In the early 2000s, I worked briefly with professor Robert S. Kaplan at Harvard Business School. We wrote a case study together on Worldcom’s accounting fraud, one of the largest, most costly deceptions in the history of commerce. At the time, professor Kaplan was famous: his work on the Balanced Scorecard had changed the way people think about business. I was a lowly researcher, fresh from grad school in philosophy, who knew neither what a Balanced Scorecard was nor that this approach to tracking financial and non-financial information was a big deal. It was a wonderful experience (for me): I got to learn from a great thinker and person.
A few years ago, professor Kaplan agreed to an interview with myself and my MIT colleague Michael Schrage for a research project that we were doing on next-generation key performance indicators (KPIs).1 He was a natural interview candidate. He had helped develop and popularize the concept of KPIs and how to use them; such as to communicate strategic objectives so everyone knows what to do and why; to hold people accountable for their performance; and, to align organizational behaviors toward a common set of visible objectives.
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