback
• Website statistics
• % of recommendations accepted by public bodies
• Number of recommendations implemented
• Number of presentation at meetings, events and conferences which include best practice guidance
• Performance audit reports with good practice recommendations

For a published list of objectives with sample KPIs see the figure below.

Performance Management Festival

One key initiative during the implementation was a ‘Performance Management Festival’which I facilitated. It was an internal staff event held over two days to bring focus and attention from across the business to the performance metrics and the reports. The aim was to bring together KPI owners, performance analysts, and directors and board members to agree performance reporting formats. Using an off-site location with music, guest speakers and performances this innovative eventwas designed to make the topic of measurement and performance reporting interesting, engaging and fun.

During the two-day event staff re-designed performance reports using the latest techniques of information communication and data visualization. Within these reports, headlines and narratives (essentially a performance story) were used to capture the key messages, using ideas and graphic/textual formatting from magazines and newspapers. These new performance reports were then ‘trialled’ and improved during a staged mock performance review meeting with the directors.

Performance Reporting

With the strategy map now the core tool for driving performance improvement, Audit Scotland ensures that it is closely managed on a day-to-day basis, and this is the responsibility of McGiffen and a small team from corporate reporting that is skilled in data analysis. The team reports performance to the management team and board on a quarterly basis. The management team is particularly looking to see how objectives and activities are improving and like to focus on areas that are proving challenging and where corrective action might be required.

Ideas and insights you can steal

Audit Scotland has successfully mapped their strategy into a simple one-page strategy map that now articulatesthe top strategic goals to everyone inside and outside their organisation. Particularly successful was the level of staff and stakeholder engagement during the strategy development. Something else other can learn from Audit Scotland is how they made performance measurement and performance reporting a fun topic, again through engagement during the performance management festival. All of this has give Audit Scotland a simple and clear plan, great indicators, and excellent performance monitoring processes.



Written by

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.

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