Amazon's Unbalanced Scorecard.

This past few weeks has been a whirlwind of bad press for Amazon. While no one can dispute the impressive performance of the company as an innovator and disruptor of the retail model, that performance, it seems, has come at a price to the working conditions of its employees. And while this news seems to be news to Amazon's Chairman, CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos, it begins to sound a bit like the response from our Canadian Prime Minister's office who don't seem to read or recall reading important memos on subjects that can burnish their reputations.

Bezos has founded his company's growth on knowledge in the digital age. Profound knowledge of consumers' tastes and preferences in books and then everyday consumer items.  Amazon was big data before, well, there was a big data. The chances of Bezos not knowing about the work culture he himself created and sustained is a challenge to accept.   Placing emphasis on growth at all costs may have, in fact cost Amazon even greater growth opportunities.  A lesson we learned early on at Destination Canada was to focus on meaningfully engaging your team first alongside a focus on innovation and growth.

In early 2007 Destination Canada adopted the balanced scorecard methodology for strategy based organizations.  The Balanced Scorecard was a tool created by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in the 1990's which focused on the balancing act that leaders must play in achieving their overall organizational targets.  Its premise is that for strategy based organizations and those focused on growth, the corporation cannot neglect one aspect of growth in favour of another.  The balance of the balanced scorecard suggests nurturing a positive work environment, sustaining reasonable employee engagement scores, investing in training and education to create a culture of high engagement would support high levels of future performance.  Strategy focused organizations that adopt a balanced scorecard approach are as much incented on reaching these employee engagement goals as they are to reach sales objectives and release dates. 

When I was the CMO of Destination Canada, our team grappled with this idea. When we began to focus on employee engagement, our corporate scores improved, our marketing campaigns improved and our stakeholder relationships improved.  We began to exceed our balanced scorecard objectives across all categories including performance goals, return on investment and technological advancement.  

In 2014, we were audited by the Conference Board of Canada against 30 Canadian Crown Corporations and came 4th in overall effectiveness against mandate.  In 2013, Destination Canada was inducted into the Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame.   While not taking our eye off delivering against the mandate of the organization, we were better able to serve that mandate through highly engaged employees.   

Chances are Bezos will learn from this challenge as he has from the mountain of challenges he has faced before in bringing Amazon to the top of the disruptive organization hierarchy. Balancing out his scorecard will be a great first step.