“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” — Peter Drucker
Consistently focusing on the right goals is the fundamental building block for developing into a thriving and successful organization.
But is that enough?
Many leaders do a great job of imagining the future, developing elaborate long-term goals, and conducting strategic planning at the top-level while failing to translate goals into results and plans into action.
No one wants to see their carefully chosen organizational goals fail to trickle down to the rest of the company and, as a result, fail to achieve the desired impact.
Although there should be a healthy balance between top-down and bottom-up goals, in this article, we’ll focus primarily on top-down goals and discuss the following topics:
- Why we sometimes fail to convert goals into results;
- What cascading goals are, and why they’re important;
- How to implement cascading goals at your company;
- A smarter way to build alignment, engagement, and transparency.
Why do we fail to convert our goals into results?
There can be many reasons. Let’s focus on two:
1. Lack of transparency on company goals
A work culture with no transparency on top-level goals prevents employees from understanding the direction they’re going.
A lack of clarity while moving toward unknown terrain may cause employees to feel lost and unable to recognize how their work positively impacts their organization.
Company-wide goals equip employees with guidance and motivation for the destination ahead. As human beings, we need to feel part of something bigger than ourselves, feel like an important part of a community, and know that the work that we do impacts our workplace.
“Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon.” — Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
A lack of transparency on high-level goals and priorities of an organization limits what employees can accomplish. Such a culture signals a lack of trust within the organization, reduces a sense of community, and negatively impacts morale and employee performance.
2. No process for translating top-level goals to all levels of the company
Another reason for failure is a lack of systems to translate top-level goals into department, team, and individual level goals.
Without processes that allow for top-level goals to trickle down into all organization levels, we may find individual employees — or even worse, entire teams — accomplishing goals that shouldn’t have been taken up, to begin with.
What’s the best way to proceed, once we’ve set the right high-level strategic goals, so that the entire organization knows about them? And how can we ensure that all of our people’s valuable time and efforts and the overall company goals align?
A powerful concept, cascading goals help build transparency and create alignment, boosting engagement and lifting employee morale.
Let’s explore further what cascading goals are and how they can benefit your organization.
What are cascading goals, and why are they important?
Goal cascading is the process of structuring goals at all levels in an organization.
The aim of goal cascading is to translate the goals at the highest level into goals at each level below, including individual-level goals.
Instead of undertaking random goals, the philosophy of cascading goals nudges toward structuring goals at all levels. This way, when each team or individual accomplishes their goals, the entire company gets one step closer to the final destination.
Cascading goals create alignment and build transparency across the organization
In rowing teams, the efforts of each participant must be perfectly synchronized with that of others. As the oars hit the water, each team member should operate in harmony to steer the rowboat toward its target faster than the other rowboats. A misaligned but hardworking team member who may have been putting the same effort as the rest of the participants could do more harm than good.
Cascading goals in organizations work similarly to the effort of team members in elite rowing teams.
When the efforts of each individual, team, and departments align with the organization’s top-level goals, we ensure that we are moving according to the plan, towards the direction of our final destination or goals. Aligned efforts build on top of each other to make sure we reach our goals.
Cascading goals build engagement and give purpose to employees
It’s not unusual for an individual or a team to feel lost in understanding how their everyday efforts at the workplace count towards the organization's success.
Having a clear picture of how your efforts and time contribute to your team, department, or company's goals is both empowering and motivating.
If done right, cascading goals can foster a collaborative atmosphere at work and break down organizational silos.
The interdependencies of goals and how each piece fits in the broader scheme of things inspire individuals to extend a helping hand to other coworkers, even in different departments. Department goals, which include diverse teams working toward common goals, foster an atmosphere of collaboration and innovation as people with varying skill sets come together to solve problems.
How to implement cascading goals at your company
We break down the process of implementing cascading goals into five steps:
1. Set the right goals at the top
Where do you want the company to be in a quarter, a year, or five years from today?
Imagining the desired future reality is the starting point of selecting and setting the right goals at the top. A lack of clarity regarding the destination might confuse all levels below, like a domino effect leading to a group of disoriented teams and individuals.
Once a compelling state of a desired future reality has been established, we need to build checkpoints on the way to ensure that we stay on track to reach our destination.
Often built quarterly, these checkpoints are goals that we want to achieve in the short term.
These short-term goals must:
- Be aligned with the overall business strategy and vision of the company;
- Be clear and easy to understand; and
- Have the potential to inspire everyone to take action.
2. Break them down and communicate to the level below
Once we’ve formulated the right goals at the top level, we need to understand the activities that impact these goals to communicate them to the levels below.
It’s crucial to develop a communication strategy to transmit the goals to all levels.
Implement checks for managers to get feedback from teams and individuals at the levels below to ensure that everyone aims for the goals that matter the most for the company’s success.
Being able to give feedback empowers everyone to feel part of the process and enhances a feeling of ownership toward the top-level goals.
3. Assist in formulating goals at the levels below until the goals of each individual are aligned with the company’s top-level objectives
After clearly communicating the top-level goals, managers must assist their teams and individual employees in creating goals that can contribute toward the top-level goals. Furthermore, appropriate goals must be chosen at the level of each individual to boost alignment from top to bottom.
Ensuring that individual goals align with team- or department-wide goals is critical. The same goes for aligning team or department goals with top-level objectives.
Goal owners and contributors must be defined to build accountability and allow each individual to have autonomy over the goals they own.
4. Track goal progress
Relevant KPIs for measuring the progress on goals must be decided beforehand.
An ambitious target (if applicable) associated with the goal thrusts everyone forward and nudges stakeholders to think of new and innovative solutions.
“You can’t manage what you cannot measure” — Peter Drucker
It’s a tricky balance to set goals that are ambitious enough to motivate and inspire everyone while not being unrealistic. The concept of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), used by companies like Google and Amazon, provides valuable guidance for goal-setting — see our guide to setting the right objectives and key results.
Being able to track progress on goals boosts transparency and accountability across the organization. On top of that, the added transparency and interdependencies can help break down invisible organizational silos and foster collaborative work.
5. Make goals part of daily communication
Making goals part of the daily conversation is key to making cascading goals a true success at your organization.
Goals should be a critical component of your people management cycle, being included in performance and 360° reviews, 1:1 meetings, and continuous feedback.
Once goals become part of daily work, we’re ensuring that each day is a step closer to realizing our broader vision and creating a dent in the universe in our own way.
A smarter way to build alignment, engagement, and transparency: setting up cascading goals within the Leapsome platform
The Leapsome platform helps build alignment, engagement, and transparency across the organization by providing the necessary tools to track, collaborate, and align with company, team, and individual goals.
Understand how each goal is connected across the entire organization with the Goal Tree feature
While creating goals on the Leapsome platform, you will link each goal to a Parent Goal to create relationships between individual goals.
The goal tree feature highlights goal dependencies to ensure everyone in the company knows how their goals contribute towards the bigger picture. Intuitively transparent, goal trees provide a powerful visual display of how the goals are aligned. This boosts performance, employee engagement, and morale, as everyone can observe and understand how their goals align with the company’s overarching goals.
Own, track, and monitor goals with the automated Goal Dashboards
Our automated goal dashboards help you get a feel for transparency and accountability across the organization, motivating employees and managers to own their goals. Tracking and monitoring progress on goals easily empowers individuals and teams to stay focused and take optimum actions to reach their goals.
As the goal dashboards and the goal tree show all other teams and departments’ goals, this further boosts collaboration and inspires inter-team and interdepartmental communication.
Motivate and engage individuals and teams with continuous feedback and status updates
Build engagement and keep everyone on the same page by commenting with status updates or remarks under goals as you go — you can even ask for collaborators’ input to avoid getting stuck!
Make goals part of daily conversations
The Leapsome platform goes one step further by connecting all relevant tools, such as 1:1 Meetings, Performance Reviews, and Continuous Feedback, to build a continuous cycle of performance management and personalized learning that boosts engagement at work and the success of your company.
With Leapsome, you can seamlessly integrate Goals as part of your everyday life so that you focus on what matters the most.
— Let us show you how you can easily set up cascading goals on the Leapsome platform by booking a free demo with one of our product experts.