“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?
Oftentimes we do a great job at imagining the future and developing elaborate long term goals and conducting strategic planning at the top-level; however, fail to translate our goals into results, and our plans into actions.
It is undesirable to observe that the carefully chosen organizational goals failed to trickle down to the rest of the company, and, as a result, our plans faltered and didn’t have the desired impact.
Although it must be stated that there should be a healthy balance between top-down and bottom-up goals, in this article we focus primarily on top-down goals and discuss the following topics:
- Why do we fail to convert our goals into results?
- What are cascading goals and why are they important?
- How to implement cascading goals at your company?
- 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
Creating a culture at work where there is no transparency on the top-level goals restricts the employees from having an understanding of the direction in which they are headed towards.
Lack of clarity while moving towards unknown terrains may cause employees to feel lost and unable to recognize how the work they do on a daily basis positively impacts their organization.
Company wide goals equip employees with guidance and motivation for the destination ahead. As human beings, we have a need to feel part of something bigger than ourselves, to feel as an important part of a community, and to know that the work that we do has an impact at our workplace.
“Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one's sights and pushing toward the horizon.” - Daniel Pink, Author of Drive
Lack of transparency on the high level goals and priorities of an organization limit the possibilities of what employees can accomplish. Such a culture at work signals lack of trust within the organization, lowers a sense of community within its members, and negatively impacts morale and employee performance.
2. No process for translating top-level goals to all levels of the company
The other reason why we fail is because we don’t have any systems in place to translate the top level goals into department, team and individual level goals.
In a scenario where no processes exist that allow for the trickling down of the top-level goals into all levels of the organization, we may find individual employees - or even worse, entire teams - efficiently accomplishing goals that shouldn’t have been taken up to begin with.
What’s the best way to proceed once we have set the right high level strategic goals such that the entire organization knows about them? And how can we ensure that all of the valuable time and efforts of our people are aligned with the overall company goals?
Cascading goals, a powerful concept, help not just with building transparency, but also with creating alignment, boosting engagement and lifting morale in the workplace.
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 objective of goal cascading is to translate the goals at the highest level into goals at each of the levels below, including the goals at the level of the individual.
Instead of undertaking haphazard goals, the philosophy of cascading goals nudges towards structuring the goals at all levels in such a way that when each team or individual accomplishes its goals, it carries the entire company one step closer towards the final destination.
Cascading goals create alignment and builds transparency across the organization
In great rowing teams the efforts of each participant is perfectly synchronised with that of the others. As the oars hit the water, each member of the team operates in harmony to steer the rowboat towards its target destination faster than the other rowboats. A misaligned but nonetheless hard working team member who may have been putting the same effort as the rest of the participants will do more harm than good.
Cascading goals in organizations work in a similar manner to the effort of team members in elite rowing teams.
When the efforts of each individual, team, and departments are aligned with the top level goals of the organization, 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, like the efforts of the participants of great rowing teams, to make sure we reach our goals.
Cascading goals build engagement and give purpose to employees
It is not unusual for an individual or a team to feel lost in understanding how their every day efforts at the workplace count towards the success of the organization.
Having a clear picture as to how your efforts and time at work contributes to the goals of your team, department, or your company is both empowering and motivating.
Cascading goals, if done right, has the potential to foster collaborative atmosphere at work and to break down organizational silos.
The interdependencies of goals, and how each individual piece fits in the broader scheme of things, inspires individuals towards extending a helping hand to that coworker in a different team to be able to achieve shared goals. Department goals, which include diverse teams working towards common goals, fosters 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 5 steps.
1. Begin by setting 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. Lack of clarity of the destination ahead will cascade down the confusion to the levels below, leading to a troop 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 final destination.
The upcoming checkpoints, which are often built quarterly, are the goals that we want to strive towards in the short-term.
It is imperative that these short-term goals are (1) aligned with the overall business strategy and vision of the company, (2) clear and easy to understand for all individuals, and (3) has the potential to inspire everyone to take action.
2. Break it down and communicate to the level below
After we have formulated the right goals at the top level, we need to get a deeper understanding of the activities that impact these goals to be able to effectively communicate them at the level below.
It is important to develop a communication strategy such that the goals are clearly transmitted on to the subsequent levels.
Implement checks for managers to get feedback from teams and individuals at the levels below to ensure that everyone is aiming for the goals that matter the most for the success of the company.
Being able to give feedback empowers everyone to feel part of the process and enhances a feeling of ownership towards the top-level goals.
3. Assist in formulating goals at the levels below until the goals of each individual is aligned with the top-level goals of the company
After clearly communicating the top-level goals, managers must assist their teams and individual employees to work towards formulating goals that have potential of having the highest impact of contributing towards the top-level goals.
It is critical that appropriate goals are chosen at the level of each individual to boost alignment from top to bottom.
It is important to ensure that the individual goals are aligned with the team or department goals, and the team or department goals with the top-level goals.
Owners and contributors of the goals must be defined in order to build accountability and provide each individual the opportunity to have the autonomy over the goals that they own.
4. Track the progress on goals
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 towards thinking of new and innovative solutions.
“You can’t manage what you cannot measure” - Peter Drucker
It is a tricky balance to set goals that are ambitious enough to motivate and inspire everyone without having the goals be outrageously unrealistic. The concept of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), used by companies like Google and Amazon, provides valuable guidance for goal setting.
Being able to track progress on goals boosts transparency and accountability across the organization. On top of that, the added transparency and interdependencies of goals can further push for breaking down the invisible organizational silos and instigating collaborative work.
5. Make it part of the daily communication
Making goals part of the daily conversation is what will make cascading goals a true success at your organization.
Goals should become a critical component of the people management cycle by including them in the performance and 360 reviews, one-on-one meetings, and the continuous feedback that individuals receive.
When goals become part of daily work, we ensure that each and everyday we move one step closer to realizing our broader vision and creating a dent in the universe, in our own little way.
There’s a smarter way to build alignment, engagement and transparency by setting up cascading goals within the Leapsome platform
The Leapsome platform helps to build alignment, engagement and transparency across the organisation by providing the necessary tools to track, collaborate and align on 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’ in order to create relationships between the individual goals. The goal tree feature highlights all the 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, which further boosts employee engagement and morale as everyone can observe and understand how their goals align with the overall goals of the company.
Own, track, and monitor goals with the automated Goal Dashboards
The automated goal dashboards help you to get a feel for transparency and accountability across the organisation, motivating employees and managers to truly own their goals. Being able to easily track and monitor progress on goals empowers individuals and teams to stay focused and take optimum actions to reach their goals.
As the goal dashboards and the goal tree shows the goals of all other teams and departments, it further boosts collaboration and inspires inter-team and inter-departmental communication.
Motivate and engage individuals and teams by engaging 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 your Goals part of the daily conversations
The Leapsome platform goes one step further by connecting all of the relevant tools, such as One-on-One 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 at work, 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 Requesting a free demo.