To follow up and motivate people by using scorecard is a common way of work in politics and public institutions as well as in companies, but perceptions of what scorecard is, why we use it, and how it should be carried out can often differ. If we read the theory, we see that there are many good intentions and descriptions of different concepts, but often the use in practice is slightly different. In Management By Objectives (MBO), for example, we see emphasized that the goals should be developed in collaboration between management and those to be measured. Nevertheless, we very often experience in practice that the management or a central staff sits and designs goals that others should be followed up against.

Scorecard has been introduced in different ways in public institutions and political regulations, yet it appears that this is mostly a matter of words and formulations, as the real form of governance is a bureaucratic set of rules. Although the official form of management involves setting goals and then experimenting or choosing measures to implement, we see that it is the opposite that happens. Visions and long-term goals are not set up in cooperation with the people according to their wishes and priorities, but measures are implemented based on politicians and professionals’ opinion and their political and professional preferences.


Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Traditionally, our starting point is what we call extrinsic motivation, or incentives and punishment. One can claim that we are motivated to do something because we must, we are afraid of punishment, or we can gain a personal advantage by doing it.

What appears to be the most important thing, however, is the intrinsic motivation that make us wish to make an effort or achieve a goal. There is a lot of theorizing around this, but the simple approach is that it is the internal motivation that is decisive for the effort, and then extrinsic motivation can contribute to the internal motivation being somewhat reinforced or weakened.


When scorecard is used for Push

When we, for example, introduce a target indicator in school, health care or other government agencies, we achieve a heavy bureaucracy that employs many key staff members to formulate targets, and which also requires follow-up reports from all regions and institutions on an ongoing basis throughout the year.

Some in the health service claim that they spend more time filling out forms and writing reports than they spend treating patients. Such follow-up and control objectives are nothing but traditional old-fashioned command and control.

This form of scorecard is a consequence of Push thinking. The top management of companies, or central authorities, politicians and staffs have an idea that they know what it takes for institutions, departments, companies, or entire societies to become efficient. They believe that their knowledge and opinions can be pushed down the hierarchy, that everyone then will become very motivated and become radically more efficient in their tasks and achieve radically better results.


Motivation effects of target-indicators, “MAP”

It is an illusion to believe that we can set goals for others and control them to good results.

If we are to benefit genuinely from goal follow-up, we must own our own goals and follow up our own results. For example, if we want to be good at sports or music, we set goals, we train daily to get better, and we register our own development as the results come. We may also find ourselves motivated by goals that others have set, but then we have to make them our own and believe that it is our own goals and visions. If not, the goals become worthless.

When we have a vision that we believe in, and have set ourselves a goal, then we will be pulled in the same direction all the time. We get a Pull effect that pulls us forward in our daily tasks.

Target figures to motivate effort are often referred to as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), target indicators or other. If we divide this form of target indicators into three categories: “My own indicator”,” Another’s indicator” or “Political indicator” (“MAP”), we can imagine the following scenario:


My own target indicator I have chosen myself, based on challenges in the direction of a vision. The goal motivates me to make an effort, because I believe in it, and experience it as important for my own development in the direction I want. I achieve a Pull effect towards my own goal.


Another's goal indicator is a goal that others have set for me, believing that they can control me to good results. This is an illusion. The target gives a Push effect and has following effects:

  1. It may lead to good results. The goal coincides with my own goal and thereby gives me an intrinsic motivation. This implies that I would have achieved the same results without the external goal-indicator that someone has defined for me. For example, if I am good at school and have ambitions for a higher education, an extrinsic goal indicator for my grade achievement will not motivate me to make any extra effort. In fact, according to researchers, it may reduce my motivation. (Dan Pink, Dan Ariely and others)
  2. They cause me to give up. I find that the goal indicator becomes demotivating, and I see no reason to continue. If someone put the bar at two feet for me, I won't bother trying to jump. If, on the other hand, I decide the height myself, then I will at least try. The situation with students dropping out of school can be a good example of this.
  3. I start cheating. Far too many get up and running by cheating. We see that many students use this opportunity, and we even see that many schools and public institutions misreport to get higher on ranking lists and attract good applicants such as employees, students or other.


Political target indicators are target indicators that are set up based on a political objective. Public measures or reforms are implemented, and we will document that these have a good effect. Such a metric often becomes manipulative rather than motivating. You adapt a goal indicator to support what you want, and you get no real motivational effect from them. er målindikatorer som settes opp ut fra en politisk målsetting.  Man gjennomfører offentlige tiltak og vil dokumentere at disse har en god effekt. Et slikt måltall blir ofte manipulerende i stedet for motiverende. Man tilpasser en målindikator for å underbygge det man ønsker, og man får ingen reell motivasjonseffekt av dem.

I once had a group from Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (“NAV”). on a course and they commented on this:

"We previously had a target indicator that showed how many people went through the NAV system and got a permanent job afterwards," they said. “These measurements showed such poor results that we switched the target indicator to show how many people were completely out of work. This gave us the opportunity to establish cooperation with a number of, more or less, serious actors who could get free or subsidized labor, which meant that a number of people were employed based on subsidies from NAV and the target indicator showed a good development, without any connection with the policy measures that had been implemented."


Remove unnecessary measurement

A target and reporting analysis should have been carried out in all public organizations, making sure to remove or simplify all unnecessary reporting and central target control. The guiding principle should be that all processes should end up in a delivery to a customer, either directly or by being a central support function to a value-creating process. Here one should keep the propensity of professionals to define their own professional preferences and politicians' need for control at arm's length.

It is not a given that a professional desire creates value to the extent that someone outside the academic community benefits from it, and it can quickly contribute to a pure Push system where tasks are imposed on the organization without the organization itself, or their customers, have any advantages from it.


Everyone is working towards their own goals.

If we are to have a real motivation and result effect of a goal indicator, we must base this on the Pull principle. The organization must be drawn toward a vision to reach a goal state that they themselves have determined, or they must carry out standard processes to satisfy a customer and follow up the result by continuous monitoring of their own development.

Setting goals for others and trying to control them to good results is a Push system, where the supplier, be it a manager, a politician, a coach, or a teacher determines the client's needs. In a Pull system, it is the customer, the student, the employee, or the people who define the needs.

It is not a given that the supplier has better expertise in the customer's needs than the customer himself, even if they have a lot of knowledge about a topic.

A pull principle in performance management implies an overall common strategy where the customer's needs must be satisfied in the short and long term. It is important to use goals set by those that work in the processes and are responsible for daily deliveries and improvements.