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Understanding Cascading Goals and How to Set Them

Cascading Business Goals

Carefully crafted goals can make the difference between your business achieving its vision or falling short. But how do you reach these goals? Yet, how do you communicate the importance of these goals to your employees? One of the many ways to do it is by setting cascading business goals.

Setting cascading goals can help align organizational objectives at every level. This approach involves breaking down high-level strategies into smaller, actionable steps, distributed throughout various departments and teams.

This article will look into the transformative power of cascading business goals and some steps towards implementing them into your business or organization.


What Are Cascading Goals?

Have you ever watched a beautiful waterfall? From its height, beautiful water rapidly rushes from the top down to the lowest level of the falls. If you dropped a foreign object at the top, it would, eventually, reach the bottom. It’s simple gravity that the action of the current works that way.

It would be cascaded.

And so it is in the workplace that businesses will often cascade goals from the top level to the bottom ranks. These goals originate from the top of the organization and supporting goals are then created for every company team member.

Goals that are cascaded are the most important, top-priority goals. Their origins are from the high-level bands of the business. They drift down through each level of the business. From the executive suites to the factory floors, these types of goals align employees’ individual contributions with the company’s strategic vision.

Cascading goals can become part of your overall plan for success. Whether you’re focusing on improving sales, cutting costs, enhancing innovation, or reducing employee turnover, cascading goals can help get you there.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Cascading Goals

If you’re looking for solutions to problems, it might seem like a no-brainer to cascade goals through your organization. However, cascading goals isn’t the only way to implement goals. And, it should be noted that there are both positives and negatives to this type of goal-setting strategy.

Positives of Cascading Goals

Cascaded goals are clearly structured and they should be communicated. These are created with a purpose for what the whole organization or line of business needs to achieve.

Cascading goals are said to enhance employee productivity. It can also yield predictable, measurable results because the goals are clear.

The process of creating goals and cascading them can help an organization refocus on its intended mission. If heads of every department join together and decide how this mission will be embedded into every job description, and they cascade these goals, the organization should become more cohesive in the service and product provided to customers. So, consistency throughout the whole business can become a benefit once goals are cascaded, implemented, and refined.

Negatives of Cascading Goals

While there is a great deal to be gained from cascading goals, this strategy isn’t completely without its critics. 

Because goals come from the top and flow down, this might not be the ideal way to create goals if your business values autonomy, creativity, and innovation. For some workers, cascaded goals feel like a “one-size-fits-all” approach. And this is a valid concern.

Companies who offer their employees a great amount of latitude – because they demand great outcomes from their employees – risk stifling creative outcomes when goals are cascaded. 

Cascading goals is not always the right approach for a startup. Because different methods and approaches are being experimented with, employees may be detecting problems and inventing new processes and products. This evolution can be time-consuming, and it can take time away from previously set cascaded goals.

 However, this problem resolution is important for the success of the business. If employees and their superiors feel their hands are tied when it comes to solving problems, a business will be limited in what it can achieve.

Examples of Cascading Goals

There’s no goal that can’t be created and cascaded. Here are a few examples of some possible goals:

  • Increase profits by 10%
  • Increase sales by 10%
  • Improve customer satisfaction scores by 10%
  • Decrease debt by 5%
  • Decrease employee turnover by 10%
  • Enhance website traffic by 10% 
  • Create a new product by Q4
  • Decrease the number of work-related safety accidents by 15%

From these main goals, individual and team goals would be set to reach some of the above examples. The type of goal would also depend on the responsibility of the team or department. For instance, an operational or production department might focus on production goals, whereas a sales department would prioritize sales targets. While there’s no magic formula to setting cascading goals the right way, there are a few basic principles for success. In the next section, we’ll look at some ways to set cascading goals.


How to Set Cascading Goals


Begin With the End in Mind

Think ahead to where you want your organization to be in the next couple of years. Inspire your team to think long-term. Don’t take shortcuts. Where will your organization go in the next year? What about the next three years? Five years? 

Envision where you’d like to end up so you can create goals based on this end desire. Create no more than 3-5 goals to focus on. However, keep in mind that while you are thinking about the long-term, that doesn’t mean you only set long-term goals as we will see in the next section.


Set Shorter-Term Goals

It is common for entrepreneurs and leaders to set goals annually. That’s understandable since many business owners and leaders look at annual results to gauge the results. However, when setting goals, this may not be the best approach. Setting annual goals may not be a bad thing but when creating cascading goals, shorter-term is better.

For cascading goals to work, they need to be in line with the objective of the company. The problem that many businesses face is that things change throughout a year. Things like changing market conditions, changing roles, competition, and product changes all impact the business over time. This means that the goals set in January, may not be as important by October. The question becomes, “Are they still worth doing?”

Instead of annual goals, set quarterly goals. This allows the members of the organization an opportunity to adjust and create new goals that are more relevant to the current state of the industry, market, and company. To set quarterly goals, begin at least a month before the quarter starts. At the end of the quarter, review the goals and celebrate the successes.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should eliminate annual goals. It is important to still keep annual goals. However, when cascading goals, it may be better to outline a theme for the year so the company understands the direction. All while using cascading quarterly goals to put the company in the best possible position.


Find the Right Way to Roll Them Out

For cascading goals to work, there has to be an effective implementation of them. This means that leaders need to roll out the initiative the right way. If not, it will confuse the organization and cause frustration on every level.

When rolling out cascading goals, be sure to communicate effectively. Each department should have its own set of goals to focus on. Leaders of those departments need to communicate clearly what the objectives are and how the department intends to reach them with the contribution of the team.


Monitor Progress of Cascaded Goals

It isn’t enough to just set a goal and hope you’ll get there. There’s a big gap between setting a goal and getting there. You’ll need to monitor goals after they’ve been cascaded. And, you’ll need to think about how you’ll address any obstacles.

What types of roadblocks might employees experience along the way? Are there issues you’re almost certain will impede progress? And if so, do you have a plan to address these?

Be prepared to communicate clearly to staff about these new goals. Also, as a leader, you should have a plan for how you will help your staff if they are struggling to adjust. If the goals that are being cascaded to your department are very ambitious – or perhaps too difficult – be prepared to have a plan that will help them swim, not sink.

Practice Accountability

On all levels, individuals and departments need to practice accountability if the company hopes to reach its goals. When reviewing the weekly or monthly results of your progress, look closely at the areas that need improvement. If a department is falling behind, avoid finding excuses as to why that may be happening. Instead, hold the team and leaders accountable and find ways to improve performance.

This is also true for those leaders at the very top. Any team or department that is failing to keep up with the progress of the rest of the company should be examined and resources should be allocated to help them improve. Remember, cascading goals work best if every area of the company is aligned and hitting its targets. 

A group that is not keeping up will eventually affect the rest of the organization. This is why it is crucial to hold individuals, teams, leaders, and departments accountable while helping them do better.


Success doesn’t always come easy, and it certainly doesn’t come without planning. Cascading goals isn’t a magical method, but it is one way you can plan for your team to reach some ambitious goals. 

Also read:

9 Goals Supervisors Should Set

20 Business Goals Examples For Employees

Team vs Individual Business Goals: Understanding Them Both

Erin Shelby on TwitterErin Shelby on Wordpress
Erin Shelby
Team Writer: Erin Shelby is a writer and blogger based in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @ByErinShelby

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Find Your Way · Grow Your Business · Leading Your Team · Productivity · Sales

Team Writer: Erin Shelby is a writer and blogger based in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @ByErinShelby

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