5 Steps to Ensure Cascading Goals that Promote Teamwork

Every mature corporation has some sort of annual planning process. As part of the process, corporate objectives are converted into departmental goals, which are then cascaded to various levels of the organization.

Last year I felt I did a pretty good job. But I didn’t. One flaw stands out above the rest.

I failed to ensure that each department’s goals both supported and relied upon each of the other departments. I cascaded goals down throughout the organization, failing to weave them together along the way.

Collaboration and teamwork are key components of any high-performing organization. During the goal-setting process, it is important that leaders put an exclamation point on the need for for departments to collaborate and work together.

5 Steps for Goals that Promote Teamwork - David DeWolf

Here are 5 steps I have taken this year to ensure that I cascade goals that promote teamwork.

I clarified our corporate objectives.

Each year our senior leadership team identifies a “theme”, or focus area, that we believe will propel us forward the most. We make this theme clear by defining a single measure that will be used to determine whether we accomplished our goal. In addition, we identify between 3 and 5 “strategies” that we will use to accomplish it (this year we chose 4). Each of these strategies also has a metric attached to provides insight into our performance. The theme, it’s measure, our strategies and their metrics make up what we call our “annual objectives”.

Because our leadership team developed these together, during our annual planning retreat, they were fully aligned with our objectives. It was important, though, that we clarified the meaning of each one and simplified them so that they could be cascaded effectively throughout the organization.

I assigned a “primary” objective to each department.

As goal setting began, I asked each department to put a primary focus on one of the 4 strategies. This primary objective became the major planning initiative for the department. They were charged with creating one or two SMART goals that would measure their departments success in driving the strategy forward. In addition, some departments developed leading indicators that they would use to track their efforts along the way.

The primary objective did not exclude the department from setting goals oriented to the other objectives. In fact, so long as the objective was remotely relevant to the department, it was required to set a related goal by thinking about (and hopefully discussing) what other departments would need form them to be successful.

In many cases two or three departments were focusing on the same primary strategy. This proved to create strong synergies.

I challenged departments to create dependencies.

As goals were being developed I worked with department heads to create goals that would require inter-departmental collaboration.
I asked departments to determine the dependencies they would have on other departments and the dependencies other departments would likely have on them in order to be successful.

By deliberately calling out the likelihood of dependencies I created an awareness. I made it known that these dependencies were intended and that goals should not be constructed to avoid them. In fact, whenever I saw that they were, I challenged the leader to be more aggressive.

For the most obvious dependencies, departments were instructed to create their own, measurable, goals that would align the departments in execution.

I reviewed and refined the goals.

After all of the goals were developed I asked for them to be submitted to me. I then stepped back and looked at them holistically, asking myself:

  1. Was each of our objectives supported by enough of the departmental goals?
  2. Were there any conflicting goals that would prevent inter-departmental collaboration?
  3. Were there a sufficient number of dependencies embedded within the goals for each department

The team presented their goals to each other.

Finally, each department head had to submit their goals to the entire team. It is important that everyone knows and is ready to support others in achieving their goals. I also wanted to make sure that there weren’t any missing dependencies and each leader had an opportunity to challenge another department to participate in their pursuits.

By deliberately cascading goals in a means that they were woven together, I’m confident that we will have greater success this coming year. The power of team work is when 1+1=3. This only happens when synergies are created.

How about you? Do you have a deliberate process for creating synergistic goals throughout an organization? What lessons have you learned?


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