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“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 a thriving and successful organization. 

But is that enough?

Many of us are great at imagining the future, developing elaborate long-term goals, and conducting top-level strategic planning. However, we often fail to translate goals into results — and plans into action.

No one wants to see carefully chosen top-level goals fail to trickle down to the rest of the company. Why? Because when that happens, plans falter.

Although there should be a healthy balance between top-down and bottom-up goals, we’ll now focus primarily on top-down goals and discuss the following topics:

  • Why many fail to convert goals into results;
  • Defining cascading goals and why they matter;
  • How to implement cascading goals at your company; and
  • A smarter way to build alignment, engagement, and transparency.

Why many fail to convert goals into results

There can be many reasons. Let’s focus on the top two.

1. Lack of transparency on company goals

Creating a work culture with no top-level goal transparency prevents employees from understanding the direction the company and their careers are headed. A lack of clarity tends to make employees feel lost and unable to recognize how their daily work positively impacts the organization.

Company-wide goals equip employees with guidance and motivation to reach a destination. As human beings, we need to feel part of something bigger than ourselves, feel like we’re a vital part of a community, and know that our contributions impact 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 high-level goals and priorities limits what employees can accomplish. What's more, it signals a lack of trust and harms any sense of community, negatively impacting morale and employee performance.

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

We also fail when we don’t have 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 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 high-level strategic goals? How to inform the entire organization? And how can we ensure that our people’s valuable time and efforts align with top-level goals?

The answer lies in cascading goals. This powerful concept helps us build transparency, create alignment, boost engagement, and lift workplace morale.

Let’s explore further what cascading goals are and how they can benefit your business.

Defining cascading goals and why they matter

Goal cascading is the process of structuring goals at all levels within an organization. 

The aim of goal cascading is to translate goals at the highest level into goals at each level below, including individual-level objectives.

Cascading goals are structured so that when each team or individual accomplishes its goals, it carries the entire company one step closer to the final destination. There’s no more wasting time with random objectives.

Cascading goals create alignment and build transparency across the organization

In elite rowing teams, the efforts of each athlete are perfectly synchronized. As the paddles hit the water, each person operates in harmony to steer the rowboat to its target destination as fast as possible. Yet, a misaligned team member will do more harm than good — even if that person is a hard worker.

Cascading goals in organizations work similarly.

When the efforts of each individual, team, and department are aligned with an organization’s top-level objectives, it’s easier to stick to a plan. Aligned efforts build on top of each other, just like in rowing teams, to guarantee goals are reached.

Cascading goals build engagement and give employees purpose 

It’s not unusual for an individual or a team not to understand how their efforts count toward an organization’s success.

Having a clear picture of how your efforts and time contribute to your team, department, and company is empowering and motivating.

If done right, cascading goals can foster a collaborative atmosphere and break down organizational silos.

Goal interdependency also inspires individuals to lend a helping hand to colleagues in different teams — after all, they share the same mission. Department goals, which include different groups working toward common goals, foster an atmosphere of collaboration and innovation, as individuals with varying skill sets come together to solve problems.

How to implement cascading goals

We recommend implementing cascading goals in 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?

Envisioning the desired future is the starting point to set the right top-level goals. An unclear destination only spreads confusion to the levels below.

Once you’ve established a desired reality, you’ll need to build checkpoints on the way to ensure that you stay on track to reach your destination.

Often built quarterly, the next checkpoints are goals that you want to achieve in the short-term. These short-term goals must:

a) Be aligned with the company’s overall vision and business strategy;

b) Be clear and easy to understand; and

c) Have the potential to inspire everyone to take action.

2. Break down each goal and communicate to the level below

When it comes to cascading goals, understanding the activities that impact top-level goals is paramount to effective communication.

Establish a strategy that ensures that objectives are transparently communicated to the subsequent levels.

Implement processes so that managers can get feedback from their teams to ensure that everyone is working toward the company’s success. Besides, feedback empowers everyone to feel part of the process and enhances a feeling of ownership towards the top-level goals. 

3. Help form goals at the levels below you until the goals of each individual align with the top-level goals

After clearly communicating top-level goals, managers must assist their teams in developing objectives that can highly impact top-level goals. Appropriate goals must be chosen at each level to boost alignment from top to bottom.

You must ensure that individual goals align with team- and department-level goals, and that those help the organization reach top-level goals.

It’s also essential to define goal owners and contributors. This builds accountability and allows each individual to have autonomy over the goals they’re responsible for.

4. Track goal progress

Tracking progress boosts transparency and accountability across the organization. Relevant, measurable key results must be determined.

An ambitious key result (if applicable) associated with the goal thrusts everyone forward and often brings about innovative solutions.

“You can’t manage what you cannot measure” — Peter Drucker

Setting goals that are ambitious enough to motivate and inspire without being unrealistic is tricky. The concept of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), adopted by companies like Google and Amazon, provides valuable goal-setting guidance.

On top of that, the added transparency and goal interdependency can further break down invisible organizational silos and instigate collaborative work.

5. Make goals part of daily communication

When goals become an organic part of workplace discussions, leaders ensure that each day counts toward reaching the broader vision.

Goals should become a critical component of the people management cycle. This should be done by including them in performance and 360 reviews, one-on-one meetings, and continuous feedback.

There’s a smarter way to build alignment, engagement, and transparency: set up cascading goals within the Leapsome platform

The Leapsome platform helps build alignment, engagement, and transparency across organizations by providing the necessary tools to track, collaborate, and align individual-, team-, and company-level goals.

Understand how each goal is connected across your organization with the Goal Tree feature

When creating goals on the Leapsome platform, you’ll link each objective to a “Parent Goal.” Leapsome’s Goal Tree highlights all goal connections to ensure everyone in the company knows how their actions contribute to the bigger picture.

Intuitively transparent, goal trees provide a powerful visual display of goal alignment. This further boosts employee engagement and morale, as everyone can understand how their goals align with the company’s top-level objectives.

Goal tree feature helps you to understand how each goal is connected across the entire organization

Own, track, and monitor goals with the automated Goal Dashboards

The automated goal dashboards help you get a feel for transparency and accountability across the organization, motivating employees and managers to own their goals. Being able to easily track and monitor progress empowers individuals and teams to stay focused and take the best actions to reach their objectives.

As goal dashboards and trees display the goals of each team and department, they boost collaboration and inspire inter-team and inter-departmental communication.

Use automated goal dashboards to own, track, and monitor goals

Motivate and engage individuals and teams with continuous feedback and status updates

Build engagement and keep everyone on the same page by sharing status updates or notes on goals as you go. You can even ask for input to avoid getting stuck!

Engage and collaborate on goals

Goals can help you focus on what matters the most!

The Leapsome platform comprises and connects all relevant tools for goal-setting and tracking — such as One-on-One MeetingsPerformance Reviews, and Continuous Feedback. This allows our clients to build continuous cycles of performance management and personalized learning that boost engagement and success.

With Leapsome, you can seamlessly integrate goals as part of everyday life and focus on what matters the most.

— Let us show you how you can easily set up cascading goals on the Leapsome platform: click here to request a free demo.

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