3 Steps to Better Cascade Your Corporate Strategy

A waterfall illustrates how you can cascade your corporate strategy

How to Better Cascade Your Corporate Strategy
In nature a cascade is a small, steep waterfall that flows in a descending manner from the top to the bottom, from high to low. In business we use the verb “cascading” when we talk about communicating and embedding a corporate strategy throughout the organization.

Effective Strategy Cascading Creates Alignment, Accountability and Meaning
This communication and implementation process occurs in a series of reactions in which one causes another…in which every division, department and individual are aligned around the overall strategic plan and the important part they play in making it a success. One move flows into another…but not always in a top-down direction.

Strategic Clarity Starts at the Top
Our organizational alignment research found strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing companies.  Only once your business strategy has been clearly articulated to your satisfaction as a leadership team should you communicate it to your workforce and begin the hard work of strategy cascading and execution. You need to be satisfied that the strategy you’ve created is both crystal clear and aligned across six areas:

  • Strategic Drivers: Mission (fundamental purpose), Vision (what you hope to become) and Values (core beliefs)
  • Target Clients: Who you serve best and where you should consistently win 75%+ of the time
  • Differentiation: What sets you apart from the competition in the eyes of your target clients
  • Optimizing Strategies: The top four priorities for gaining the most strategic leverage
  • Key Goals: The critical few actions to achieve those optimizing strategies in the next twelve months
  • Success Metrics: How you will measure success and failure

Cascading Your Strategy
Once your strategy is clear, believable and implementable enough at the executive team level, you can begin the process of cascading the strategic plan so that it can be successfully executed.

3 Steps to Better Cascade Your Corporate Strategy
Here are three tips on how to better cascade your corporate strategy from the board room to those employees whose day-to-day work will be informed by that strategy.

#1.  Don’t Assume Top-down “Telling” is the Way to Go
Don’t make the mistake of creating a strategy in an ivory tower with the idea that if you “tell them what to do” it will get done effectively. That typically works only in highly structured, traditional, hierarchical organizations. In flatter organizations, you need the active involvement, input and buy-in from managers and employees for the overall strategy to work.

Be clear on the portion of the strategy that is mandated, guided or autonomous at the overall, department, team and individual levels so people know where they are empowered to make it their own.

#2.  Execute from the Bottom-up
Though you may build your strategy in a small group of cross-functional leaders, it is often best to execute a strategy from the bottom up. Leaders should give managers the opportunity and authority to develop meaningful and relevant goals as long as they align with the overall priorities of the business.

Managers should include their team members in figuring out how to best implement the strategy. Each department can take your finished strategy and decide how to align and accomplish it in their own unique ways.

As a rule of thumb, be prepared to spend twice as much time cascading your strategy for each level away from the executive team.  For example, if you spent one month prepping and two days creating your corporate strategy with your executive team, be prepared to spend two months prepping and four days with your direct reports to get the required level of alignment, conviction and commitment.

#3.  Monitor and Measure Progress for Accountability
To be certain that you are moving in the right direction and that employees and their managers are implementing the strategy as planned, establish a system of regular and transparent metrics against goals. Establish consequences for poor performance, adjust goals as necessary, celebrate progress, and reward success. Only if you hold everyone accountable for delivery against the plan will you be able to achieve it.

The Bottom Line
Well executed strategies start with strategic clarity at the top and are supported by heavily investing in cascading strategies, goals, metrics and accountability across the company. Your strategy must go through your people and your culture to get fully implemented – so invest the time it takes to cascade it effectively.

To learn if your strategy is clear enough to cascade across your organization, download 7 Strategic Clarity Warning Signs to Pay Attention To

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