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(originally published by Booz & Company)


How Causes Can Animate Companies

Putting It into Operation
It is challenging to implement “conceptual” change in a way that is rigorous and measurable. Everyone encounters companies with terrific slogans that employees don’t actually implement, because they aren’t sold on the ideas. But becoming a company with an authentic cause is a more concrete process than one might imagine.

First, remember that you are not trying to change employees’ perspectives; you are not encouraging them to see their old work in a new light. Rather, you are trying to change the way the entire organization approaches its work to align the company’s value proposition with its cause. This requires leading by example. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”

Second, cause, and the values and competencies aligned with it, should be assessed and measured like any other organizational change program. At Regence, we developed six core initiatives related to our cause and implemented a balanced scorecard approach to set targets against those initiatives and measure our success. Although the exact nature of the initiatives is proprietary, they are measured using the four classic balanced scorecard frame of reference — customer, internal process, and learning and growth — but with a twist. One of the challenges of the balanced scorecard is that although it can give a good sense of the cause and effect of actions at various levels, it can be difficult to translate these findings into objectives. By setting measurable objectives that explicitly track the initiatives' progress, we were able to achieve greater functionality and reach. We also brought training and development into the process and appointed two motivated leaders to head up the transformation. Our board of directors and our 6,600 employees understand and work within the scorecard, at both the corporate level and the departmental level, with clearly defined objectives.

As a result, we’ve seen a definite increase in employee engagement; senior management met with each of the employees during the initial phase of this process, in 2004, and have continued to measure engagement through surveys and one-on-one interviews. We learned that to engage others in health care, we had to first engage ourselves and become examples.

Ultimately, the power of alignment in cause, value, and competencies lies within individual employees and their ability to express themselves with common purpose in their work. People will lend you their capabilities if you pay them; they might lend you their imagination if you put them in charge of a cause.

Author Profiles:

Mohan Nair ([email protected]) is executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the Regence Group, which consists of four affiliated health-care plans in the northwestern United States. He is the author of two books on performance measurement, including Essentials of Balanced Scorecard (Wiley & Sons, 2004).
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  1. Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (HarperBusiness, 1994): Collins and Porras examine the importance of having an organizational ideology and aligning actions with that ideology. Click here.
  2. Bill George, “The Company’s Mission Is the Message,” s+b, Winter 2003: George, the author of Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value and the former chairman and CEO of the U.S. medical technology firm Medtronic Inc., posits that mission-driven companies accrue more shareholder value than do financially-driven firms. Click here.
  3. “Google, Innovation, and the Web,” FC Now (Fast Company Weblog), March 2004: This blog entry contains an excerpt from a speech by Marissa Mayer, director of consumer Web products at Google, outlining how various practices and initiatives within the company support its stated mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Click here.
  4. Mohan Nair, Essentials of Balanced Scorecard (Wiley & Sons, 2004): This book from this article’s author provides an overview of balanced scorecard strategies by defining performance objectives, measures, and targets from four perspectives: financial, customer, internal process, and learning and growth. Click here.
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