Felix Kwok Wah Ng is Standards and Performance Manager, MTR Corporation.
Based in Hong Kong and with about 7,000 employees, the MTR Corporation operates a railway network of 91 kilometers with 53 stations. With a daily patronage of over 2.4 million passengers, the railway system is one of the most intensively utilized in the world.
Besides railway operations, the corporation is also actively involved in the development of key residential and commercial projects above existing stations and along new line extensions.
How long have you been responsible for facilitating the Balanced Scorecard process within MTR Corporation?
I’ve held responsibility for the Balanced Scorecard since 1997, the year we first piloted the scorecard within the engineering department before full rollout.
What are your main duties relating to the Balanced Scorecard?
I’m essentially responsible for overseeing the whole Balanced Scorecard process within MTR Corporation. This includes report compilation and presentation for the monthly operations performance meeting, formulating measures, negotiating targets with departmental heads, and providing advice to the departments on the deployment of measures and other aspects of working with the scorecard.
Your actual job title is Standards and Performance Manager. How much of your time is dedicated to the Balanced Scorecard?
Scorecard work accounts for about 30% of my time.
Apart from the scorecard, what are your other responsibilities as Standards and Performance Manager?
I am also involved in performance benchmarking, which is an important improvement process within MTR, engineering standards management, and statutory compliance management.
Who do you report to?
I report to Kwok Yiu Leung, who is our safety & quality manager. (MTR Corporation was awarded the China National Quality Management Award for Quality Management in 2005).
How, and why, did you first get involved with the Balanced Scorecard?
It was a task assigned to me. Quite simply the scorecard management process was delegated to the safety and quality team as it understood organization-wide processes and systems, and as a part of that team I was given responsibility for the ongoing development of the scorecard.
What do you think are the key skills required by a Balanced Scorecard manager?
A Balanced Scorecard manager should have good analytical skill, be sensitive to numbers, have a good understanding on the company business, possess business acumen and have a good dose of common sense.
How were you trained in facilitating a Balanced Scorecard program?
My understanding of the Balanced Scorecard was acquired through attending training sessions, self-learning exercises and by reading best practice case examples from other companies.
What are the major challenges you face when facilitating the process of building and implementing Balanced Scorecards and how are these overcome?
There are many challenges with the Balanced Scorecard. One is that although I, and other members of the safety and quality team will possess a good understanding of the Balanced Scorecard, this will often not be the case with other managers; as a result time has to be spent in educating managers both on the scorecard concept and how it would better help them in their day-to-day management duties.
Also, there’s a real challenge in identifying measures that are appropriate and balanced. A good measure should be easy to understand, pragmatic and effective in reflecting good effort. We maintain the liveliness of the Balanced Scorecard matrices by examining measures in the annual review where good measures will be retained, ineffective measures will be dropped, and new measures will be suggested for trial. Of course, the measurement matrices reflect the strategic goal and some core measures will be there all the time. In the review process, department and/or unit heads are asked to make suggestion on measurement.
I would also stress, a difficulty that should not be underestimated is setting performance targets that are acceptable to the senior management team as well as to the functional managers who are responsible for performance achievement. This is particularly problematic as we need to encourage functional managers to set stretch targets. Within the Balanced Scorecard we have five-year strategic targets, and it can be difficult to get people to set targets that will stretch them throughout this timeframe. Indeed the most challenging part of my job is probably convincing managers of the need to set stretch targets. To help here, statistical tools are used to analyze performance trends and consent will be reached through open discussion. However, what we want to achieve at the bottom line has to be understood by all managers.
Are there other staff members who work with you on the scorecard? If so, what are their duties?
Yes, I have two assistants who work for me on the scorecard process. They work with me in the collection and compilation of data, and in the publication of performance reports onto our corporate intranet. Our Balanced Scorecard is now accessible over a corporate intranet by managers from their desktops. Results are also accessible by front-line staff, who also receive paper-based monthly updates.
What do you personally enjoy most about working with the Balanced Scorecard?
I think this is simply by being aware of the fact that people enjoy using the Balanced Scorecard and in seeing that the scorecard is actually contributing to the improvement of business results as a whole. Both of these facts provide me with a great deal of job satisfaction.
From your own career perspective, how do you think this role will benefit you personally in the longer-term?
The job renders me great opportunities to understand the business as a whole. This understanding is greatly enhanced through the fact that I spend a lot of time within business units, functions and departments where I am involved in ongoing discussions around measure selection and setting targets. This enhanced business understanding plus the fact that my work is visible to senior management could well help me a great deal in my career.
How do you see your scorecard role developing over the next 2-3 years?
We are looking to better integrate the scorecard with our wider strategy planning and management framework, and we will be searching for more high value leading indicators with which to enrich the measurement matrix.
Finally, from your experience what are the critical success factors in succeeding as a Balanced Scorecard manager?
I would highlight three critical success factors.
1. It’s important to possess good interpersonal skills
2. The manager has to have good diplomatic skills.
3. And it’s critical that they have the ability to present information and data in a logical fashion.
For further information on MTR Corporation visit http://www.mtr.com.hk
1. James Creelman and his co-author Naresh Makhijani wrote a case study on MTR Corporation for their book Succeeding with the Balanced Scorecard: John Wiley & Sons, Asia, 2005.