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Goals & OKRs

Cascading goals framework: A strategy for growth

Leapsome Team
Cascading goals framework: A strategy for growth
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Setting and aligning on the right goals is a fundamental building block for any organization that wants to thrive in a challenging economy. Many leaders get this partly right, planning strategically at a high level and developing relevant long-term goals for their company.

However, without a proper process for cascading goals, many decision-makers fail to translate overarching goals into actionable objectives for their teams. That’s evidenced by the fact that 42% of employees rate their organization’s goal-setting practices as “bad,” and 22% classify them as only “okay.” (1)

Lackluster company-wide goal setting can have an unexpected knock-on effect on organizations. Not only does it make executing business-critical strategies harder, but it can also lead to decreased connection and engagement among team members, with as many as 20% of employees reporting that they don’t feel connected with their organization’s vision and mission. (2)

Implementing an effective cascading goals system for your company is essential in order to build more alignment, increase transparency, and make long-term business goals a reality. 

To show you how impactful this goal-setting process can be, we’ll explore:

  • 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
  1. Leapsome’s State of People Enablement Report, 2023
  2. McLean and Company, 2023
🤝 Set better goals and stop working in silos

With Leapsome Goals, it’s easier than ever to generate, tweak, and translate high-level, AI-powered goals into relevant objectives for your team.

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Why do we fail to convert our goals into results?

It’s typically poor strategy, not ineffective team members, that prevents companies from consistently meeting high-level objectives. Here are a few common goal-setting pitfalls that organizations without a clear cascading objectives process may encounter.

1. Lack of transparency on company goals

When organizations aren’t open and transparent about their top-level goals, it’s more difficult for team members to know which projects and development objectives to prioritize. 

It can signal a lack of trust within the company, leads to more siloes, and negatively impact morale and employee performance. 

Moreover, it may be an indicator that decision-makers and leadership can’t agree on what to prioritize and don’t have a clear vision about the organization’s direction.

2. No process for translating top-level goals to all levels of the company

Without processes that allow for top-level goals to trickle down to all organizational levels, we may find individual employees — or, even worse, entire teams —  working toward the wrong objectives.

The powerful concept of cascading goals can help teams and individuals visualize how their work contributes to the bigger picture. That way, they can set the right team targets and move the needle on the projects that matter most to your business.

What are cascading goals & why are they important?

A photo of an employee meeting.

The term cascading goals refers to a strategic planning process where company leaders break down high-level objectives into specific targets for every level of the organization. Picture a goal cascade like a tree with ambitious top-level goals branching out into department, team, and individual objectives. 

Instead of siloed teams undertaking the projects they think are most relevant, the philosophy of cascading goals keeps everyone aligned and working toward the same vision. This way, when each team or individual accomplishes their goals, the company gets closer to meeting crucial business objectives.

👀 Keep everyone focused on the targets that matter

Leapsome Goals allows you to assign goal ownership, collaborate on objectives, and track progress in real time.

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Cascading goals create alignment & boost productivity across the organization

In rowing teams, a lack of synchronicity among the rowers can slow the boat down. Similarly, a misaligned team member putting in the same effort as the other participants, though hardworking, may do more harm than good.

Well-translated cascaded goals keep everyone in rhythm, allowing individual efforts to build on top of each other and make progress toward objectives even faster.

The Leapsome Goal Tree feature highlights goal dependencies to ensure everyone in the company knows how their work fits into the bigger picture

Cascading goals build engagement & give purpose to employees 

Having a clear picture of how your efforts and time contribute to your team, department, or company's goals is both empowering and motivating. That’s why, if done right, cascading goals can foster a collaborative atmosphere at work and break down organizational silos.

Understanding the interdependencies of goals and how each piece fits in the broader scheme of things inspires individuals to extend a helping hand to other coworkers, even across different departments.

Cascading goals examples

So, how does a goal cascade function in practice, considering that the typical company has cultural, financial, and operational goals to meet?

Here are a few cascading goals examples to illustrate how the process might work:

Top-level goal Increase market share by 15% in the next three years.

  • Departmental goal (Sales) — Increase sales revenue by 20% within the next fiscal year.
  • Team goal (Regional Sales Team) — Increase sales volume by 25% within the assigned territory in the next quarter.
  • Individual goal (Sales Representative) — Achieve monthly sales targets set by the company and secure at least three new clients each month.

Top-level goal — Improve customer satisfaction scores to 90% within the next year.

  • Departmental goal (Customer Service) — Reduce average response time to customer inquiries by 25% within the next six months.
  • Team goal (Customer Service Team) — Resolve customer complaints within 24 hours of receipt and maintain a 95% or higher customer satisfaction score.
  • Individual goal (Customer Service Representative) — Respond to customer inquiries within 30 minutes of receipt and resolve at least 90% of customer issues on the first contact.

Top-level goal — Enhance employee engagement and retention rates by 20% in the next two years.

  • Departmental goal (Human Resources) — Develop and implement employee training and development programs to improve skills and promote career growth.
  • Team goal (Employee Engagement Team) — Increase participation in company-wide events and initiatives by 30% within the next quarter.
  • Individual goal (Manager) — Conduct monthly one-on-one meetings with each team member to discuss career development goals and provide feedback on performance.

How to implement cascading goals at your company

With a better understanding of how cascading goals can benefit your organization, let’s break down how to set them up company-wide, step-by-step.

1. Set the right goals at the top

Organizational leaders should start the cascading goals process by asking: Where do we want the company to be in a quarter, a year, or five years from today?

With a clear vision for the future, it's important to set milestones to help you stay focused and ensure you’re heading in the right direction toward your long-term goals.

We suggest quarterly checkpoints for goals that you want to achieve in the short term. These short-term goals must be actionable, aligned with your overall business strategy, and easy for teams to understand and interpret.

A screenshot illustrating how to track goals within Leapsome's Goals module.
Break high-level goals into more achievable quarterly targets easily with Leapsome Goals

2. Break them down & communicate to the level below

Once you formulate goals at the top level, turn them into smaller targets for each department. Then, break them down based on each team’s capacity and function within the organization.

Work with departmental leaders and managers when communicating goals for different teams to ensure they make sense in context.

Then, implement checks for managers to get feedback from teams and individuals to ensure that everyone aims for the goals that matter most to the company’s success. For instance, Leapsome Goals allows team members to share comments and write notes below each objective, all asynchronously — no need for a dedicated check-in meeting to discuss small-scale progress toward overarching objectives.

Allowing all team members to give feedback and share progress notes on goals empowers everyone to feel part of the process and enhances a feeling of ownership toward the top-level objectives.

A screenshot of team goals within Leapsome Goals.
Use Leapsome Goals to keep everyone on the same page by commenting with status updates or remarks under team objectives

3. Help employees develop goals that align with company objectives

Ensuring that personal goals align with team- or department-wide cascaded goals is critical to keep team members motivated and working toward the bigger picture. That’s why it’s essential that team leads provide direct reports with resources and support in creating effective cascading goals, making sure they understand the frameworks the company uses to set objectives.

For instance, if your organization uses objectives and key results framework (OKRs), direct reports need to understand that objectives should be time-bound and outcome-focused, while key results should be quantifiable and measurable.

A screenshot of the personal goals dashboard within the Goals module.
Give individual team members more ownership of the goal-tracking process when you use Leapsome Goals

4. Track goal progress

Monitoring progress with cascaded goals and sharing data company-wide boosts organizational transparency and can boost morale when you’ve got great results to report.

If you’re using a goal-setting platform or tool, you can monitor progress in real time with status bars that show how close you are to completion. As a general rule, it’s best to aim for 70% to 80% rather than 100%, as that’s often not realistic and can lead to team member burnout.

It’s also helpful to utilize additional analytics tools like spider or line graphs to track trends in progress over time and revisit your goal-setting process if necessary.

A screenshot that illustrates how Leapsome Goals allows you to see trends with goal progress.
Measure company-wide goal progress and spot trends across departments with Leapsome Goals

5. Make goals part of daily communication

Once all teams and individuals have set their objectives based on the cascaded goals framework, checking in on their progress should be a critical component of your continuous goal management cycle. 

Managers should not only lead weekly or bi-weekly goal check-ins with their team members but also discuss goals in performance reviews and celebrate relevant milestones and achievements via the company’s asynchronous feedback channels.

A screenshot of a meeting agenda within Leapsome Meetings.
Leapsome’s free Meetings module allows you to set up and automate regular goal check-in meetings with all team members

Build more alignment, engagement & transparency with Leapsome

A screenshot showing AI-generated goals within Leapsome Goals.
Leapsome Goals allows you to generate customizable, AI-powered targets with just one prompt and two clicks

The cascading goal system enables you to create a repeatable process for tracking, collaborating, and aligning on company, team, and individual goals. That’s especially crucial during a time when organizations need teams to stay more engaged, competitive, and agile than in recent years. 

However, it can take time to implement this framework if your organization hasn’t utilized goal-setting systems before, particularly if you don’t have the right tech stack to support you.

With Leapsome, you can seamlessly integrate cascading goals into your company’s regular workflows. Use our Goals platform to set up customizable dashboards for your company, team, and individual objectives, then leverage Leapsome AI to generate goals quickly. Allow team members to collaborate on objectives and receive automatic updates and status reports so you can keep the entire process as asynchronous as necessary.

The Leapsome platform also goes one step further by connecting Goals to our Reviews, Meetings, and Instant Feedback modules, allowing you to build a continuous cycle of performance management and personalized development. That not only boosts team member engagement but also keeps your company performing at its best.

With Leapsome, you can help employees across your organization feel more connected to your mission and empower them to move critical objectives — and your business — forward. 

🎯 Empower teams to make a bigger impact within your organization

Leapsome’s integrated suite of tools allows you to create alignment with goals, keep teams on track, and drive stellar performance.

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Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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