After reading the attached “Value Maximization” paper, construction a 4-6 page referee report in Word format (1,200 to 1,800 words) with APA formatting (cover sheet with Turnitin Originality Score, table of contents, executive summary, content, reference

RefereePaperOutline xValueMaximization

 After reading the attached “Value Maximization” paper, construction a 4-6 page referee report  in Word format (1,200 to 1,800 words) with APA formatting (cover sheet with Turnitin Originality Score, table of contents, executive summary, content, references) 

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
After reading the attached “Value Maximization” paper, construction a 4-6 page referee report in Word format (1,200 to 1,800 words) with APA formatting (cover sheet with Turnitin Originality Score, table of contents, executive summary, content, reference
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay

The following is the outline of a referee report:

(1) Short summary of (the contribution of) the paper

(2) Main comments

(3) Minor comments

(4) Assessment and recommendation to the editor: should he or she “Reject” the paper; “Accept the paper,”; “Ask for a major revision,”; or “Ask for a minor revision.”

In the summary part of the paper, identify its contribution as you see it. That is, you should summarize what you think the paper does, which may not necessarily coincide with what the author claims that it does. In your main comments, you identify the major strengths and weaknesses of the paper and assess its importance. This may also lead you to make an early assessment of the paper. Major comments regard questions such as:

· Are the results important and novel? Obviously, you must read and compare with other recent papers to assess this, in particular, read the papers it cites and build on.

· Are the results correct? I expect you to check all proofs and/ or the appropriateness of statistical methods used.

· Is additional analysis needed to support the main claims in the paper? A very good report would provide additional examples of the model, generalizations, new ideas or suggestions for alternative assumptions and results, and even sketches of proofs or (if it is an empirical paper) regression specifications.

· Does the paper explain the results and their importance appropriately? Is the paper well written? Is the length appropriate? Does it focus on its main contribution, or does it spend too much time on side results?

· Minor comments regard specific suggestions such as:

· rewriting a particular paragraph, explaining something better, mention missing or related literature.

· pointing out mistakes (e.g., in formulas) that must be fixed but can easily be fixed.

· Since you have checked all proofs in detail, this should be a by-product.

· As a referee, it is not your job to point out typos or provide a proofreading service. If high standards in this regard are not met, you may criticize that the author has not put enough effort into the submission. As mentioned above, mathematical mistakes and typos should be pointed out by a referee.

The assessment part can be short and will typically refer to your “Main comments.” You should also judge whether the paper fits the journal and whether the contribution is strong enough for the journal. For this assignment, you may assume that the paper has been submitted to The Journal of Finance. Typically, there will be pros and cons to a paper. You have to judge whether they are acceptable or whether a revision is worthwhile, or whether a revision is unexpected to lead to a publishable version of the paper. If you recommend a revision, you should summarize the most crucial points to be addressed. In that case, you should be very explicit so that the author is clear about what is expected from her/ him. If you are unfavorable to the paper and recommend rejection, this is clear enough. In that case, you may rather end with some encouraging suggestions.

Amos Tuck School of Business at
Dartmouth College

Working Paper No. 01-09

Negotiation, Organization and Markets Unit
Harvard Business School
Working Paper No. 01-01

Value Maximization, Stakeholder Theory, and the
Corporate Objective Function

Michael C. Jensen
The Monitor Company, Harvard Business School, and

Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College

October 2001

 Monitor Company and M. C. Jensen 2002

This paper can be downloaded without charge from the
Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection at:

October 29, 2001

© 2001 Michael C. Jensen

Value Maximization, Stakeholder Theory, and the
Corporate Objective Function

Michael C. Jensen
The Monitor Group and Harvard Business School


This paper examines the role of the corporate objective function in corporate
productivity and efficiency, social welfare, and the accountability of managers and directors. I
argue that since it is logically impossible to maximize in more than one dimension, purposeful
behavior requires a single valued objective function. Two hundred years of work in
economics and finance implies that in the absence of externalities and monopoly (and when
all goods are priced), social welfare is maximized when each firm in an economy maximizes
its total market value. Total value is not just the value of the equity but also includes the
market values of all other financial claims including debt, preferred stock, and warrants.

In sharp contrast stakeholder theory, argues that managers should make decisions so
as to take account of the interests of all stakeholders in a firm (including not only financial
claimants, but also employees, customers, communities, governmental officials, and under
some interpretations the environment, terrorists, and blackmailers). Because the advocates of
stakeholder theory refuse to specify how to make the necessary tradeoffs among these
competing interests they leave managers with a theory that makes it impossible for them to
make purposeful decisions. With no way to keep score, stakeholder theory makes managers
unaccountable for their actions. It seems clear that such a theory can be attractive to the
self-interest of managers and directors.

Creating value takes more than acceptance of value maximization as the
organizational objective. As a statement of corporate purpose or vision, value maximization is
not likely to tap into the energy and enthusiasm of employees and managers to create value.
Seen in this light, change in long-term market value becomes the scorecard that managers,
directors, and others use to assess success or failure of the organization. The choice of value
maximization as the corporate scorecard must be complemented by a corporate vision,
strategy and tactics that unite participants in the organization in its struggle for dominance in
its competitive arena.

A firm cannot maximize value if it ignores the interest of its stakeholders. I offer a
proposal to clarify what I believe is the proper relation between value maximization and
stakeholder theory. I call it enlightened value maximization, and it is identical to what I call

enlightened stakeholder theory. Enlightened value maximization utilizes much of the structure
of stakeholder theory but accepts maximization of the long run value of the firm as the
criterion for making the requisite tradeoffs among its stakeholders. Managers, directors,
strategists, and management scientists can benefit from enlightened stakeholder theory.
Enlightened stakeholder theory specifies long-term value maximization or value seeking as the
firm’s objective and therefore solves the problems that arise from the multiple objectives that
accompany traditional stakeholder theory.

I also discuss the Balanced Scorecard, the managerial equivalent of stakeholder
theory. The same conclusions hold. Balanced Scorecard theory is flawed because it presents
managers with a scorecard which gives no score–that is, no single-valued measure of how
they have performed. Thus managers evaluated with such a system (which can easily have
two dozen measures and provides no information on the tradeoffs between them) have no
way to make principled or purposeful decisions. The solution is to define a true (single
dimensional) score for measuring performance for the organization or division (and it must be
consistent with the organization’s strategy). Given this we then encourage managers to use
measures of the drivers of performance to understand better how to maximize their score.
And as long as their score is defined properly, (and for lower levels in the organization it will
generally not be value) this will enhance their contribution to the firm.

Keywords: Value Maximization, Stakeholder Theory, Balanced Scorecard, Multiple
Objectives, Social Welfare, Social Responsibility, Corporate Objective Function, Corporate
Purpose, Tradeoffs, Corporate Governance, Strategy, Special Interest Groups, Social

Published in Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Fall 2001. Forthcoming in Business Ethics Quarterly ,
Vol. 12, No.1, Jan 2002, and in Unfolding Stakeholder Thinking, edited by Joerg Andriof, Sandra

Waddock, Sandra Rahman and Bryan Husted, Greenleaf Publishing, 2002. Earlier versions published in the
European Financial Management Review, 2001, and in Breaking the Code of

Change, Michael Beer and Nithan Norhia, eds, Harvard Business School Press, 2000.

© 2001 Michael C. Jensen

Harvard Business School Working Paper #00-058, revised 10/2001

This paper can be downloaded without charge from the
Social Science Research Network Electronic Library at:



by Michael C. Jensen,
The Monitor Group and
Harvard Business School*

n most industrialized nations today,
economists, management scholars, policy
makers, corporate executives, and spe-
cial interest groups are engaged in a

*© 2001 Michael C. Jensen. An earlier version of this paper appears in Breaking
the Code of Change, Michael Beer and Nithan Norhia, eds, Harvard Business School
Press, 2000. This research has been supported by the The Monitor Group and

question: What are we trying to accomplish? Or, to
put the same question in more concrete terms: How
do we keep score? When all is said and done, how
do we measure better versus worse?

At the economy-wide or social level, the issue
is this: If we could dictate the criterion or objective
function to be maximized by firms (and thus the
performance criterion by which corporate execu-
tives choose among alternative policy options), what
would it be? Or, to put the issue even more simply:
How do we want the firms in our economy to
measure their own performance? How do we want
them to determine what is better versus worse?

Most economists would answer simply that
managers must have a criterion for evaluating perfor-
mance and deciding between alternative courses of
action, and that the criterion should be maximization
of the long-term market value of the firm. (And “firm
value,” by the way, means not just the value of the
equity, but the sum of the values of all financial
claims on the firm—debt, warrants, and preferred
stock, as well as equity.) This Value Maximization
proposition has its roots in 200 years of research in
economics and finance.

The main contender to value maximization as
the corporate objective is called “stakeholder theory.”
Stakeholder theory says that managers should make
decisions that take account of the interests of all the
stakeholders in a firm. Stakeholders include all

Harvard Business School Division of Research. I am indebted to Nancy Nichols,
Pat Meredith, Don Chew, and Janice Willett for many valuable suggestions.

high-stakes debate over corporate governance. In
some scholarly and business circles, the discussion
focuses mainly on questions of policies and proce-
dures designed to improve oversight of corporate
managers by boards of directors. But at the heart of
the current global corporate governance debate is a
remarkable division of opinion about the fundamen-
tal purpose of the corporation. Much of the discord
can be traced to the complexity of the issues and to
the strength of the conflicting interests that are likely
to be affected by the outcome. But also fueling the
controversy are political, social, evolutionary, and
emotional forces that we don’t usually think of as
operating in the domain of business and economics.
These forces serve to reinforce a model of corporate
behavior that draws on concepts of “family” and
“tribe.” And as I argue in this paper, this model is an
anachronism—a holdover from an earlier period of
human development that nevertheless continues to
cause much confusion among corporate managers
about what it is that they and their organizations are
supposed to do.

At the level of the individual organization, the
most basic issue of governance is the following.
Every organization has to ask and answer the


individuals or groups who can substantially affect, or
be affected by, the welfare of the firm—a category
that includes not only the financial claimholders, but
also employees, customers, communities, and gov-
ernment officials.1 In contrast to the grounding of
value maximization in economics, stakeholder theory
has its roots in sociology, organizational behavior,
the politics of special interests, and, as I will discuss
below, managerial self-interest. The theory is now
popular and has received the formal endorsement of
many professional organizations, special interest
groups, and governmental bodies, including the
current British government.2

But, as I argue in this paper, stakeholder
theory should not be viewed as a legitimate
contender to value maximization because it fails
to provide a complete specification of the corpo-
rate purpose or objective function. To put the
matter more concretely, whereas value maximiza-
tion provides corporate managers with a single
objective, stakeholder theory directs corporate
managers to serve “many masters.” And, to para-
phrase the old adage, when there are many
masters, all end up being shortchanged. Without
the clarity of mission provided by a single-valued
objective function, companies embracing stake-
holder theory will experience managerial confu-
sion, conflict, inefficiency, and perhaps even
competitive failure. And the same fate is likely to
be visited on those companies that use the so-
called “Balanced Scorecard” approach—the mana-
gerial equivalent of stakeholder theory—as a
performance measurement system.

But if stakeholder theory and the Balanced
Scorecard can destroy value by obscuring the over-
riding corporate goal, does that mean they have no
legitimate corporate uses? And can corporate man-
agers succeed by simply holding up value maximi-
zation as the goal and ignoring their stakeholders?
The answer to both is an emphatic no. In order to
maximize value, corporate managers must not only
satisfy, but enlist the support of, all corporate

stakeholders—customers, employees, managers,
suppliers, local communities. Top management plays
a critical role in this function through its leadership
and effectiveness in creating, projecting, and sustain-
ing the company’s strategic vision. And even if the
Balanced Scorecard is likely to be counterproductive
as a performance evaluation and reward system, the
process of creating the scorecard can add significant
value by helping managers understand both the
company’s strategy and the drivers of value in their

With this in mind, I clarify what I believe is the
proper relation between value maximization and
stakeholder theory by proposing a (somewhat) new
corporate objective function. I call it enlightened
value maximization, and it is identical to what I call
enlightened stakeholder theory. Enlightened value
maximization uses much of the structure of stake-
holder theory but accepts maximization of the long-
run value of the firm as the criterion for making the
requisite tradeoffs among its stakeholders. Enlight-
ened stakeholder theory, while focusing attention
on meeting the demands of all important corporate
constituencies, specifies long-term value maximiza-
tion as the firm’s objective. In so doing, it solves the
problems arising from the multiple objectives that
accompany traditional stakeholder theory by giving
managers a clear way to think about and make the
tradeoffs among corporate stakeholders.

The answers to the questions of how managers
should define better vs. worse, and how managers
in fact do define it, have important implications for
social welfare. Indeed, the answers provide the
business equivalent of the medical profession’s
Hippocratic Oath. It is an indication of the infancy of
the science of management that so many in the
world’s business schools, as well as in professional
business organizations, seem to understand so little
of the fundamental issues in contention.

With this introduction of the issues, let me now
move to a detailed examination of value maximiza-
tion and stakeholder theory.

1. Under some interpretations, stakeholders also include the environ-
ment, terrorists, blackmailers, and thieves. Edward Freeman, for example,
writes: “The…definition of ‘stakeholder’ [is] any group or individual who can
affect or is affected by the achievement of an organization’s purpose.…For
instance, some corporations must count ‘terrorist groups’ as stakeholders.”
(Edward R. Freeman, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, Pittman
Books Limited, 1984, p. 53.)

2. See, for example, Principles of Stakeholder Management: The Clarkson
Principles: The Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics, Joseph L. Rotman School of
Management, Univ. of Toronto, Canada. For a critical analysis of stakeholder
theory, I especially recommend the following articles by Elaine Sternberg:

“Stakeholder Theory Exposed,” The Corporate Governance Quarterly 2, no. 1
(1996); “The Stakeholder Concept: A Mistaken Doctrine,” London: Foundation for
Business Responsibilities, Issue Paper No.4 (November, 1999) (also available from
the Social Science Research Network at:
See also Sternberg’s recent book, Just Business: Business Ethics in Action: Oxford
University Press, 2000, which surveys the acceptance of stakeholder theory by the
Business Roundtable and the Financial Times, and its recognition by law in 38
American states. On the latter issue, see also James L. Hanks, “From the Hustings:
The Role of States with Takeover Control Laws.” Mergers & Acquisitions 29, no. 2
(1994), September-October.



In discussing whether firms should maximize
value or not, we must separate two distinct issues:

1. Should the firm have a single-valued objective?
2. And, if so, should that objective be value

maximization or something else (for example, main-
taining employment or improving the environment)?

The debate over whether corporations should
maximize value or act in the interests of their
stakeholders is generally couched in terms of the
second issue, and is often mistakenly framed as
stockholders versus stakeholders. The real conflict
here, though this is rarely stated or even recognized,
is over the first issue—that is, whether the firm
should have a single-valued objective function or
scorecard. The failure to frame the problem in this
way has contributed greatly to widespread misun-
derstanding and contentiousness.

What is commonly known as stakeholder theory,
while not totally without content, is fundamentally
flawed because it violates the proposition that a
single-valued objective is a prerequisite for purpose-
ful or rational behavior by any organization. In
particular a firm that adopts stakeholder theory will
be handicapped in the competition for survival
because, as a basis for action, stakeholder theory
politicizes the corporation and leaves its managers
empowered to exercise their own preferences in
spending the firm’s resources.

Issue #1: Purposeful Behavior Requires the
Existence of a Single-Valued Objective

Consider a firm that wishes to increase both its
current-year profits and its market share. Assume, as
shown in Figure 1, that over some range of values of
market share, profits increase. But, at some point,
increases in market share come only at the expense of
reduced current-year profits—say, because increased
expenditures on R&D and advertising, or price reduc-
tions to increase market share, reduce this year’s profit.
Therefore, it is not logically possible to speak of
maximizing both market share and profits.

In this situation, it is impossible for a manager
to decide on the level of R&D, advertising, or price
reductions because he or she is faced with the need
to make tradeoffs between the two “goods”—profits
and market share—but has no way to do so. While
the manager knows that the firm should be at the
point of maximum profits or maximum market share
(or somewhere between them), there is no purpose-
ful way to decide where to be in the area in which
the firm can obtain more of one good only by giving
up some of the other.

Multiple Objectives Is No Objective

It is logically impossible to maximize in more
than one dimension at the same time unless the


Market Share



Maximum Profits



dimensions are what are known as “monotonic
transformations” of one another. Thus, telling a
manager to maximize current profits, market share,
future growth in profits, and anything else one
pleases will leave that manager with no way to make
a reasoned decision. In effect, it leaves the manager
with no objective. The result will be confusion and
a lack of purpose that will handicap the firm in its
competition for survival.3

A company can resolve this ambiguity by speci-
fying the tradeoffs among the various dimensions,
and doing so amounts to specifying an overall
objective such as V= f(x, y, …) that explicitly incor-
porates the effects of decisions on all the perfor-
mance criteria—all the goods or bads (denoted by
(x, y, …)) that can affect the firm (such as cash flow,
risk, and so on). At this point, the logic above does
not specify what V is. It could be anything the board
of directors chooses, such as employment, sales, or
growth in output. But, as I argue below, social
welfare and survival will severely constrain the
boards’ choices.

Nothing in the analysis so far has said that the
objective function f must be well behaved and easy
to maximize. If the function is non-monotonic, or
even chaotic, it makes it more difficult for managers
to find the overall maximum. (For example, as I
discuss later, the relationship between the value of
the firm and a company’s current earnings and
investors’ expectations about its future earnings and
investment expenditures will often be difficult to
formulate with much precision.) But even in these
situations, the meaning of “better” or “worse” is
defined, and managers and their monitors have a
“principled”—that is, an objective and theoretically
consistent—basis for choosing and auditing decisions.
Their choices are not just a matter of their own personal
preferences among various goods and bads.

Given managers’ uncertainty about the exact
specification of the objective function f, it is perhaps
better to call the objective function “value seeking”
rather than value maximization. This way one avoids
the confusion that arises when some argue that

maximizing is difficult or impossible if the world is
structured in sufficiently complicated ways.4 It is not
necessary that we be able to maximize, only that we
can tell when we are getting better—that is moving
in the right direction.

Issue #2: Total Firm Value Maximization
Makes Society Better Off.

Given that a firm must have a single objective
that tells us what is better and what is worse, we then
must face the issue of what that definition of better
is. Even though the single objective will always be
a complicated function of many different goods or
bads, the short answer to the question is that 200
years’ worth of work in economics and finance
indicate that social welfare is maximized when all
firms in an economy attempt to maximize their own
total firm value. The intuition behind this criterion
is simple: that value is created—and when I say
“value” I mean “social” value—whenever a firm
produces an output, or set of outputs, that is
valued by its customers at more than the value of

inputs it consumes

(as valued by their suppli-
ers) in the production of the outputs. Firm value
is simply the long-term market value of this
expected stream of benefits.

To be sure, there are circumstances when the
value-maximizing criterion does not maximize social
welfare—notably, when there are monopolies or
“externalities.” Monopolies tend to charge prices that
are too high, resulting in less than the socially
optimal levels of production. By “externalities,”
economists mean situations in which decision-mak-
ers do not bear the full cost or benefit consequences
of their choices or actions. Examples are cases of air
or water pollution in which a firm adds pollution to
the environment without having to purchase the
right to do so from the parties giving up the clean air
or water. There can be no externalities as long as
alienable property rights in all physical assets are
defined and assigned to some private individual or
firm. Thus, the solution to these problems lies not in

3. For a case study of a small non-profit firm that almost destroyed itself while
trying to maximize over a dozen dimensions at the same time, see Michael Jensen,
Karen H. Wruck, and Brian Barry, “Fighton, Inc. (A) and (B),” Harvard Business
School Case #9-391-056, March 20, 1991; and Karen Wruck, Michael Jensen, and
Brian Barry, “Fighton, Inc., (A) and (B) Teaching Note,” Case #5-491-111, Harvard
Business School, 1991. For an interesting empirical paper that formally tests the
proposition that multiple objectives handicap firms, see Kees Cools and Mirjam van
Praag (2000), “The Value Relevance of a Single-Valued Corporate Target: An
Empirical Analysis.” Available from the Social Science Research Network eLibrary

at: In their test using 80 Dutch firms in the
1993-1997 period, the authors conclude: “Our findings show the importance of
setting one single target for value creation.” (emphasis in original)

4. I’d like to thank David Rose for suggesting this simple and more descriptive
term for value maximizing. See David C. Rose, “Teams, Firms, and the Evolution
of Profit Seeking Behavior,” May, 1999, Dept. of Economics, University of Missouri-
St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, Unpublished Manuscript, available from the Social Science
Research Network eLibrary at:

Telling a manager to maximize current profits, market share, future growth in
profits, and anything else one pleases will leave that manager with no way to make a

reasoned decision. In effect, it leaves the manager with no objective.


telling firms to maximize something other than
profits, but in defining and then assigning to some
private entity the alienable decision rights necessary
to eliminate the externalities.5 In any case, resolving
externality and monopoly problems, as I will discuss
later, is the legitimate domain of the government in
its rule-setting function.6

Maximizing the total market value of the firm—
that is, the sum of the market values of the equity,
debt and any other contingent claims outstanding on
the firm—is the objective function that will guide
managers in making the optimal tradeoffs among
multiple constituencies (or stakeholders). It tells the
firm to spend an additional dollar of resources to
satisfy the desires of each constituency as long as that
constituency values the result at more than a dollar.
In this case, the payoff to the firm from that invest-
ment of resources is at least a dollar (in terms of
market value). Although there are many single-
valued objective functions that could guide a firm’s
managers in their decisions, value maximization is
an important one because it leads under most
conditions to the maximization of social welfare. But
let’s look more closely at this.


Much of the discussion in policy circles about
the proper corporate objective casts the issue in
terms of the conflict among various constituencies,
or “stakeholders,” in the corporation. The question
then becomes whether shareholders should be held
in higher regard than other constituencies, such as
employees, customers, creditors, and so on. But it is
both unproductive and incorrect to frame the issue
in this manner. The real issue is what corporate
behavior will get the most out of society’s limited
resources—or equivalently, what behavior will re-
sult in the least social waste—not whether one group
is or should be more privileged than another.

Profit Maximization: A Simplified Case

To see how value maximization leads to a
socially efficient solution, let’s first consider an
objective function, profit maximization, in a world in
which all production runs are infinite and cash flow
streams are level and perpetual. This scenario with
level and perpetual streams allows us to ignore the
complexity introduced by the tradeoffs between
current and future-year profits (or, more accurately,
cash flows). Consider now the social welfare effects
of a firm’s decision to take resources out of the
economy in the form of labor hours, capital, or
materials purchased voluntarily from their owners in
single-price markets. The firm uses these inputs to
produce outputs of goods or services that are then
sold to consumers through voluntary transactions in
single-price markets.

In this simple situation, a company that takes
inputs out of the economy and puts its output of goods
and services back into the economy increases aggre-
gate welfare if the prices at which it sells the goods more
than cover the costs it incurs in purchasing the inputs
(including, of course, the cost of the capital the firm is
using). Clearly the firm should expand its output as
long as an additional dollar of resources taken out of
the economy is valued by the consumers of the
incremental product at more than a dollar. Note that it
is precisely because profit is the amount by which
revenues exceed costs—by which the value of output
exceeds the value of inputs—that profit maximization7

leads to an efficient social outcome.8

Because the transactions are voluntary, we
know that the owners of the inputs value them at a
level less than or equal to the price the firm pays—
otherwise they wouldn’t sell them. Therefore, as
long as there are no negative externalities in the
input factor markets,9 the opportunity cost to society
of those inputs is no higher than the total cost to the
firm of acquiring them. I say “no higher” because

5. See Ronald H. Coase, “The Problem of Social Cost,” Journal of Law and
Economics 3, no. October 1960: pp. 1-44; and Michael C. Jensen and William H.
Meckling, “Specific and General Knowledge, and Organization Structure,” in ed.
Lars Werin and Hans Wijkander, Contract Economics: (Oxford: Basil Blackwell,
1992), pp. 251-274. Available from the Social Science Research Network eLibrary

6. In the case of a monopoly, profit maximization leads to a loss of social
product because the firm expands production only to the point where an additional
dollar’s worth of inputs generates incremental revenues equal to a dollar, not where
consumers value the incremental product at a dollar. In this case the firm produces
less of a commodity than that which would result in maximum social welfare.

In addition, we should recognize that when a complete set of claims for all
goods for each possible time and state of the world do not exist, the social
maximum will be constrained; but this is just another recognition of the fact that
we must take into account the costs of creating additional claims and markets in
time/state delineated claims. See Kenneth J. Arrow, “The Role of Securities in the
Optimal Allocation of Risk Bearing.” Review of Economic Studies 31, no. 86 (1964):
pp. 91-96; and Gerard Debreu, Theory of Value (New York: John Wiley & Sons,

7. Again, provided there are no externalities.
8. I am indebted to my colleague George Baker for this simple way of

expressing the social optimality of profit maximization.
9. An example would be a case where the supplier of an input was imposing

negative externalities on others by polluting water or air.


some suppliers of inputs to the firm are able to earn
“rents” by obtaining prices higher than the value of
the goods to them. But such rents do not represent
social costs, only transfers of wealth to those suppli-
ers. Likewise, as long as there are no externalities in
the output markets, the value to society of the goods
and services produced by the firm is at least as great
as the price the firm receives for the sale of those
goods and services. If this were not true, the
individuals purchasing them would not do so. Again,
as in the case of producer surplus on inputs, the
benefit to society is higher to the extent that con-
sumer surplus exists (that is, to the extent that some
consumers are able to purchase the output at prices
lower than the value to them).

In sum, when the a company acquires an
additional unit of any input(s) to produce an addi-
tional unit of any output, it increases social welfare
by at least the amount of its profit—the difference
between the value of the output and the cost of the
input(s) required in producing it.10 And thus the
signals to the management are clear: Continue to
expand purchases of inputs and sell the resulting
outputs as long as an additional dollar of inputs
generates sales of at least a dollar.

Value and Tradeoffs through Time

In a world in which cash flows, profits, and costs
are not uniform over time, managers must deal with
the tradeoffs of these items through time. A common
case is when a company’s capital investment comes
in lumps that have to be funded up front, while
production and revenue occurs in the future. Know-
ing whether society will be benefited or harmed
requires knowing whether the future output will be
valuable enough to offset the cost of having people
give up their labor, capital, and material inputs in the
present. Interest rates help us make this decision by
telling us the cost of giving up a unit of a good today
for receipt at some time in the future. So long as
people take advantage of the opportunity to borrow
or lend at a given interest rate, that rate determines
the value of moving a marginal dollar of resources
(inputs or consumption goods) forward or backward

in time.11 In this world, individuals are as well off as
possible if they maximize their wealth as measured
by the discounted present value of all future claims.

In addition to interest rates, managers also need
to take into account the risk of their investments and
the premium the market charges for bearing such
risk. But, when we add uncertainty and risk into the
equation, nothing of major importance is changed in
this proposition as long as there are capital markets
in which the individual can buy and sell risk at a
given price. In this case, it is the risk-adjusted interest
rate that is used in calculating the market value of
risky claims. The corporate objective function that
maximizes social welfare thus becomes “maximize
current total firm market value.” It tells firms to
expand output and investment to the point where the
present market value of the firm is at a maximum.12


To the extent that stakeholder theory says that
firms should pay attention to all their constituencies,
the theory is unassailable. Taken this far stakeholder
theory is completely consistent with value maximi-
zation or value-seeking behavior, which implies that
managers must pay attention to all constituencies
that can affect the value of the firm.

But there is more to the stakeholder story than
this. Any theory of corporate decision-making must
tell the decision-makers—in this case, managers and
boards of directors—how to choose among multiple
constituencies with competing and, in some cases,
conflicting interests. Customers want low prices,
high quality, and full service. Employees want high
wages, high-quality working conditions, and fringe
benefits, including vacations, medical benefits, and
pensions. Suppliers of capital want low risk and high
returns. Communities want high charitable contribu-
tions, social expenditures by companies to benefit
the community at large, increased local investment,
and stable employment. And so it goes with every
conceivable constituency. Obviously any decision
criterion—and the objective function is at the core of
any decision criterion—must specify how to make
the tradeoffs between these demands.

10. Equality holds only in the special case where consumer and producer
surpluses are zero, and there are no externalities or monopoly.

11. For those unfamiliar with finance and present values, the value one year
from now of a dollar today saved for use one year from now is thus $1 x (1+r),
where r is the interest rate. Alternatively, the value today of a dollar of resources
to be received one year from now is its present value of $1/(1+r).

12. Without going into the details here, the same criterion applies to all
organizations whether they are public corporations or not. Obviously, even if the
financial claims are not explicitly valued by the market, social welfare will be
increased as long as managers of partnerships or non-profits increase output so
long as the imputed market value of claims on the firm continue to increase.

200 years’ worth of work in economics and finance indicate that social welfare is
maximized when all firms in an economy attempt to maximize their own total firm
value. The intuition behind this criterion is simple: that value is created whenever a
firm produces an output that is valued by its customers at more than the value of the

inputs it consumes


The Specification of Tradeoffs and the
Incompleteness of Stakeholder Theory

Value maximization (or value seeking) provides
the following answer to the tradeoff question: Spend
an additional dollar on any constituency provided
the long-term value added to the firm from such
expenditure is a dollar or more. Stakeholder theory,
by contrast,13 contains no conceptual specification of
how to make the tradeoffs among stakeholders. And
as I argue below, it is this failure to provide a criterion
for making such tradeoffs, or even to acknowledge
the need for them, that makes stakeholder theory a
prescription for destroying firm value and reducing
social welfare. This failure also helps explains the
theory’s remarkable popularity.

Implications for Managers and Directors

Because stakeholder theory leaves boards of
directors and executives in firms with no principled
criterion for decision-making, companies that try to
follow the dictates of stakeholder theory will even-
tually fail if they are competing with firms that are
aiming to maximize value. If this is true, why do so
many managers and directors of corporations em-
brace stakeholder theory?

One answer lies in their personal short-run inter-
ests. By failing to provide a definition of better,
stakeholder theory effectively leaves managers and
directors unaccountable for their stewardship of the
firm’s resources. Without criteria for performance,
managers cannot be evaluated in any principled way.
Therefore, stakeholder theory plays into the hands of
managers by allowing them to pursue their own
interests at the expense of the firm’s financial claimants
and society at large. It allows managers and directors
to devote the firm’s resources to their own favorite
causes—the environment, art, cities, medical research—
without being held accountable for the effect of such
expenditures on firm value. (And this can be true even
though managers may not consciously recognize that
adopting stakeholder theory leaves them unaccount-
able—especially, for example when such managers
have a strong personal interest in social issues.) By
expanding the power of managers in this unproductive
way, stakeholder theory increases agency costs in the
economic system. And since it expands the power of

managers, it is not surprising that stakeholder theory
receives substantial support from them.

In this sense, then, stakeholder theory can be seen
as gutting the foundations of the firm’s internal control
systems. By “internal control systems,” I mean mainly
the corporate performance measurement and evalua-
tion systems that, when properly designed, provide
strong incentives for value-increasing behavior. There
is simply no principled way within the stakeholder
construct (which fails to specify what better is) that
anyone could say that a manager has done a good or
bad job. Stakeholder theory supplants or weakens the
power of such control systems by giving managers
more power to do whatever they want, subject only to
constraints that are imposed by forces outside the
firm—by the financial markets, the market for corpo-
rate control (e.g., the market for hostile takeovers), and,
when all else fails, the product markets.

Thus, having observed the efforts of stake-
holder theory advocates to weaken internal control
systems, it is not surprising to see the theory being
used to argue for government restrictions, such as
state anti-takeover provisions, on financial markets
and the market for corporate control. These markets
are driven by value maximization and will limit the
damage that can be done by managers who adopt
stakeholder theory. And, as illustrated by the 1990s
campaigns against globalization and free trade, the
stakeholder argument is also being used to restrict
product-market competition as well.

But there is something deeper than self-interest—
something rooted in the evolution of the human psyche—
that is driving our attraction to stakeholder theory.


Stakeholder theory taps into the deep emotional
commitment of most individuals to the family and tribe.
For tens of thousands of years, those of our ancestors
who had little respect for or loyalty to the family, band,
or tribe were much less likely to survive than those who
did. In the last few hundred years, we have experi-
enced the emergence of a market exchange system of
prices and the private property rights on which they are
based. This system of voluntary and decentralized
coordination of human action has brought huge
increases in human welfare and freedom of action.

13. At least as advocated by Freeman (1984), Clarkson Principles (1999)
and others.


As Friedrich von Hayek points out, we are
generally unaware of the functioning of these market
systems because no single mind invented or de-
signed them—and because they work in very com-
plicated and subtle ways. In Hayek’s words:

We are led—for example, by the pricing system
in market exchange—to do things by circumstances
of which we are largely unaware and which produce
results that we do not intend. In our economic
activities we do not know the needs which we satisfy
nor the sources of the things which we get. Almost all
of us serve people whom we do not know, and even of
whose existence we are ignorant; and we in turn
constantly live on the services of other people of whom
we know nothing. All this is possible because we stand
in a great framework of institutions and traditions—
economic, legal, moral—into which we fit ourselves
by obeying certain rules of conduct that we never
made, and which we have never understood in the
sense in which we understand how the things that we
manufacture function.14

Moreover, these systems operate in ways that
limit the options of the small group or family, and
these constraints are neither well understood nor
instinctively welcomed by individuals. Many people
are drawn to stakeholder theory through their evo-
lutionary attachment to the small group and the
family. As Hayek puts it:

Constraints on the practices of the small group,
it must be emphasized and repeated, are hated. For,
as we shall see, the individual following them, even
though he depends on them for life, does not and
usually cannot understand how they function or
how they benefit him. He knows so many objects that
seem desirable but for which he is not permitted to
grasp, and he cannot see how other beneficial fea-
tures of his environment depend on the discipline to
which he is forced to submit—a discipline forbidding

him to reach out for these same appealing objects.
Disliking these constraints so much, we hardly can be
said to have selected them; rather, these constraints
selected us: they enabled us to survive.15

Thus we have a system in which human beings
must simultaneously exist in two orders, what Hayek
calls the “micro-cosmos” and the “macro-cosmos”:

Moreover, the structures of the extended order
are made up not only of individuals but also of many,
often overlapping, suborders within which old in-
stinctual responses, such as solidarity and altruism,
continue to retain some importance by assisting
voluntary collaboration, even though they are inca-
pable, by themselves, of creating a basis for the more
extended order. Part of our present difficulty is that
we must constantly adjust our lives, our thoughts and
our emotions, in order to live simultaneously within
different kinds of orders according to different rules.
If we were to apply the unmodified, uncurbed rules
of the micro-cosmos (i.e. of the small band or troop,
or of, say, our families) to the macro-cosmos (our
wider civilization), as our instincts and sentimental
yearnings often make us wish to do, we would destroy
it. Yet if we were always to apply the rules of the
extended order to our more intimate groupings, we
would crush them. So we must learn to live in two
sorts of worlds at once. To apply the name ‘society’ to
both, or even to either, is hardly of any use, and can
be most misleading.16

Stakeholder theory taps into this confusion and
antagonism towards markets and relaxes constraints
on the small group in ways that are damaging to society
as a

whole and (in the long run) to the small group itself.

Such deeply rooted and generally unrecognized con-
flict between allegiances to family and tribe and what
is good for society as whole has had a major impact on
our evolution. And in this case, the conflict does not
end up serving our long-run collective interests.17

14. F. A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit. Edited by W. W. Bartley. The Collected
Works of F. A. Hayek. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, p.14.

15. Ibid., pp. 13, 14; emphasis in original.
16. Ibid., p. 18; emphasis in original.
17. It is useful here to briefly summarize the positive arguments (those

refutable by empirical data) and normative arguments (those propositions that say
what should be rather than what is in the world) I have made thus far. I have argued
positively that firms that follow stakeholder theory as it is generally advocated will
do less well in the competition for survival than those who follow a well-defined
single-valued objective such as value creation. I have also argued positively that
if firms follow value creation, social welfare will be greater and normatively that
this is desirable. I have also argued positively that the self-interests of managers

and directors will lead them to prefer stakeholder theory because it increases their
power and means they cannot be held accountable for their actions. I have also
argued positively that the self-interest of special interest groups who wish to
acquire legitimacy in corporate governance circles to enhance their influence over
the allocation of corporate resources will advocate the use of stakeholder theory
by managers and directors. This leads to the positive prediction that society will
be poorer if they are successful, and to the normative conclusion that this is
undesirable. For a discussion of the role of normative, positive (or instrumental),
and descriptive theory in the literature on stakeholder theory, see Thomas
Donaldson and Lee E. Preston, “The Stakeholder Theory of the Corporation:
Concepts, Evidence, and Implications.” Academy of Management Review 20, no.
1 (1995): pp. 65-91.

Value maximization provides the following answer to the tradeoff question: Spend an
additional dollar on any constituency provided the long-term value added to the firm
from such expenditure is a dollar or more. Stakeholder theory, by contrast, contains

no conceptual specification of how to make the tradeoffs among stakeholders.



For those intent on improving management,
organizational governance, and performance, there
is a way out of the conflict between value maximiz-
ing and stakeholder theory. It lies in the melding
together of what I call “enlightened value maximiza-
tion” and “enlightened stakeholder theory.”

Enlightened Value Maximization

Enlightened value maximization recognizes that
communication with and motivation of an
organization’s managers, employees, and partners is
extremely difficult. What this means in practice is that
if we simply tell all participants in an organization
that its sole purpose is to maximize value, we will not
get maximum value for the organization. Value
maximization is not a vision or a strategy or even a
purpose; it is the scorecard for the organization. We
must give people enough structure to understand
what maximizing value means so that they can be
guided by it and therefore have a chance to actually
achieve it. They must be turned on by the vision or
the strategy in the sense that it taps into some human
desire or passion of their own—for example, a desire
to build the world’s best automobile or to create a
film or play that will move people for centuries. All
this can be not only consistent with value seeking,
but a major contributor to it.

And this brings us up against the limits of value
maximization per se. Value seeking tells an organiza-
tion and its participants how their success in achieving
a vision or in implementing a strategy will be assessed.
But value maximizing or value seeking says nothing
about how to create a superior vision or strategy. Nor
does it tell employees or managers how to find or
establish initiatives or ventures that create value. It only
tells them how we will measure success in their activity.

Defining what it means to score a goal in
football or soccer, for example, tells the players
nothing about how to win the game; it just tells them
how the score will be kept. That is the role of value
maximization in organizational life. It doesn’t tell us
how to have a great defense or offense, or what kind
of plays to create, or how much to train and practice,
or whom to hire, and so on. All of these critical
functions are part of the competitive and organiza-
tional strategy of any team or organization. Adopting
value creation as the scorekeeping measure does

nothing to relieve us of the responsibility to do all
these things and more in order to survive and
dominate our sector of the competitive landscape.

This means, for example, that we must give
employees and managers a structure that will help
them resist the temptation to maximize short-term
financial performance (as typically measured by
accounting profits or, even worse, earnings per
share). Short-term profit maximization at the ex-
pense of long-term value creation is a sure way to
destroy value. This is where enlightened stakeholder
theory can play an important role. We can learn from
stakeholder theorists how to lead managers and
participants in an organization to think more gener-
ally and creatively about how the organization’s
policies treat all important constituencies of the firm.
This includes not just the stockholders and financial
markets, but employees, customers, suppliers, and
the community in which the organization exists.

Indeed, it is a basic principle of enlightened
value maximization that we cannot maximize the
long-term market value of an organization if we
ignore or mistreat any important constituency. We
cannot create value without good relations with
customers, employees, financial backers, suppliers,
regulators, and communities. But having said that,
we can now use the value criterion for choosing
among those competing interests. I say “competing”
interests because no constituency can be given full
satisfaction if the firm is to flourish and survive.
Moreover, we can be sure—again, apart from the
possibility of externalities and monopoly power—
that using this value criterion will result in making
society as well off as it can be.

As stated earlier, resolving externality and mo-
nopoly problems is the legitimate domain of the
government in its rule-setting function. Those who
care about resolving monopoly and externality is-
sues will not succeed if they look to corporations to
resolve these issues voluntarily. Companies that try
to do so either will be eliminated by competitors who
choose not to be so civic minded, or will survive only
by consuming their economic rents in this manner.

Enlightened Stakeholder Theory

Enlightened stakeholder theory is easy to ex-
plain. It can make use of most of what stakeholder
theorists offer in the way of processes and audits to
measure and evaluate the firm’s management of its
relations with all important constituencies. Enlight-


ened stakeholder theory adds the simple specifica-
tion that the objective function—the overriding
goal—of the firm is to maximize total long-term firm
market value. In short, the change in the total long-
term market value of the firm is the scorecard by
which success is measured.

I say “long-term” market value to recognize the
possibility that financial markets, although forward
looking, may not understand the full implications of
a company’s policies until they begin to show up in
cash flows over time. In such cases, management
must communicate to investors the policies’ antici-
pated effect on value, and then wait for the market
to catch up and recognize the real value of its
decisions as reflected in increases in market share,
customer and employee loyalty, and, finally, cash
flows. Value creation does not mean responding to
the day-to-day fluctuations in a firm’s value. The
market is inevitably ignorant of many managerial
actions and opportunities, at least in the short run.
In those situations where the financial markets
clearly do not have this private competitive informa-
tion, directors and managers must resist the pres-
sures of those markets while making every effort to
communicate their expectations to investors.

In this way, enlightened stakeholder theorists
can see that although stockholders are not some
special constituency that ranks above all others,
long-term stock value is an important determinant
(along with the value of debt and other instruments)
of total long-term firm value. They would recognize
that value creation gives management a way to assess
the tradeoffs that must be made among competing
constituencies, and that it allows for principled
decision making independent of the personal pref-
erences of managers and directors. Also important,
managers and directors become accountable for the
assets under their control because the value scorecard
provides an objective yardstick against which their
performance can be evaluated.

Measurability and Imperfect Knowledge

It is important to recognize that none of the
above arguments depends on value being easily
observable. Nor do they depend on perfect knowl-
edge of the effects on value of decisions regarding
any of a firm’s constituencies. The world may be

complex and difficult to understand. It may leave us
in deep uncertainty about the effects of any decisions
we may make. It may be governed by complex
dynamic systems that are difficult to optimize in the
usual sense. But that does not remove the necessity
of making choices on a day-to-day basis. And to do
this in a purposeful way we must have a scorecard.

The absence of a scorecard makes it easier for
people to engage in value-claiming activities that
satisfy one or more group of stakeholders at the
expense of value creation. We can take random
actions, and we can devise decision rules that
depend on superstitions. But none of these is likely
to serve us well in the competition for survival.

We must not confuse optimization with value
creation or value seeking. To create value we need
not know exactly what maximum value is and
precisely how it can be achieved. What we must do,
however, is to set up our organizations so that
managers and employees are clearly motivated to
seek value—to institute those changes and strategies
that are most likely to cause value to rise. To navigate
in such a world in anything close to a purposeful
way, we must have a notion of “better,” and value
seeking is such a notion. I know of no other scorecard
that will score the game as well as this one. Under most
circumstances and conditions, it tells us when we are
getting better, and when we are getting worse. It is not
perfect, but that is the nature of the world.


The Balanced Scorecard is the managerial equiva-
lent of stakeholder theory. Like stakeholder theory,
the notion of a “balanced” scorecard appeals to
many, but it suffers from many of the same flaws.
When we use multiple measures on the balanced
scorecard to evaluate the performance of people or
business units, we put managers in the same impos-
sible position as managers trying to manage under
stakeholder theory. We are asking them to maximize
in more than one dimension at a time with no idea
of the tradeoffs between the measures. As a result,
purposeful decisions cannot be made.

The balanced scorecard arose from the belief of
its originators, Robert Kaplan and David Norton, that
purely financial measures of performance are not
sufficient to yield effective management decisions.18

18. See Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “The Balanced Scorecard—
Measures That Drive Performance,” Harvard Business Review, no. January-

February 1992: pp. 71-79; and Robert Kaplan and David P. Norton, The Balanced
Scorecard. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

Stakeholder theory taps into this confusion and antagonism towards markets and
relaxes constraints on the small group in ways that are damaging to society as a

whole and (in the long run) to the small group itself.


I agree with this conclusion though, as I suggest
below, they have inadvertently confused this with
the unstated, but implicit conclusion that there
should never be a single measure of performance.
Moreover, especially at lower levels of an organiza-
tion, a single pure financial measure of performance
is unlikely to properly measure a person’s or even a
business unit’s contribution to a company. In the
words of Kaplan and Norton:

The Balanced Scorecard complements finan-
cial measures of past performance with measures of
the drivers of future performance. The objectives and
measures of the scorecard are derived from an
organization’s vision and strategy. The objectives
and measures view organizational performance from
four perspectives: financial, customer, internal busi-
ness process, and learning and growth. . . .

The Balanced Scorecard expands the set of
business unit objectives beyond summary finan-
cial measures. Corporate executives can now mea-
sure how their business units create value for
current and future customers and how they must
enhance internal capabilities and the investment
in people, systems, and procedures necessary to
improve future performance. The Balanced
Scorecard captures the critical value-creation
activities created by skilled, motivated organiza-
tional participants. While retaining, via the fi-
nancial perspective, an interest in short-term per-
formance, the Balanced Scorecard clearly reveals
the value drivers for superior long-term financial
and competitive performance.19

As Kaplan and Norton go on to say,

The measures are balanced between the out-
come measures—the results of past efforts—and the
measures that drive future performance. And the
scorecard is balanced between objective easily quan-
tified outcome measures and subjective, somewhat
judgmental performance drivers of the outcome

A good balanced scorecard should have an
appropriate mix of outcomes (lagging indica-
tors) and performance drivers (leading indica-
tors) that have been customized to the business
unit’s strategy.”20

The aim of Kaplan and Norton, then, is to
capture both past performance and expected future
performance in scorecards with multiple measures—
in fact, as many as two dozen of them—that are
intimately related to the organization’s strategy.21

And this is where my misgivings about the Balanced
Scorecard lie. For an organization’s strategy to be
implemented effectively, each person in the organi-
zation must clearly understand what he or she has to
do, how their performance measures will be con-
structed, and how their rewards and punishments
are related to those measures.

But, as we saw earlier in the case of multiple
constituencies (or the multiple goals represented in
Figure 1), decision makers cannot make rational
choices without some overall single dimensional
objective to be maximized. Given a dozen or two
dozen measures and no sense of the tradeoffs between
them, the typical manager will be unable to behave
purposefully, and the result will be confusion.

Kaplan and Norton generally do not deal with
the critical issue of how to weight the multiple
dimensions represented by the two-dozen measures
on their scorecards. And this is where problems with
the Balanced Scorecard are sure to arise: without
specifying what the tradeoffs are among these two
dozen or so different measures, there is no “balance”
in their scorecard. Adding to the potential for
confusion, Kaplan and Norton also offer almost no
guidance on the critical issue of how to tie the
performance measurement system to managerial
incentives and rewards. Here is their concluding
statement on this important matter:

Several approaches may be attractive to pursue.
In the short term, tying incentive compensation of all
senior managers to a balanced set of business unit
scorecard measures will foster commitment to overall
organizational goals, rather than suboptimization
within functional departments…Whether such link-
ages should be explicit… or applied judgmentally…
will likely vary from company to company. More
knowledge about the benefits and costs of explicit
linkages will undoubtedly continue to be accumu-
lated in the years ahead.22

What the Balanced Scorecard fails to provide,
then, is a clear linkage (and a rationale for that

19. Kaplan and Norton (1996), p. 8.
20. Ibid., p. 10 and p. 150, emphasis in original.

21. Ibid., p. 162.
22. Ibid., p. 222.


linkage) between the performance measures and the
corporate system of rewards and punishments. In-
deed, the Balanced Scorecard does not provide a
scorecard in the traditional sense of the word. And,
to make my point, let me push the sports analogy a
little further. A scorecard in any sport yields a single
number that determines the winner among all
contestants. In most sports the person or team
with the highest score wins. Very simply, a
scorecard yields a score, not multiple measures of
different dimensions like yards rushing and pass-
ing. These latter drivers of performance affect
who wins and who loses, but they do not them-
selves distinguish the winner.

To reiterate, the Balanced Scorecard does not
yield a score that would allow us to distinguish

from losers.

For this reason, the system is
best described not as a scorecard, but as a dashboard
or instrument panel. It can tell managers many
interesting things about their business, but it does
not give a score for the organization’s performance,
or even for the performance of its business units. As
a senior manager of a large financial institution that
spent considerable time implementing a balanced
scorecard system explained to me: “We never fig-
ured out how to use the scorecard to measure
performance. We used it to transfer information, a lot
of information, from the divisions to the senior
management team. At the end of the day, however,
your performance depended on your ability to meet
your targets for contribution to bottom-line profits.”

Thus, because of the lack of a way for managers
to think through the difficult task of determining an
unambiguous performance measure in the Balanced
Scorecard system, the result in this case was a
fallback to a single and inadequate financial measure
of performance (in this case, accounting profits)—
the very approach that Kaplan and Norton properly
wish to change. The lack of a single one-dimensional
measure by which an organization or department or
person will score their performance means these
units or people cannot make purposeful decisions.
They cannot do so because if they do not understand
the tradeoffs between the multiple measures, they
cannot know whether they are becoming better off
(except in those rare cases when all measures are
increasing in some decision).

In sum, the appropriate measure for the orga-
nization is value creation, the change in the market
value of all claims on the firm. And for those
organizations that wish a “flow” measure of value

creation on a quarterly or yearly basis, I recommend
Economic Value Added (EVA). But I hasten to add
that, as the performance measures are cascaded
down through the organization, neither value cre-
ation nor the year-to-year measure, EVA, is likely to
be the proper performance measure at all levels. To
illustrate this point, let’s now look briefly at perfor-
mance measurement for business units.

Measuring Divisional Performance

The proper measure for any person or business
unit in a multi-divisional company will be deter-
mined mainly by two factors: the company’s strategy
and the actions that the person or division being
evaluated can take to contribute to the success of the
strategy. There are two general ways in principle that
this score or objective can be determined: a central-
ized way and a decentralized way.

To see this let us begin by distinguishing clearly
between the measure of performance (single dimen-
sional) for a unit or person, and the drivers that the
unit or person can use to affect the performance
measure. In the decentralized solution, the organiza-
tion determines the appropriate performance mea-
sure for the unit, and it is the person or unit’s
responsibility to figure out what the performance
drivers are, how they influence performance, and
how to manage them. The distinction here is the
difference between an outcome (the performance
measure) and the inputs or decision variables (the
management of the performance drivers). And man-
agers at higher levels in the hierarchy may be able
to help the person or unit to understand what the
drivers are and how to manage them. But this help
can only go so far because the specific knowledge
regarding the drivers will generally lie not in head-
quarters, but in the operating units. Therefore, in the
end it is the accountable party, not headquarters,
who will generally have the relevant specific knowl-
edge and therefore must determine the drivers, their
changing relation to results, and how to manage
them, not headquarters.

At the opposite extreme is the completely
centralized solution, in which headquarters will
determine the performance measure by giving the
functional form to the unit that lists the drivers and
describes the weight that each driver receives in the
determination of the performance measure. The
performance for a period is then determined by
calculating the weighted average of the measures of

The Balanced Scorecard is best described not as a scorecard, but as a dashboard or
instrument panel. It can tell managers many interesting things about their business,

but it does not give a score for the organization’s performance, or even for the
performance of its business units. It does not allow us to distinguish winners

from losers.


the drivers for the period.23 This solution effectively
transfers the job of learning how to create value at
all levels in the organization to the top managers, and
leaves the operating managers only the job of
managing the performance drivers that have been
dictated to them by top management. The problem
with this approach, however, is that is likely to work
only in a fairly narrow range of circumstances—
those cases where the specific knowledge necessary
to understand the details of the relation between
changes in each driver and changes in the perfor-
mance measure lies higher in the hierarchy. Al-
though this category may include a number of very
small firms, it will rule out most larger, multidivisional
companies, especially in today’s rapidly changing
business environment.


In summary, the Kaplan-Norton Balanced
Scorecard is a tool to help managers understand
what creates value in their business. As such, it is a
useful analytical tool, and I join with Kaplan and
Norton in urging managers to do the hard work
necessary to understand what creates value in their
organization and how to manage those value drivers.
As they put it,

…[A] properly constructed Balanced Scorecard
should tell the story of the business unit’s strategy. It
should identify and make explicit the sequence of
hypotheses about the cause-and-effect relationships
between outcome measures and the performance
drivers of those outcomes. Every measure selected for
a Balanced Scorecard should be an element in a
chain of cause-and-effect relationships that commu-
nicates the meaning of the business unit’s strategy to
the organization.24

But managers are almost inevitably led to try to
use the multiple measures of the Balanced Scorecard
as a performance measurement system. And as a
performance measurement system, the Balanced
Scorecard will lead to confusion, conflict, ineffi-
ciency, and lack of focus. This is bound to happen

as operating managers guess at what the tradeoffs
might be between each of the dimensions of perfor-
mance. And this uncertainty will generally lead to
conflicts with managers at headquarters, who are
likely to have different assessments of the tradeoffs.
Such conflicts, besides causing disappointments and
confusion about operating decisions, could also lead
to attempts by operating managers to game the
system—by, say, performing well on financial mea-
sures while sacrificing nonfinancial ones. Moreover,
there is no logical or principled resolution of the
resulting conflicts unless all the parties come to
agreement about what they are trying to accomplish;
and this means specifying how the score is calcu-
lated—in effect, figuring out how the balance in the
Balanced Scorecard is actually attained.

As we saw earlier, even if it were possible to
come up with a truly “optimizing” system where all
the weights and the tradeoffs among the multiple
measures and drivers were specified—a highly doubt-
ful proposition—reaching agreement between head-
quarters and line management over the proper
weighting of the measures and their linkage to the
corporate reward system would be an enormously
difficult, if not an impossible, undertaking. In addi-
tion, it would surely be impossible to keep the
system continuously updated so as to reflect all the
changes in a dynamic local and worldwide competi-
tive landscape.

A 1996 survey of Balanced Scorecard imple-
mentations by Towers Perrin gives a fairly clear
indication of the problems that are likely to arise with
it.25 Perhaps most troubling, 70% of the companies
using a scorecard also reported using it for compen-
sation—and an additional 17% were considering
doing so. And, not surprisingly, 40% of the respon-
dents said they believed that the large number of
measures weakened the effectiveness of the mea-
surement system. What’s more, in their empirical test
of the effects of the balanced scorecard implemen-
tation in a global financial services firm, a 1997 study
by Christopher Ittner, David Larcker, and Marshall
Meyer concluded that the first issue their study raises
for future research is “defining precisely what ‘bal-
ance’ is and the mechanisms through which ‘bal-
ance’ promotes performance.”26 As I have argued in

23. And of course I do not mean to imply that the functional relationship
between the value drivers and the performance measure will always be a simple
weighted average. Indeed, in general it will be more complicated than this.

24. Ibid., p. 31.

25. Towers Perrin, “Inside ‘the balanced scorecard’,” Compuscan Report, no.
January 1996: pp. 1-5.

26. Ittner, Cristopher, David F. Larcker, and Marshal W. Meyer, “Performance,
Compensation, and the Balanced Scorecard,” Unpublished, Wharton School, U. of
Pennsylvania, November 1, 1997.


this paper, this question cannot be answered be-
cause “balance” is a term used by Balanced Scorecard
advocates as a substitute for thorough analysis of one
of the more difficult parts of the performance
measurement system—the necessity to evaluate and
make tradeoffs. They and others have been seduced
by this hurrah word (who can argue for “unbal-
anced”?) into avoiding careful thought on the issues.

In fact, the sooner we get rid of the word
“balance” in these discussions, the better we will be
able to sort out the solutions. Balance cannot ever
substitute for having to deal with the difficult issues
associated with specifying the tradeoffs among
multiple goods and bads that determine the overall
score for an organization’s success. We must do this
to stand a chance of creating an organizational
scoreboard that actually gives a score—which is
something every good scoreboard must do.

Closing Thoughts on Stakeholder Theory

Stakeholder theory plays into the hands of
special interests that wish to use the resources of
corporations for their own ends. With the wide-
spread failure of centrally planned socialist and
communist economies, those who wish to use non-
market forces to reallocate wealth now see great
opportunity in the playing field that stakeholder

theory opens to them. Stakeholder theory gives them
the appearance of legitimate political access to the
sources of decision-making power in organizations,
and it deprives those organizations of a principled
basis for rejecting those claims. The result is to
undermine the foundations of value-seeking behavior
that have enabled markets and capitalism to generate
wealth and high standards of living worldwide.

If widely adopted, stakeholder theory will re-
duce social welfare even as its advocates claim to
increase it—much as happened in the failed commu-
nist and socialist experiments of the last century.
And, as I pointed out earlier, stakeholder theorists
will often have the active support of managers who
wish to throw off the constraints on their power
provided by the value-seeking criterion and its
enforcement by capital markets, the market for
corporate control, and product markets. For ex-
ample, stakeholder arguments played an important
role in persuading the U.S. courts and legislatures to
limit hostile takeovers through legalization of poison
pills and state control shareholder acts. And we will
continue to see more political action limiting the
power of these markets to constrain managers. In
sum, special interest groups will continue to use the
arguments of stakeholder theory to legitimize their
positions, and it is in our collective interest to expose
the logical fallacy of these arguments.


is Managing Director of The Monitor Group’s Organizational
Strategy Practice, as well as Chairman of Social Science Elec-
tronic Publishing. He is also Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of
Business Administration Emeritus of the Harvard Business

As a performance measurement system, the Balanced Scorecard will lead to
confusion, conflict, inefficiency, and lack of focus. This is bound to happen as
operating managers guess at what the tradeoffs might be between each of the

dimensions of performance.

Calculate the price of your order

550 words
We'll send you the first draft for approval by September 11, 2018 at 10:52 AM
Total price:
The price is based on these factors:
Academic level
Number of pages
Basic features
  • Free title page and bibliography
  • Unlimited revisions
  • Plagiarism-free guarantee
  • Money-back guarantee
  • 24/7 support
On-demand options
  • Writer’s samples
  • Part-by-part delivery
  • Overnight delivery
  • Copies of used sources
  • Expert Proofreading
Paper format
  • 275 words per page
  • 12 pt Arial/Times New Roman
  • Double line spacing
  • Any citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard)

Our guarantees

Delivering a high-quality product at a reasonable price is not enough anymore.
That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.

Money-back guarantee

You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.

Read more

Zero-plagiarism guarantee

Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.

Read more

Free-revision policy

Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.

Read more

Confidentiality Guarantee

Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.

Read more

Fair-cooperation guarantee

By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.

Read more

24/7 Support

Our specialists are always online to help you! We are available 24/7 via live chat, WhatsApp, and phone to answer questions, correct mistakes, or just address your academic fears.

See our T&Cs
Live Chat+1(978) 822-0999EmailWhatsApp

Order your essay today and save 30% with the discount code ESSAYHELP